Tag Archives: Feature article

Inklings of how to save the world

Some keen readers may have noticed that The Inkling has not published a feature article since November last year (when Sustainability was posted). There is another feature in the pipeline, but because it is bigger and better than the first two it is much harder and more time consuming to prepare. To keep you entertained in the meantime, The Inkling has decided to give you some idea of what goes on when The Inkling writes these articles.

Rotating Democracy (sort of like Sortition)

By The Inkling

When looking at how to move towards a sustainable world, one thing keeps coming up – our democracy isn’t working as well as it should.

Even if we elect good people, being in a position of power changes their brains (reducing empathy), plus, of course, baddies tend to gravitate towards positions of power.

We see that vested interests keep getting their way and “the people” aren’t doing anything about it. Then most of us sit back and rely on politicians to fix things, and don’t even bother engaging with politics or the issues well enough to keep the politicians in line.

I keep hearing how the only way to solve our environmental and social problems is to get people to participate in their communities and politics, but how? And even if we managed to convince people to participate more now, how would we stop things from degenerating back to the way they are now at some time in the future (when community enthusiasm lapses)?

How many people love their politicians these days? Who would feel sad if they suddenly lost their jobs? What about political parties and powerbrokers? Who would feel much sympathy for them?

What if instead of electing politicians we took turns? Imagine if politics was like Jury Duty and it was likely that at some time during your life you’d be randomly selected to serve a Parliamentary term (or Council term)?

And what if instead of dissolving the whole Parliament at once, each person’s term expired at a different time, so that Parliament changed the representatives that made it up gradually like an animal replaces cells?

Of course there are lots of details that would have to be sorted out, like rules for how representatives could behave (they’d have to be kicked out if they broke the rules and replaced by the next random person) and the conditions under which a person could “get out of” their turn, but basically the idea would be that “the people” were responsible for governing the place. No more complaining about how crap all the politicians or parties are. And what better way to get people to be interested than to make it likely that they will have to be the one doing the job at some point!

What do you reckon? Would our politicians vote for it?


The next feature article

Some keen readers may have noticed that The Inkling has not published a feature article since November last year (when Sustainability was posted). There is another feature in the pipeline, but because it is bigger and better than the first two it is much harder and more time consuming to prepare. To keep you entertained in the meantime, The Inkling has decided to give you some idea of what goes on when The Inkling writes these articles.

The Political Compass

By The Inkling

Political views get lots of funny labels. You can be left-wing, right-wing, liberal, conservative, neo-liberal, a fascist, a communist or an anarchist. I wasn’t about to be tricked into thinking that the Liberal party is necessarily for liberals but I wasn’t exactly sure what all these labels meant. While I was looking for answers I found a very useful site called Political Compass that has a clever way of classifying your political position. Rather than using a linear right-left scale it plots political views in two dimensions: economic and social.

The x-axis is the economic dimension, ranging from Communism on the left (an entirely state-planned economy) to Neo-liberalism on the right (a completely deregulated economy).

The y-axis is the social dimension, with Authoritarian (Fascism) at the top and Libertarian (Anarchism) at the bottom.

There is a test you can take, which plots your political position on the compass.

The site also includes analysis of political parties and leaders so you can see how your views compare with theirs. I’ve combined the positions of some political leaders given in two separate charts on the analysis page of the Political Compass site into Figure 1. I’m happy to report that my dot on the compass was closer to that of Gandhi than Hitler or Stalin or Thatcher.

Figure 1. Leaders on the political compass (based on http://www.politicalcompass.org/analysis2)

The Australian federal parties at each of the two last elections (2007 and 2010) have also been plotted on the Political Compass site. Only the four major parties (Labor, Liberal, National and Green) were shown for 2010. The chart for 2007 includes Family First, Democrats and One Nation too. In Figure 2 I have combined the charts for 2007 and 2010.

From Figure 2 it can be seen that most of the parties are located in the right-wing authoritarian (top right-hand) quadrant. These parties accounted for 84% of the vote at the 2010 Federal election. There is only one party in each of left and right-wing libertarian quadrants and there are no parties in the left-wing authoritarian (top left-hand) quadrant. I suppose this should reflect the Australian population but I wonder if it does- if the political positions of all Australians were plotted on the compass would they fall most densely where the parties that received the most votes are plotted?

The other thing I noticed was that between 2007 and 2010 the Labor, Liberal and National parties became more right-wing and authoritarian (they moved closer to the top right hand corner). The Greens were plotted in the same position in both years.

Figure 2. Australian Political Parties in 2007 and 2010 (based on http://www.politicalcompass.org/aus2007 and http://www.politicalcompass.org/aus2010)

It is interesting to think about how the movement of the Labor and Coalition parties further towards right-wing authoritarian affected their votes. In 2007 Labor won the election easily but in 2010 it only managed to form a minority government. The Liberal-National coalition vote increased but not as much as the Green vote.

You may be wondering where the Communists would be plotted. I was left wondering that too. Perhaps if they received more votes (The Communist Alliance party received 0.01% of primary votes in the House of Representatives in 2010) they’d get their point plotted too.


The next feature article

Some keen readers may have noticed that The Inkling has not published a feature article since November last year (when Sustainability was posted). There is another feature in the pipeline, but because it is bigger and better than the first two it is much harder and more time consuming to prepare. To keep you entertained in the meantime, The Inkling has decided to give you some idea of what goes on when The Inkling writes these articles.

Communist Party Headquarters

By The Inkling

While trying to work how we can achieve happiness and sustainability I’ve sought interviews with people from different Australian political parties, but the most surprising so far has been my visit to the Communist Party headquarters in Sydney.

The Communist Party of Australia’s website directed me to Denis Doherty as National Organiser for the CPA. The website also had an abundance of reading material, including a communist perspective of local political activity in Australia. I wondered whether that venomous man at the polling booth had read all this material.

Denis promptly replied to my email and gave me his mobile phone number so we could arrange an interview.  He was kind and friendly to me on the phone, and gave the impression of being happy to meet with me. He was flexible with his time and gave me plenty of helpful directions to make sure I had no problem finding their address.

The office was nestled amongst terrace houses, warehouses and show rooms in a respectably quiet, leafy inner-city street.  As I pressed the buzzer, I imagined being led down a creaky staircase into some dark, underground bunker, where I would be hand cuffed and interrogated by bearded, manic-eyed men in berets, smoking cigars. I was brought back to reality by Denis’ familiar, friendly voice on the intercom, telling me he would be right down to meet me.  Soon after, I was surprised, once again, when a cheerful, white bearded man met me at the front door and welcomed me inside.

I was struck by all the typical communist paraphernalia displayed around the reception area; lots of crescents and stars and a portrait of Lenin overseeing operations. It was like peering through a window into another time, and yet there were also posters and headlines crying out references to current worldwide political issues.  I was led through a maze of small offices and cubicles where editorial staff were busy at work producing the CPA’s publication The Guardian.  I was presented to some wholesome looking people in woolen jumpers who smiled brief, absent minded greetings as we dodged boxes of books and pamphlets.

I was amused to see a modestly-sized Buddhist shrine with a water feature occupying a large corner of the 2nd storey landing.  Denis told me it had been left there by the previous tenants, and no one had had the heart to remove it.

My tour came to its conclusion when we reached the boardroom, which I could tell by Denis’s enthusiastic introduction, was his favorite part. He was particularly proud, when he turned on the lights, to reveal a large mural which filled an entire wall, running lengthways down the long, thin room. He explained to me that this was a reproduction of the Sydney Wharfies Mural, which had been painted on the walls of the Waterside Workers’ Federation Australia headquarters in Sussex Street, Sydney from 1953 – 1965. It must be a powerful backdrop to the meetings that take place in that boardroom.

What I quickly discovered from Denis was how patient and determined the CPA is in their approach to bringing about change.  There is none of the fiery rebellion or radical action that one might associate with far-left revolutionary parties. Denis was adamant about the CPA’s adherence to a slow and steady campaign, and to separate themselves from any kind of rash, high impact or attention-seeking behavior. He passionately opposes these “stunts”, and refers to the many cases where the tactless, obnoxious anger and aggression of other parties has been detrimental to the efforts made by the CPA through careful negotiation and gradual, but stable cooperation. He said that the party can always improve its performance, its rigour and its attention to detail in pursuing its objectives, sometimes however members can be like Brown’s Cows and be inattentive.  On the whole they are very committed and active.

Now more than ever I wondered why the word “communism” is such an unspeakable, touchy word that triggers distaste and rejection.  If the actions of the CPA were really as peaceful and non-threatening as they appeared to be, then is it what the CPA stands for that upsets people?

Denis puts the Communist agenda very simply. “We aim for, public ownership of housing, of medicine, education, etc, and we are competing against the neo-Liberal, or economic rationalists’ ideology.”

After more than two hours of discussion Denis ended on a positive note “There’s that continuous battle going on between capitalism and socialism, and even though capitalism thinks it’s won, it still brings up these old issues of Soviet agents, and it still goes on, and it’s still a battle of ideas. But we still think we can win.”


The next feature article

Some keen readers may have noticed that The Inkling has not published a feature article since November last year (when Sustainability was posted). There is another feature in the pipeline, but because it is bigger and better than the first two it is much harder and more time consuming to prepare. To keep you entertained in the meantime, The Inkling has decided to explain why these feature articles were chosen and to give you some idea of what goes on when The Inkling writes these articles.

How it all started: Three big questions

By The Inkling

I’ve never been much of a fan of knowing things just for the sake of knowing them. I wanted my quest to result in something useful. I wanted my answers to all these little questions to add up to something – to some big answers to big questions. I wanted to assemble the information into some sort of guide, some sort of plan. A big picture. A vision.

I needed some structure to work within so I made a couple of assumptions and came up with three big questions.

My first big question was “What makes us happy?” – and my assumption was that people want to be happy. I don’t mean the silly-grin kind of happy. I mean a content kind of happy. Where people have what they need to lead full lives. The results of this investigation can be found in the post called “Happiness”.

My second big question was “How can we be sustainable”. This was personal, but I justified it with the assumption that people don’t really want to crash and burn – that we’d like to be able to carry on without disaster, that deep down in our hearts we’d prefer not to destroy the planet and each other. The results of this investigation can be found in the post called “Sustainability”.

Then the third question, the biggest one of all, was “How can we achieve happiness and sustainability?”. To answer this question I’m looking at many things, including political and economic systems, the policies of the political parties in this country and how economies and monetary systems “work” (or how people think and expect that they work, at least). I’m learning a lot (I have to) and it is taking a long time. So you don’t get too sick of waiting, I’ll be sharing little tidbits of information with you from time to time.


The next feature article

Some keen readers may have noticed that The Inkling has not published a feature article since November last year (when Sustainability was posted). There is another feature in the pipeline, but because it is bigger and better than the first two it is much harder and more time consuming to prepare. To keep you entertained in the meantime The Inkling has decided to explain why these feature articles were chosen and to give you some idea of what goes on when The Inkling writes these articles.

How it all started: Election Day 2011

By The Inkling

I was wearing a red hat and strayed too close to a polling booth when I was called a Communist. The man said it with venom, and a few bubbles of spit came out of his mouth. I shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t really know what a Communist was. Then later it started to worry me.

I didn’t know what a Communist was! Did the man who called me a Communist know what a Communist was? Shouldn’t I know what a Communist was, especially if people seemed to think I was one? And if I wasn’t a Communist then what was I?

For days and months these sorts of questions kept popping into my head, but they became broader. What political and economic systems are there? Which one is the best? What is “best”? What should the system be achieving?

Then it became even more personal. What should I be trying to achieve? How can I achieve it?

Eventually I couldn’t bear my ignorance anymore and I decided I’d have to find answers for all these questions.


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