By Eithne Hogan
FROM THE PERSONAL TO THE COLLECTIVE
Sometimes in order to look forward, you have to look back. The degree and distance retrospectively travelled depends on the journey you aspire to embark on. Whether the journey begins conceptually or in sensory active engagement – with earthly things – the source of that thought or deed will flow like a small stream; its origins running over mental pebbles and often amid the anguish of dashed stone; sometimes gushing along like vitality through wide and reddened veins, plush and promising, narrowing or fattening to slide or edge through its designated pathway in our out of your conceptual control. Often elemental. Water and earth. Fire and air. This is a way that I envision conceptual or ideological change. This is my way of expressing my journey through change. And depending upon the personally chosen or pre-destined route, navigating and reflecting this journey will exude through me from the inside out.
Can you not see the processes in your head at times, mapped out in meadows that lush and extending serves to liberate you? Do you not at other times feel those under the surface death rendering landmines, threatening your innermost dreaded implosions? Or do you second-split drop into staggering silence that drags you down deep and stops you mid-track lifeless and mute in day time uncontrollable dreams?
The world of the mundane is full of earthly things and among these earthly things are the systems and structures of societal, systematic and systemic rule. And as much as some may deny the political as real or in any way significant to their existential being, in the earthly and physical realm of existence; social, cultural, socio-economic and political structures really do matter – pardon the pun. Socialism matters. Fascism matters. Communism matters. Capitalism matters. Oligarchy matters. Marxism matters. Corporatocracy matters. Neo-liberalism matters. All political systems and structures matter. So living in Ireland standing at the gritty edge of 2016, grounded in our earthly geographical and historically contextualised system; the structures of democracy and its specified form for me personally and I know for many others who express it out loudly really really matters.
“At the core of every social, political, and economic system is a picture of human nature, to paraphrase the 20th century columnist Walter Lippmann. The way that picture developments determines the lives we lead, the institutions we build, and the civilization we create. The political philosophy of Madison produces one set of results; the political philosophy of Marx produces another. So yes: ideas move politics in one direction or the other, toward justice or away from it. Like all things human, it’s imperfect, frustrating, and fraught with failure. It’s a long, hard grind. And it’s not always aesthetically pleasing. But cynicism that leads to political disengagement–the world-weary, pox-on-both-your-houses, what difference does it make, I don’t give a damn attitude that seems rather fashionable and trendy these days–can lead to disaster. Because someone’s ideas will prevail. If ones that advance justice and human flourishing win out, it won’t be by accident or by default. It’ll be the product of determined effort; of those who do not grow weary in doing good.”
[Peter Wehner 2014]
Ireland has already moved through many stages and periods of great change and transformation: from being a victim of and a champion against colonial power, to a struggling splintered and salvaged republic. She has travelled through ‘fretted’ and fretting representative democracy and depending upon which shoe you opt to wear and whose focus you seek to view from; currently she is struggling or managing or complying with a dictatorial oligarchic corporatocracy controlled by a small group of demanding avaricious individuals, who govern in their own interests only. Or alternatively, she is more accurately depicted as a recovering but stabilising weak but strengthening structure and system; wounded [but not fatally] by recession. She has met with the onslaught of a global market collapse resulting in a largely unchanged stressed but coping representative democracy. A democracy deemed to be off her knees. As I said, depending upon the shoe…
So yes: ideas move politics in one direction or the other, toward justice or away from it. Ideas move politics in one direction or the other, toward equality or away from it and ideas move politics in one direction or the other, toward liberty and freedom or away from it. So if this movement matters, our ideas that shift and move us as humans irrevocably and equally matter.
The distance retrospectively that I am travelling brings me back some 27 years or more. So quite a mental journey. I didn’t hold the same level of understanding mental processes or psychological states as I do now – and mind you much of what I’ve learnt is not all text book gleaned. It’s the first time I’ve considered this poem I wrote in decades and it entered my head without force last evening. So somewhere in my consciousness, my mind has revisited it. What I do know is that at the time, it was the darkest of life experiences; a mix of personal, financial and parental terror. And at the time I saw no avenue out of this mental poverty. Poverty of mind, poverty of soul and poverty of circumstance. It was before my decision to return to education, and carve out a life for myself and my children, no different a decision to what many adults who hope for change would do. But in this poem and mood, I saw no hope and powerlessness consumed me. Being the classic idealist, I sought to daydream, one of my reliable survival mechanisms, but my efforts for relief and escapism were fruitless.
In younger years: as soon as I closed my eyes, colour collapsed at my feet. I was anyone I wished to be, free to silver sadness with a dream. But time and circumstance had made my dreams ultimately derelict. And my eyes were obstructed by wood:
Now, my eyes will not squeeze
Past the timber, brown and swollen;
Its rot, a sickly turn of phrase,
But I know every twist of grain,
Dark spots reveal themselves to me
And I can trace complete,
A single vein.
At the time, I didn’t fully understand that the dereliction was not all my fault. I had been nurtured by the shame and guilt capitalist story of success and failure and I read this failure as mine in totality. When I read this poem now, in the whistling of time passed; I read it differently. I still see poor life choices and personal responsibility and hands up admissions of regretted and naïve human error. But I see political structures too and their outline and impact is much sharper now than I knew in those earlier learning years. Now, I see the socio-economic ranking of life experience and observe the cultural identity and impact of the Irish and global political structure as a hopefully wiser being. And the long journey back with the process of moving forward has instructed me on so many ideological things. Emotional, psychological, spiritual and political insights – all ideas combining in forces that move me – or attempt to hold me back.
I envision my world personally and see it replicated and mirrored in others of equivalent and earlier generations. But with socio-economic ranking comes socio-economic privilege and socio-economic want and without. And the structural violence of capitalism affects these rankings in divergent ways and it creates distinctive cultural identities. None of us are immune to injustices and material comfort and degree of wealth is an instrumental tool utilised by the powerful to define, divide and stratify and this in turn breeds its own forms and attitudes of acceptance, subjugation, redirected blame or flagrant racism. And the fact is: we are all in this together. We are whether we like it or not an interconnected species. And in that connection with the collective; in order to continually gauge my personal and collective level of understanding and lifelong learning, I gather facts. I gather facts and opinions, speculation, data and statistics, primary and secondary and tertiary resources with the eyes and ears of an avid educated historian and an ordinary woman and with the approach of being but a tiny miniscule cog in an immensely overwhelmingly large wheel. I absolutely relish the objective and the scientific and I am infinitely impassioned by the creative and the imaginary. And sometimes when the two sides meet an idea or an analysis is born and the thoughts that make me me help me to identify others; the collective diverse – the I, the we and the us.
THE NEED FOR PARTICIPATORY/DIRECT DEMOCRACY
Representative democracy has failed us. Yes, this is an evaluation statement and a harsh indictment but it stems from those thoughts and logic personally internalised, continually interpolating and interpreting the world I am in and not the world that is never simply separate or at a disconnect around me. In relation to the Irish political experience, Maureen O’ Sullivan TD, in a recent article outlining corruption in the Dáil quoted Rousseau in a perfectly selected pronouncement and warning that: “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”. I agree with them both. Maureen expresses that: some progress has been made in eradicating complicity between commercial business interests and elected and unelected officials but we still have quite a way to go before corruption is completely eradicated. Amongst other changes, Maureen calls for necessary monitoring and management of policy and practice to eradicate or make inroads into alleviating this fraud and deceit of the citizenry whom politicians and government represent. She asserts that a permanent, independent anti-corruption agency should be established urgently. And that governments need to be proactive in their dealings with this activity. I would extend this proactivity to go outside the Dáil and in a stronger form of democratic process proactively engage the citizens in the formation and decision-making mechanism and process. This proactive engagement would actively and holistically encompass the citizens who are part of this democracy we for the most part seek to protect and for the some part convince ourselves and others that we [how dare we question] already do.
With participatory/direct democracy, the people become agents in their own governance. They become participants in the system they live their lives in and the system which their children and their children will inherit. And perhaps the cynicism and mistrust that leads to political disengagement or other apathetic or indifferent responses will diminish – in time. Let’s consider; it’s not all about negativity or polar opposites like us/them convenient populist labelling. It’s not about admonishment or the ‘let us try to catch him out’ demonising and attacking politics. It’s just as much about positivity, incorporating fully-fledged widespread intelligence, new visions, new ideas and innovation; all of these originating and evolving from the people outside the Dáil. Ideas would spread from within the local and national unique experience, and feeding from the inside [of this mind-set] would deliver life and exude energy out. With no better logic, rationalised and emotional, real-world and contextualised, firmly placed in the experiential lives of the citizens which a democracy serves. So additionally, we need to stress the positives of this new system, engage with and see the vision of change to transform into it and share the thought and vision of its realisation and manifestation. Collectively, we can identify with an initiative that can bring real and significant worthy of your time change. Remember, it’s not all about that dreaded word and sometimes misrepresented power of veto or the second–to-that dread of the sometime misinformed or threatening act classified as potential recall. Remember, The One Year Initiative can move politics closer to delivering fairness, justice and equality in the solidarity of team work, not just to reform or tweak or seek to castigate but to remodel, rebuild and to recreate.
THINK OR BE EATEN
Angie Riedel wrote some unbelievable books. She is especially known for the following quote. It has been used many times but you can never wear down the ideal she so beautifully captures. And I will finish with her words. If they inspire you like they do me, our ideas are moving in the same direction.
What a shame that someone out there, some group of very strange people, have such a strong driving need to destroy mankind, to enslave it and humiliate it, and teach us all to believe that we have no value and we don’t matter and we can’t think for ourselves. I don’t know what would possess these powerful people to so despise the world, but they do. The wars and genocides are all a part of some grotesque greater plan, and separating the human being from himself is the beginning and end of hope for our species.
In case it needs to be said, we don’t have to go along with anything that we know is evil or wrong or destructive. We do not ever have to choose to be devalued and disrespected by anyone who claims to be more important than ourselves. They can only be more important if we choose to believe they are and thus deny and subjugate ourselves. But why would we do that? We already know that no legitimate being would tell us to be less than we are. It’s the overt demand that we stop existing. That’s slow death from the inside out. On a vast scale, when all of society gets down on its knees to mere men who say they must; it is spiritual genocide. We are free to stop doing it any time.
So with this gravity in mind, perhaps in our processes and decision-making mechanisms, we should require and seek to acquire a new system to enable us the necessary time to more holistically as a country collectively think. Participatory or direct democracy gives us this valuable time. As an encompassing democracy, its structures encourage full engagement with policy and the quality time to think the legislation or policy thoroughly through. It equally offers us the perfect people to think with and alongside.
Some people for example may support the decision to prevent this driving need that’s now as I perceive in hyper mode by the few. Some may interpret this driving need will only further escalate, impoverish, imprison and destroy us or that it can or cannot be feasibly challenged. Others again may not agree that there is this driving need to begin with and see capital as the better system to its uglier alternatives. My personal opinion is, as you probably guess, that if it is the will of the people to pursue this prevention to societal self-harm, then enough signatures collected will assist in this desired outcome – if of course a referendum results in a sanctioned process. Others may see their input as supporting altogether different changes and will inevitably then differ from my view and my opinions. Their initiatives would be starkly different to mine. But irrespective of the diversity of pathways we may take or our perception of and analyses of our society and its pursuits; from the minor to the most major law or legislation, we can all participate and move in the direction we as humans naturally seek. To protect. To belong. To think. To show vision. To inspire.
True. We will hold different ideas as to how we perceive the policies required to move toward our goals. And there will be debate, diverging viewpoints, collated evidence and at times frustration and heated discussion. But we’ll live. Because citizen-led initiatives and referenda, veto and recall offer us the opportunity to be a part of defining how we experience our lives and how we carve out the hopes for our families’ futures and the legacy we leave behind. And whatever the outcome or the legacy, we will unquestioningly have had the opportunity to have a real say. A say that lies beyond the ballot box in a truer form of individual and collective representation. Representation, where if you so wish or desire, you can decide to genuinely and in sincerity represent yourself.
1Yi as I see it is a specific solution and a route to this fairer and just system. That is why from my end, I encourage you to share the 1Yi vision and use your initiative judiciously and wisely to note others who support this initiative. Imagine, you could have this invaluable opportunity In Irish politics and track its beginnings before the closure of 2016.
That’s why in my vision, 1Yi is a practicable and effective organised plan. In my vision, 1Yi is a manageable and strategic plan where collectively as a people we can move in the right direction to make this our very own democracy work.
And in the anticipation and hope and power that visions hold; I believe wholeheartedly that if we collectively continue to think our way through these problems and opportunities and if ones that advance justice and human flourishing win out, it won’t be by accident or by default. It’ll be the product of determined effort. No daydream is ultimately derelict. Only ideas or dreams and daydreams that are not challenged and met with in confidence of new beginnings fail or fall dead to the floor. Collectively, we as an Irish people and as humans with the collective inalienable talent to dream have the ability to remove the wood and any other obstacles that block or obstruct or impair our ability to see and to envision that there always and at all times is an alternative. Each and all can be part of the unique and connected vision that inspires and ignites and in all degrees define our species.
There is so much left to be done.
Be the vision that inspires and ignites you…