Now more than ever: non-violence and positive change

AnimatedPeaceSymbol3We are certainly facing challenging times. The growth of fascism in Europe, the US and Australia, fuelled by a concoction of traditional racism and uber nationalism combined with corporate greed is a potent cocktail for accelerating destructive forces.

There are no magic bullet answers. All around me I see people struggling to come to terms with the Trump presidency, but it’s more than that, there’s fascism arising throughout Europe and the English-speaking world, a violent and incendiary political disease that offers fantasies of a return to past golden eras but invariably produces war, pain and destruction and disables the very communities that look to it for salvation. The biggest winners out of the US election are temporarily Vladimir Putin but in the long term it is China, whose own brand of totalitarianism may yet prove to at least have a more rational flavour than the West’s. At least they still believe in science right?

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Algorithms for Change – Politics in the Pub

A great night’s Politics in the Pub featuring Aidan Ricketts run by the Ngara Institute in February 2017. You’ll laugh, you’ll growl, you’ll realise how true it is that a small group of people can change the world.

Challenging times ahead, we need to build unity in diversity

good vibes open mindsThe election of Trump presents very challenging times ahead for those of us who care about the planet, human rights, equality and peace. He represents the raw face of corporate power over people and the environment, the veneer of civil democracy has been torn away and in its place we are seeing an aggressive oligarchy of corporate interests gain control of the very formal institutions designed to restrain them.

There’s no doubt that western power (US, UK, Europe) is in decline and has been for some time, and that of itself has not been a bad thing, at a minimum it would have simply required the US to share power with other nations rather than assume a role of unilateral global policeman. The decline of western power could have been a steady and graceful senescence but it won’t be now. My studies of complexity theory tell me that we are hurtling toward abrupt collapse. I see Trump as the US equivalent of Boris Yelstin, a dangerous populist who will oversee collapse into chaos. But Trump is more dangerous by far, because the very chaos he is promoting is a free-for-all for globalised corporations.

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sufferagestreetmeetingActivism and social movements, an eternal part of human evolution

The march of history is complex and unpredictable and it is anything but linear. It is actually impossible to determine whether things are getting better or worse, some things are decidedly worse whilst in other areas we see great signs of positive change. Despite the temptation to indulge in measuring social progress, there’s actually not a lot of value in doing so. The most intelligent and practical way we can influence the future is to grasp the opportunities for positive social change that present themselves and give them the hardest nudge we can.

We can reflect positively on the great shifts in social awareness on issues like feminism, the environment and sexual diversity since the 1970’s or we can wring our hands in dismay at the destructiveness of neo-liberalism over the same period. There is no end point to history, no place where we get to find out who won and who lost, it’s not even about that, it’s all just ongoing evolution for better or for worse however we each define those things. It can actually get better and worse simultaneously.

Whether we are aware of it or not we are all taking actions every day that contribute to changing the world into the future, so we may as well all consciously come to understand that we are all activists. The more we understand that all of our actions and choices are having an effect, however small, the more effective and empowered we can become.

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The Art of Dissent

Photo: Giles Price, from The Art of Dissent

Can we be a totalitarian democracy?

Elections are vital for a thriving democracy but we also need rights. These are detailed in The International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to which Australia is a party. It is supposed to guarantee our rights of political participation, no detention without a fair trial, and above all the rule of law for all citizens.

A fundamental tenet of the rule of law is that laws should apply equally to all people at all times, whether they are refugees, bike club members or religious minorities and that no-one should be above the law, not the prime minister or the queen, and certainly not highly secretive security forces.

When we lose sight of the equal application of the law to all people, we enter very dangerous territory, where refugees can be concentrated into camps and detained without court processes, where particular people can’t associate with their family or friends because of a club they belong to or where secret police have the power to literally ‘disappear’ people and it is unlawful to raise the alarm. Yes, this is Australia I’m now describing.

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Reclaiming democracy

Photo courtesy the ABC

Photo courtesy the ABC

What lies behind the visceral battle between Australian rural communities and the collective force of the mining and petroleum industry is a battle to reclaim democracy itself. The Lock the Gate movement, by taking on the mission of restoring accountability to the way that governments deal with the mining industry has necessarily positioned itself at the cutting edge of an emerging national pro-democracy and anti-corruption movement.

Democracy was hard won over many centuries and can never be assumed to thrive merely because of the presence of a particular set of constitutional arrangements. Most nations these days have democratic constitutions on paper, including notables such as Zimbabwe, Fiji, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Democratic constitutions are a necessary but not sufficient condition for the effective practice of democracy, and by far the greater part of a healthy functioning democracy is derived from the quality of the political culture in a country. Across the globe, corruption and embedded economic power are the eternal enemies of true democracy.

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Watch out for early signs of fascismWatch out for early signs of fascism

DEMOCRACY is about more than just elections and political parties vying for power. For democracy to work there are some other fundamental pre-conditions:

  • Rights of protest, participation and association;
  • Transparent government;
  • Personal rights of privacy;
  • A free and independent media;
  • Respect for the rule of law.

Fascism is a creeping form of totalitarianism where democracy is sacrificed and government serves the interests of the powerful few (these days mostly large corporations). It may sound alarmist, but let’s ask ourselves what are the warning signs of the slide into totalitarianism, and is it possible to unknowingly elect tyranny?

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The death of a thousand cuts: using multiple tactics to overwhelm your opponents

(An excerpt from  of The Activists Handbook pp 67-68  available online at

The idea that you may have to defeat your opponent by a death of a thousand cuts is a recurring theme in activism. You should use your strategic planning stage to get a really broad ranging grasp of all of the tactics that may be available to use in your campaign. You can still select the ones you think are most useful or appropriate and concentrate on these, but there’s no harm in having a few extra tactics up your sleeve. Particularly when dealing with governmental or corporate institutional players.

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