Understanding the roots of opinion divides is critical to the new politics.
Joshua Malkin suggests some choice F words in response to politics as usual
Understanding the roots of opinion divides is critical to the new politics. Most people are still locked into the old oppositional identity politics, which is part of the old broken compass that has only two dysfunctional poles – either progressive or conservative. In a previous blog “Why Progressives Can’t Progress & Conservatives Can’t Conserve” – I made the case for mutualism as a new direction of regenerative shared purpose.
I expand on some other themes within that here.
A new definition of diversity
A new politics requires a non-partisan direction that most people can support and a practical future vision based on human values. One cultural example of this is the kindness revolution that is springing up in different places and forms, such as in Cardiff and in Leeds where the City Council has launched their Compassionate City Awards – and The Kindness Revolution are organising talks and workshops on the new KPI – Kindness Performance Indicators, the Kindness Innovation Network, the Wellbeing Economy and much more.
Whilst kindness ought to be something that everyone can relate to, it’s not soft or sentimental or woolly. It’s a hard choice to ‘walk your talk’ based on practice informed by a different understanding of power and responsibility. It is surely more relevant today than ever and it has a solid foundation in science and philosophy.
I believe that mutualism offers a clear-cut philosophy with which most ordinary people can identify and a new, wider definition of diversity. Hence, our work based on the psycho-cultural memes that form the basis of different identities within and across the electorate.
With colleagues from the ET group – a holistic complexity consultancy based in Devon – and former members of The Independent Group [formerly Change UK] we put together a research proposal about Inclusive Democracy. Our research approach aims to widen the understanding of diversity and inclusion. By structuring participative dialogue in relation to values using the eight stages of the Graves bio-psychosocial model which comprises differing worldviews based on survival, security, power, order, success, community, synergy and whole systems, our objective is to identify improved quality policies across opinion divides.
We believe the best chance of scaling a new politics and of winning the centre-ground is to offer a message that is both post-secular and post-liberal, and that can also include compassionate conservatives who are committed to security, community, order and success.
This means transcending conventional interpretations of ‘liberty’ and ‘equality’ to a new appreciation of ‘fraternity’. This will be no small thing but represents a massive evolutionary shift which both liberals and conservatives might find difficult to comprehend, partly because they don’t see it as a different frame of reference. The old perspective of oppositional power is likely to blind them from perceiving the potential of a politics based on shared purpose, regenerative values and post-growth versions of wellbeing. This seems pretty important, especially given that scientific estimates now suggest we have to reduce non-renewable, material consumption by 10% a year to keep within the 1.5-degree warming targets.
Is There A Single Word Or Phrase To Describe Where We Want To Get To?
If we are in a new era, which we surely are, a completely new way of seeing the world – a new ‘-ism – is surely required. So another way to focus dialogue is to simply ask what simple story / single word should sum up a new political movement?
If you ask yourself what word sums up in the public mind, each of the mainstream political offers, you might get something like the following (choose your own if you think I am off the mark) :
· Business / Freedom/ Market = Tory
· Workers / Equality/ Regulation = Labour
· Equality / Freedom / Market = Liberal
· Environment / Equality / Regulation = Green
· Nationalism / Identity Politics / Freedom = UKIP
· Sovereignty / Market / Freedom = Brexit
Whatever we might think, in the public mind the existing mainstream political offers each represent an ‘understandable’ – though in reality incoherent “-ism”. You won’t really know what you will get even if you vote for them. But at present people hardly believe there might be any other viable options because when you are trapped in a worldview, you cannot see other possibilities beyond it – until …………………………………… suddenly you can!
The question I am pondering is what new –ism can offer legitimacy and that people might accept as missing from those already on offer?We urgently need a coherent, comprehensible response to politics-and-business-as-usual, which is not part of the old polarized frame.
One understandable answer to politics as usual is the F word
However several F words are probably better!
I offer eight choice F words below – which could be part of a different offer that can form a foundation for a new -ism – which would be above, not part of, the old centre, right or left horizontal spectrum:
1. Fairness : is fundamentally different from either equality or liberty – who is against fairness? Hands up! Equality can be about sameness & conformity whilst liberty can be about despotism & entitlement – in neither case fairness doesn’t get a look in.
2. Family : is fundamental to our wellbeing because the human sciences tell us relationships really matter for individuals to flourish. The family or household (to be biblically accurate) is the oldest caring institution in the world. It’s about people self-organizing to care for each other – lets back it!
3 Freedom from Fear : Mutual social, economic and cultural security will become more important post the pandemic. Economic and cultural security are as important as military security for most people. Care & responsibility are synonyms for stability, security and safety – a fundamental human need.
4 Food & Farming :are the foundations of human life, but not the mono-culture agri-business type manipulated by biochemical corporations that aim to patent life and rent it back to us. They are exponentially depleting soil quality and decreasing the nutritional value of food produced thereby undermining the natural world, including our immune systems. Farming is a massive, educational and employment opportunity on and beyond the urban fringes- see my colleague Mark Drewell’s regenerative farming project – New Foundation Farms.
5. Future Vision : We need a creative vision of hope and long-term planning. Toyota started planning electric vehicles 30 years ago – they are now planning hydrogen-based transport. Japan is currently developing Civilization 5.0 based on human-centered technology. The UK’s vision still seems limited to Brexit and we need a clearer structure for enabling British innovation and creativity – in science, arts, community and social eneterprise.
6. Faith Informed Values : The new politics isn’t about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic by electing just another party htat makes us feel good about our personal identity. A new vision requires a non-dogmatic, pan-denominatinal vision of some greater purpose, larger than our self-interest based on human fellowship and diversity that entails respect and reciprocity and a sense of awe at what life offers. There are many different ways of describing and respecting the sacred – as opposed to disrespecting what we hold most dear which toxic libertarian and egalitarian perspectives regularly practice.
7. Federation : The British State has regularly failed to serve the regions – perhaps since it was founded and especially in recent times – which was surely one of the reasons for the Brexit vote. Real decentralized power & agency are essential for people to feel engaged. Local people must control their own communities, high streets, environment and infrastructure in partnership with a facilitative State. Constitutionally we might eventually need to transform the UK into a confederation as a family of self-organizing regions and nations.
8 Fraternity & Kindness : The core of civil society are the values of respect, responsibility and reciprocity which epitomize the politics of human fellowship and mutual benefit. This recognizes that we are all equal in our being-ness but not necessarily in other ways – because real diversity offers many more gifts than sameness. Fraternity sanctifies both liberty and equality. Without it we will continue to have different versions of despotism, extractivism, protectionism, anarchy or enforced conformity – whether they call themselves conservative or progressive.
A Politics of Mutual Benefit and an Economy of Wellbeing
Whilst these thoughts by no means represent an exhaustive policy framework or the only way forward, they could form a foundational area of shared purpose, or an aspect of foundational wellbeing, that most people might be able to buy into in some way.
They are also part of an intellectual perspective centered around holism, complexity and whole systems thinking, that has been developing over the last 100 years and whose time, no doubt, has come. [i]
Because if they are able to straddle the positive life enhancing interests aspects of both left and right, no one ought to feel the need to fight for control of the steering wheel. This will especially be so when there is a real majority who agree on going in the same direction of protecting and creating a foundation for life.
Ultimately that direction can be described conceptually as regenerative rather than extractive or as a politics of mutual benefit – it’s a choice that a globalized world can no longer refuse. Our challenge is to articulate that so people recognise it as a credible Ark. Could something like this be the direction for a completely new political party like Renew?
[i] From thinkers such as Goethe, A.N. Whitehead, Smuts, Einstein, Bohm, through to Margolis, Capra & Luisi, Barrett, Beck, Wilber, Hawken, Senge and many more