Wales, what kind of freedom do we want?
The main problem with politics is us. Our inability to demand better. Our willingness to put up with the mediocre. Our deference. Our cowardice, Our conformity. Our fear.
One great hope lies in the fact that change is unavoidable. And that the truth is powerful – one single truth can overturn a mountain of lies.
We need to shift from a society that tolerates and supports concentrated power to one where power is shared and diffuse. As has been detailed by the social activist Starhawk many years ago, we need to shift from a power-over society to a power-from-within one.
What would such a society be like? The fear-mongers, defenders of centralised power, will tell us it would be a chaotic, insecure world with images of mob-rule, brutality, poverty and violence. Like mobsters themselves, they offer us protection for the price of our freedom, a portion of our natural vitality and joy.
These power-mongers have come in many guises over the centuries – clan chiefs, organised religion, military-backed dictatorships, political parties contesting elections. I’m sure you can think of other examples including despotic family members.
Our ‘fall from Eden’ has come about by falling prey to the self-serving lies of the power-seekers who have together, over the centuries, consolidated power for their own aggrandizement and our collective loss.
We need also to rid ourselves of our addiction to worship. Like Bronze Age dunderheads we vainly grasp for all manners of absurdities from supernatural beings to heroes and celebrities – the inevitable consequence of an over-concentration of power.
In modern ‘democratic’ societies, as a compensation for this imbalance in power we are allowed the spectacle of the humiliation and downfall of the top dogs from time to time, only to be replaced by new top dogs. And the charade goes on.
Although Right and Left wing political organisations may appear to offer change and diversity, at their core is exactly the same thing – an addiction to power; a desire to control others.
The heart of our inertia is fear. Fear to take responsibility. Fear to think for ourselves. Fear of change, even for the better.
Brief relief has come through outbreaks of revolt and bids for freedom, like in 1640’s England, or 1960’s America, or the mass demonstrations in Athens, Madrid and Barcelona here in 2012.
So I ask again, what would a society that no longer tolerates concentrated power be like?
In short, it would be society built on personal but interwoven dreams. We could rebuild our communities collectively where personal aspirations overlap. It would be a society very diverse and would tacitly nurture creativity and experimentation, which is natural for humans once the pressure to conform is lifted.
I think it was Albert Einstein who once said that the only really important question is whether or not the universe is friendly. The underlying message from the power-grabbers is no; the underlying belief in a horizontal society is yes.
Of course there will always be problems and issues to sorted, as in any society, but the dynamism of self-organising communities can play a large part of the solutions, rather than becoming a problem in itself, as many top-down fixes become.
Humans are innately self-organising, collaborating, and creative when it comes to finding solutions and establishing mutually beneficial arrangements. The sky is the limit.
Schumacher’s ‘Small is Beautiful’ philosophy inherent in a self-organising society could be given room to grow, cracking open that suffocating concrete layer of hierarchical power we all labour under today.
So how do we get there from here?
Live the change you want to see. Look up to no one. Look down on no one. Create the society you desire in your personal relationships and lifestyle. Be creative. Be daring. Resist the pressure to conform. Stand up against abuse in all its forms.
These personal acts create ripples and may even become a social catalyst, changing society from within. Or not. But it’s as close as you’re going to get to the good life in this lifetime.
And what’s the alternative? Carry on waiting and hoping that the new set of self-appointed leaders and entrenched bureaucrats will deliver the goods for us? Ha! The solution isn’t in the system – the system is the problem.
As they said in Star Wars – May the force be with you!
Or, as Lao Tzu said, of the greatest leaders, the people will say, we did it ourselves.
P.S. Change may be coming sooner than expected. We now have the technological and productive capacity to provide for all more than adequately. Also, the Internet has arrived like an elephant on our doorstep sweeping away the control of information by traditional power elites. Knowledge is power. Now everyone in the West has access. The days of concentrated political and economic power could be numbered.
Lao Tzu – forget Confucius, he was the Emperor’s monkey. Lao Tzu was were it was at in ancient China.
Michael Schumacher – wrote the book ‘Small is Beautiful‘, a social and economic theorist who wasn’t afraid to look outside the box and promote ideas that were before his time.
Albert Einstein – Probably the most well-known ‘outside the box’ thinker that ever lived.
Starhawk – social activist / writer most well known in for a controversial Master’s thesis on politics and power, later published as a book entitled ‘Dreaming the Dark’