Should We Avoid Politicians?
Andy Benson of The National Coalition for Independent Action has questioned the activities of 21st Century Network to engage politicians. It is a useful debate and we have added it with our reply. What do you think?
You can find out more about the Coalition at www.independentaction.net
“It would be ridiculous for me to be seen as saying that discussion and debate do not form the cornerstone on which the rest is built. Of course they do. Indeed promoting discussion and thinking is precisely one of our aims and activities. The difficulty is that the sleepwalk we are now experiencing can be described in this way – thinking, talking and having opinions has come to be regarded as sufficient in itself, rendering the need to be doing something about what one thinks, unnecessary, if not dangerous.
We’ve decided to call this one out. The only true test of someone’s commitment to make their mark on the world is to listen to their opinions and then ask ‘and what did you do about that?’ And the message to us currently from the establishment and the state is that ‘doing’ of this sort is frowned upon unless it has been inspected and found to be acceptable. Only on Monday it was announced that migrants wanting UK citizenship will have marks taken away on their score card if they go on demonstrations. Well that’s pretty clear then – that’s what the government thinks about dissent and political action. So social and political ‘doing’ is becoming something of an endangered species.
Talking is good, hearing different views to be applauded, the idea of a public square a valuable idea. I agree completely and congratulate you and your colleagues for doing it. But it has to be organised – this is your ‘doing’ – and, in the manner of the organising, you give us all at the other end of the computer, various messages about you and what you are about, albeit usually implicitly. The example I gave was choosing to have your meetings in parliament. Who chose that and why was it deemed to be a good idea? My own position is that parliament should avoided and shunned at every opportunity – it is a thorourily discredited institution; meeting there falsely continues to give it legitimacy, damages our own reputation and simply encourages more bad behaviour on the part of MPs.”
“It seems to me there are four ways to effect change.
1) Through the parliamentary method
2) Through revolution
3) Through civil society – either as campaigning groups, service groups or mutual aid groups
4) Through economic reconstruction via social enterprise and social business and
I personally do not think that 1 and 3 or 1 and 4 are mutually exclusive though Parliament is in such disrepute that it is understandable if people think they are. Politicians at the moment are in a mess, the political system is in gridlock and there is a vacuum for real change. In these circumstances civil society is really important and can take a lead in effecting change and I applaud what you are doing as that is one important way of doing it. However if we neglect thinking about the role of “politics” and the political system then we are in danger of entropy and constant conflict. We also have to reconstruct the political
Of course one may say that the way we do it is not adequate and it isn’t. That is something we are looking at and will constantly. Indeed we are looking at a joint project with Christchurch University in Canterbury on “making politics matter” and believe me that will be hard work. Change in a time when all the blueprints of the 19th and 20th century have been torn up or found wanting has to be multi dimensional – that is on all fronts. And for me the public square concept helps us to confront that and find out what it means. So we like you carry on as we do – muddling through but hoping that in the end we will achieve something worthwhile.”