Alternative Editorial: Politics is Broken. This Is The Alternative.
Where are we in the quest for a ‘new politics’? It depends upon your perspective. Those focused on the reform of the old politics – an important job, being heavily pursued by thinkers on both the Left and Right – would say, “it’s early days, but we are not without hope”. They are in equal numbers dismayed and energised by the spectacle of breakdown in Westminster; and querulous about what comes next.
But if we are talking about the Left and the Right, we are probably still seeing things from that 2% bubble – those who are members of political parties. And there is an argument that nothing new enough – radical enough – could come out of that narrow structure and discredited culture. Our problems are so monumental that we simply cannot expect the old thinking to answer them.
So where does that leave the rest of us – the 98%? If you’ve been a regular reader of The Daily Alternative (and these editorials) you might feel more encouraged than others. For over two years now we have been shining a light on the new initiatives, tools and practices that, in our view, will be the substance of a new politics that looks nothing like the old one.
These have not led with standard political theory – new arrangements of what we were told was relevant at school, or studied PPE at Oxbridge. Instead, we have tried to draw from genuine engagement with the practitioners at a number of levels. Firstly, we have been reporting from the multiple networks of what we call the I-We-World. This frames news as being about personal, social and planetary developments. Treating these diverse but intimately connected domains as current affairs is crucial to forging new political ground. From here we can offer new stories of human potential that do not depend upon politicians to deliver.
Secondly, we have been very active in joining up the dots – connecting the disconnected. It’s our sense that most of the solutions we need to address the multiple crises of climate, Brexit and mental health (World-We-I) are already available. In fact people have been steadily working on them for decades. However, they are siloed: the culture of our growth economy has compelled people who should be collaborating to be competing.
Through taking part in a CTRLshift Summit one day and a Noisily Festival the next; then cross fertilising, by inviting participants from one to the other...we are webworking. Most importantly, we are not doing this across a flat terrain of similarly motivated groups - as peer to peer networks, looking at each other as equivalents. The web we work is multi-dimensional because we need to bring forth a new eco-system of solutions.
Thirdly, to the best of our ability, we immerse ourselves in communities around the country – and occasionally outside in Montreal, Copenhagen and others – to help create the conditions for new forms of agency to arise. Our work with collaboratories has been motivated by the need to bring communities together, below the level of old politics.
What Brexit has shown is that Westminster groupings – parties, referendums, ideologies – divide communities. This is at a time when coming together as people living alongside each other, sharing the same streets, the same weather, the same future, has become ever more important.
From these collaboratories we have developed the concept of a citizens’ action network – a “CAN”. This is a generic term that describes how every kind of citizen can be connected to the tools, practices and solutions that exist in their town, city or region. Those CANs connect with others around the country – and world – through sharing and copying. Not waiting for the government to deliver. Because they had their chance and catastrophically failed to.
What is both stimulating and frustrating, in almost equal measure, is finding that the genre of work we have cut out for ourselves as The Alternative UK is not always clear and graspable to others. And for that reason is not always fully executed.
So to be clear, we think of it as primarily integration. We’re noticing what’s happening at a number of different levels, and we’re bringing those projects and actions into a generative relationship with each other, as part of a bigger system of change.
This is what we are doing, for example, in Plymouth and South Devon. These locations are two points of an axes along which regional transformation is possible, to help build a “Devon Model”. Where others are already doing similar work in these locations, our job is to amplify and help catalyse.
At the same time, this is the work of making something self-conscious: aware of its own originality and its possible power. Partly because A/UK is based in London and partly because our commitment is to systems level change, we often run into community level projects that do not see themselves the way we do.
Localism, for example, is often modest to the point of being self-deprecating. Or restricts its ambition to affecting the lives of those within their immediate ambit. Our getting in amongst them, hoping to identify practices and prototypes, can be seen as intrusive. Calling them the new politics can engender distrust, as they immediately relate us to the old politics!
Despite these difficulties, we hope those of you reading here regularly can see the value of what we do. While the future is emergent - no single actor can control the outcome – we are doing our best to frame and curate an alternative to ‘broken politics’ in ways that lead to a healthier planet, a more resilient society and more fulfilled citizens.
If you can, please consider donating to our work. For the first time we have separated our donating streams into three possibilities as follows:
1) HELP GROW ALTERNATIVE MEDIA
Around 2000 people a week are currently reading our Daily Alternative blogs and we get excellent feedback. Our next step is that we want to offer more tailored versions to cities or regions. In addition we’d like to develop podcasts and Zoom broadcasts to help share the news of the local genius that’s in evidence around the country. This is how you create new narratives.
If this is where you’d like to support our team work, click below.a
2) HELP OUR WEB-WORKING
We have over 300 co-creators in A/UK, working in different parts of the eco-system. We are participating in each others’ events, curating spaces for groups and networks to meet each other and identifying the tools and practices we can share with everyone. Our next step is we’d like to double our activity, moving constantly into new territory, creating the grounds for a properly new politics.
If you’d like to help this team by contributing to our travel and facilitation budget, click below.
3) HELP US OPEN CANS AROUND THE COUNTRY
We are still creating the first CAN (citizen action network) prototype together with diverse actors in Plymouth and South Devon. If we get it right, it will offer clear, local solutions to the many groups – including Extinction Rebellion and School Strike – who are now rising to demand change. Our sense is that we need to complete this prototype by the end of the year so that we can offer it as, a structure and practice, to others. We all need ways to be in action throughout the 2020s. If you think you CAN – yes! - help us do this, click below.