Only the impossible is likely to save us
Achieving the unthinkable
I’m sitting in the tram headed along the lakeside towards Neuchatel, a medium-sized town at the foot of Jura mountains. It’s Sunday afternoon, the weather is sunny after a prolonged period of heavy rain and flooding and the tram is full. Everybody, with a couple of notable exceptions, is wearing a mask. Who would have thought. Imposing such restrictions would have been unthinkable only a couple of years ago in a country that makes a point of cherishing individual freedom. The same goes for the money the government – known for championing liberal economic policies – has poured into both companies and individual purses to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. What greater proof could you want that the unthinkable can occur, the apparently impossible is possible. Cynics might say that certain major commercial interests stood to capitalise on the pandemic and consequently did not throw their weight against the changes. Be that as it may, the pandemic has shown us the unimaginable can be achieved and in a very short time.
The damning IPCC report on climate
Today the new IPCC report (6th assessment report, 2021) on the future of the world’s climate has been released. The verdict of the world’s top scientists is damning. Many key climate changes have already occurred and are irreversible. Others that will happen in the very near future are unavoidable. The prospects are disasterous. We are rushing towards a precipice while politicians continue to prevaricate world-wide, motivated by out-dated visions of society and the world or a will to preserve their own power alongside hanging on to vested interests in commercial concerns that will be forced to change radically or disappear. It is hardly surprising that whole sectors of the population vote for vociferating dangerous clowns in their disenchantment with politics.
An ill-adapted system of governance
None of the current systems of governance is capable of handling this unprecedented crisis, whether it be the so-called dictatorship of the proletariat, the authoritarian regimes or western democracies. I want to concentrate on the latter which I know best and which is often advocated as the sole viable possibility that preserves human rights. To criticise democracy when it is under fire from powerful groups trying to grab power for themselves might appear unwise if not foolish. What is being called into question here are the forms democracy has taken, rather than the concept of democracy itself. What initially was perceived as a delegation of individual power to another to represent one’s interests has naturally mutated into a regrouping around common interests of elected individuals to gain more influence. The evolution of the party system has led to polarisation and rigidity making it ill-equipped to handle complex, fast-changing situations. Further more, the constraints of being re-elected often lead to populist options and a pandering to dominant commercial interests. Decision making is hamstrung when radical and unpopular courses of action are urgently needed. Although satisfactory forms of government still need to be found (See Extinction Rebellion on going beyond government), I am convinced they should be rooted in local, participative governance. (See my two novels, Stories People Tell and Local Voices).
A mammoth challenge
If careful thought is given to the changes needed to affront such crises as that of the climate but also pandemics present and future, failing health more generally, conflict, exclusion, inequality and poverty, the challenge is daunting. Many interrelated factors, that in the short-term and seen individually might seem relatively harmless, come together to create a catastrophic scenario of daunting proportions. The food we eat. The way we work. Where we live. The way we move about. Our medical system. Our policing system. Our local, regional, national and international governments. Media, publicity, the internet and the dark forces that seek to influence us via these channels. Schooling and learning throughout life. Research and development and the resulting technology. The companies that encourage and feed our consummation… The solution needs to be global and far-reaching. This is why attempts like The Green New Deal (see Wikipedia) are aiming in the right direction. Often opponents to plans such as this ‘deal’ decry it as unworkable, unrealistic and impossible. Unfortunately for them, and for all of us, only the impossible is likely to save us.