positive vs negative experience (in politics, democracy and life)

I’m borrowing hallowed terms here, of course.

I’ve been wondering on Twitter this evening about how we can make politics more useful; or maybe that’s less useless you might prefer to say.

We can use the argument that as long as politics acts as a surrogate for war, it’s doing a damn fine job as it is.  Except that either through incompetence, inaction or by choice our brand of representative democracy is still – even today – delivering quite a few wars.

Maybe we could say – at a more local level – that rhetoric-bespattered debating chambers in Parliament are better than blood-stained streets.

I couldn’t argue with that.

I don’t think anyone should

Where I do beg to differ is in the suggestion that politics allows the cream to rise to the surface.  I am more reminded, I’m afraid to say quite often, of beaches and scum after severe storms.

What I would like to suggest is a way of solving our dilemmas.  Politics clearly isn’t doing the job it should have been designed to do.  Its selection processes, at least in my experience here in the UK, appear to prioritise skillsets which are already damaging the planet.  The short-termism which the Guardian article linked to above describes is but one sad example here.

We need something else: a way of finding people who make things better – not to surveill them into similar inaction but to encourage and support them into finding each other.  Politics should be about sustainable relationships with work, people and goals, surely.  Not an end which limits itself to accumulating masses of wealth and influence but, rather, something far more profound where a common personal sense of security, and confidence in the future, is coupled with a desire to work together long-term with other human beings.

Yes.  Politics has been hijacked by the simple-minded for simple benefit.  As Chris suggests, this is not really a conspiracy; though a certain group of flapping wings which tends to flock in consonance – Adam Smith-like in its hidden-handedness – definitely sets the tone in the absence of any overt conspiracy.

Politics as we conceive it is owned and populated by a self-perpetuating state; a self-perpetuating – unconscious – state of mind too.  It’s the unconscious bit that really depresses.  When people in government unconsciously satirise themselves.  You can’t get around it, either; at least, not until you realise what you’re up against.

Perhaps not even then.

Who knows?  I no longer do …

Where I would like to go to finish this post, though, is to ask the following two questions: if business – good business, I mean (not the rubbishy stuff that scrounges off and sucks up to governments) – is able to identify talent effectively for its needs, why can’t our voting system be updated in a similar sort of way?  Why does voting have to be as two-dimensional as the 19th century ever was?  We were hardly out of a land of serfs and lords, for goodness sake – and yet two hundred years later, we maintain fundamentally the same procedures and relationships.

Ask yourselves who this really benefits.

Ask yourselves, out of the inertia of the aforementioned flock, why this is allowed to continue.

The other day, I suggested one alternative: voting on policies instead of voting for people and parties.  I’m not saying this is a perfect solution; I am however saying that the process of renovation which I’d love to be involved in really does need to be carried out.

Whatever the suggestions we end up making and working on, we really cannot accept a democracy which persistently concludes “It is profitable to let the world go to hell”.

One final final thought, as my train of thought reaches its destination.

Experience in politics, democracy and life is a grand thing, of course.  But we do need to differentiate between types of experience.  At the moment, we mainly suffer those who use their experience to channel, control and define for their personal advantage the way all three matters develop.  It’s the experience of the bosses; the managerialists; the leaders who feather nests.  It’s the experience the voters get.  It’s the experience the ignored families receive.

Really, though, what we need more than anything is a mechanism to prioritise quite different kinds of experience.  We need something which might foreground people’s ability to operate sustainably and productively under pressure; to work together with others to fashion positive and permanent webs of relationships – webs where honesty, openness and sincerity were more than HR-led buzzwords.

We need a kind of politics – whether office, party or home – which enables what we might call “positive experience” over the power of what we might term “negative experience”.

We need, in fact, to be aware that just as with liberty, so with experience too: the dichotomy of positive versus negative exists in much the same way.

And if we truly want to progress, this has first to be recognised in its casual cruelty – as well as, more optimistically, the potential richness we could ultimately take away with us.

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