Politics and leadership

An extract from Chapter 13 of the book Transcending Politics:

13. Politics and leadership

Chiselled in gold letters on a granite monument in Highgate Cemetery, North London, one of the most famous sayings of Karl Marx echoes from beyond the grave:

The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point is to change it.

The preceding chapters of this book contain their fair share of interpretation. But what next? If someone is at least broadly sympathetic to the technoprogressive vision I have outlined, and would like to hasten the accomplishment of that vision, what steps should they take?

The suggestions I make in this final chapter belong under three headings: connect, act, and iterate:

  • Connect – find and join communities of people whose goals and projects resonate with you, and where your own efforts can be meaningfully amplified
  • Act – identify useful individual tasks where you can make a difference, and become involved
  • Iterate – be ready to start small, to venture outside of your comfort zone, to set and respect deadlines by when you will review progress with community members, to learn from both the failures and successes you experience, and to repeat the whole process, again and again, gaining more and more insight and effectiveness.

A simple way to move forwards, on all three of these headings, is to visit the Transpolitica projects webpage, transpolitica.org/projects, find something on that page that appeals to you, get started, and reconnect regularly.

Alternatively, you may prefer to become involved in projects taking place outside the Transpolitica umbrella. I give many examples in the Afterword that follows this chapter.

This chapter also contains some recommendations on how to connect, act, and iterate in more effective ways – ways that benefit from technoprogressive technologies and culture. At the same time, I fill in a few gaps left over from discussions in earlier chapters.

Towards super-collaboration

Of the many sets of technology that I’ve mentioned in this book, perhaps the most important is collabtech – technology that will improve our ability to collaborate with one another.

With the right kind of collaboration, the different skills and insights that are possessed by people around the world can add up to an extraordinary technoprogressive force. Many hands will make light work. But in the absence of such collaboration, people will talk past each other, waste time and resources re-inventing wheels, find unnecessary fault in each other’s ideas, become absorbed in fruitless arguments, and generally go round in circles. Too many cooks will spoil the broth. Civilisation will burn while we all gesticulate from the sidelines.

Let’s take a closer look at the components of collabtech. Various information processing tools that can enhance collaboration include:

<snip>

 

Recent Posts

There’s more to democracy than voting

Suppose that the UK held another referendum on the subject of Brexit. Suppose that the numerical result was essentially the same as before: around 52% voting for the UK to leave the EU, and around 48% voting for the UK to remain.

In that case, would that referendum prove to have been a massive waste of time and money?

My answer: not necessarily. Such a vote could actually lead to the healing of the nation, rather than to continued divisiveness and chaos.

politics chaos or healing

It all depends, not on the numerical result, but on the calibre of the arguments raised during that referendum.

If supporters of Leave came forward, during the campaign, with arguments that were less contestable and more compelling than before, this could lead to a healing of the nation. People who voted for the other option in the referendum might still feel disappointed. But they could accept that there were sound arguments in favour of the side that won. And, unlike the case of the first Brexit referendum, they could move forward, reconciled to the outcome. They could tell themselves they had lost a fair battle.

A similar conclusion could apply if, in a variant potential future scenario, it were Remain that won the second referendum, even if just by a narrow margin. Again, there’s no inherent reason why that conclusion would lead to ongoing bitterness. Again, it depends, not on the numerical result, but on the calibre of the arguments raised during the campaigns.

Not just a re-run

Various critics of the idea of a second referendum are doubtful that anything positive could arise from a new round of campaigning. It would just be a re-run of the previous campaign, they say, perhaps with a few people changing their minds. Nothing essentially new could arise. Forget healing. We would just get more chaos.

But I give a much more positive assessment to the idea of a second, better, referendum.

For one reason, people have learned a great deal in the intervening 30 months. Opinions which could be seen as plausible two years ago, have long since been shown up as deeply wrong. As an example, consider the now thoroughly discredited claim that it would be “the easiest deal ever” to negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU (witness “EU trade deal ‘easiest in human history'” and “All the times David Davis said that Brexit was simple”.) On such matters, we’re all wiser now.

But more fundamentally, it’s now widely recognised that it’s in everyone’s interest to cool down the debate, rather than letting matters be inflamed further.

The falsification principle

As a step away from ideology to objectivity, participants in the debate should start by reflecting long and hard about which circumstances would cause them to change their minds. This is in line with the falsification principle of science: people aspiring to scientific methods should set out in advance which experimental findings would cause them to seriously rethink their currently favoured theories.

Therefore, people favouring Remain should describe the circumstances that would cause them to consider switching to Leave instead. In this way, they would identify the potentially strongest arguments in favour of Leave. For example, to my mind, the strongest argument in favour of Leave would be if the structural weakness of the eurozone were shown to be likely to lead to huge financial chaos, of a sort that the UK could best hope to escape by being outside of the EU altogether.

Likewise, people favouring Leave should describe the circumstances that would cause them to consider switching to Remain instead. For example, they might be prepared to alter their vote if they gained confidence in the flexibility and genuineness of EU reform proposals.

Debate participants unable to set out such a “falsifying circumstance” would have to acknowledge they are driven by ideology, rather being open to new findings.

Preparing to build bridges

In parallel, participants in both sides of the debate need to set out proposals for how the UK could unwind from any state of internal hostility after the campaign was concluded.

To this end, supporters of Remain need to acknowledge that many on the Leave side are profoundly ill at ease with what they see as the direction of social development. More than that, Remain supporters need to be ready to commit to a credible programme to address key causes of this alienation, including the bitter perception many people have of being “left behind”.

Similarly, supporters of Leave need to acknowledge that many on the Remain side are profoundly ill at ease with the potential unravelling of processes of multilateral decisions, in a post-Brexit race-to-the bottom world of increasing deregulation.

Towards superdemocracy

That’s the vision – the vision of a better politics being expressed in a better referendum.

It’s a vision that goes beyond democracy-as-counting-votes. It’s a vision of emerging superdemocracy (to use a term that has featured in the last two Transpolitica books – Transcending Politics and Sustainable Superabundance).

Is this vision credible? Or are we doomed to a politics dominated by feelings of vengeance and obliteration?

That is, is a second referendum likely to lead to even greater chaos, or to healing?

Personal leadership

To an extent, the answer will be influenced by the personal qualities of the people leading each side of the debate. Do these people have high personal integrity? Are they open to learning? Are they able to build bridges? Do they have high emotional intelligence? Or are they, instead, obsessive and self-serving?

The answer (chaos or healing) will also depend on how the media conducts itself. Is the media looking for high drama? Will it seek out and amplify the most inflammatory soundbites? Or will it show restraint and care?

To my mind, everyone who cares about the future of the UK has to get behind the processes of healing, rather than the processes of chaos.

That means a commitment to debating honestly – to considering the merits and demerits of different arguments fairly, rather than with a partisan spirit.

This also means a commitment to building bridges – to discovering shared common values, even with people who express views very differently to our own.

It won’t be easy. But the cost of failure would be enormous.

Image source: “Big Ben at Sunset” – Photo by M N on Unsplash

  1. Superdemocracy: issues and opportunities Leave a reply
  2. New complete book awaiting reader reviews Leave a reply
  3. Q4 update: Progress towards “Sustainable superabundance” Leave a reply
  4. Q3 sprint: launch the Abundance Manifesto Leave a reply
  5. Q2 sprint: Political responses to technological unemployment Leave a reply
  6. Tools for better politics? 2 Replies
  7. Chapter updated: “1. Vision and roadmap” Leave a reply
  8. Chapter updated: “4. Work and purpose” Leave a reply
  9. Transpolitica goals and progress, Q1 Leave a reply