Transforming Politics in the 21st Century 11 Jun 2015

I’ve just returned from a debate at the RSA on transforming politics in the UK. The resounding – and familiar – conclusion is that the adversarial party political system is so over. Fit for purpose 200 years ago it now woefully ignores advances in technology, citizen empowerment and expected standards of public service.

Click here to join the discussion on Thursday Jun 11th (4pm UK time, 5pm CET, 12pm EST)

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Is it good enough?

While the expenses scandal of UK politicians may have been the last straw for UK voters, it is not the main underlying reason for a global trend of increasing disenchantment with democracy. Imagine if retail worked the same way. Every five years you got to pick one store that you would use for everything. It would be the only one you could use and you would have to buy everything it sold. Even if the day after you chose it there was a policy change and they now only sold GMO and processed food when you had voted for them because of their fresh vegetable selection. Or doubled the prices.  You wouldn’t stand for it would you? Nor would most of the other customers. There would be rioting on the streets. There would be outrage. People would take action.

How fascinating then that we have been successfully trained to put up with this sort of deal when it comes to something way more important. This is no longer just shopping at stake, this is our health, our education, our civic state. This is the way we treat criminals, the elderly, immigrants and each other. This is everything and yet our say is so minimal and so infrequent.

So what’s the alternative?

Having competing governments operating parallel systems like different brands of retail store could be tricky. But not entirely impossible. A worthwhile thought experiment at least just to work through some of the issues.

Another option would be a super coalition. A proportional representation so that Parliament roughly represents the preferences of the population and a Big Cheese is elected separately.

Or how about no politicians? Have people on charge of say, transport, who know about… Oh let’s say, transport. And then a serious process of derivative debate and research to agree strategies that maximise benefit for the population overall. That any of us could seek to be part of. Protected, of course, by some checks and balances to avoid vested interest ruling the roost.

Current status

Apparently there are more members of pressure group 38 than there are of any political party in the UK. That’s a good clue. When I explain the voting system to my teenage children I have so far failed to come up with any argument compelling enough to get them to vote (one because they say they know too little so can’t make an informed choice, the other because they live in a parallel world where authority has no value and little clout).

I am impressed that the Dutch government show a more open minded tendency. Ministers in various fields have held online citizen dialogues where the wisdom of the crowd is allowed to influence the outcome of the policy. A lot more subtle than another referendum and more representative than a town hall meeting with its attendant risk of being taken over by the loudest vested interest. See the road tax example here.

Next steps

They say we get the government we deserve. If the current system is good enough for you then fine. If not, then rather than moan about low citizen participation, let’s see what we can do about it. What’s your first step going to be?

I run an independent online dialogue forum called The Thinking Tank. Our next conversation will be about citizen engagement and how we shift from leaving  it all to top down politics towards more bottom up collaborative decision making where we all become part of the solution. Got a point of view? Let’s hear it. See you there on Jun 11th (add your name to our mailing list using the form on the right to make sure you get the right info about it)

Click here to join the discussion on Thursday Jun 11th (4pm UK time, 5pm CET, 12pm EST)

 

Next debate: Sun Mar 8 International Women’s Day 2015

Click here to join the discussion on Sunday Mar 8th (4pm UK time, 5pm CET, 12pm EST)

The original version of the film The Battle of the Sexes was made in 1914… and while it might sound anachronistic it seems we’re not done yet. The most likely person to kill a woman is still her partner. 44% of women in the UK experience sexual violence at some time in their lives. In recent research I have done with young men they talk of the difficulty of understanding and dealing with unfamiliar emotions of attachment and jealousy with little or no guidance. As well as the shocking figures there is a more subtle problem that society as a whole needs to address.

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On this year’s International Women’s Day we invite both men and women to consider the dysfunctional dance we have created between us and what actions might take to address the root causes of this situation which is not serving either gender.

For a quick and witty round up of the facts, you might want to prep by reading Soroya Chemely‘s piece on the Huffington Post. “according to UN gender reports, women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of its food and earn a whopping 10% of its income.

Click here to join the discussion on Sunday Mar 8th (4pm UK time, 5pm CET, 12pm EST)

Or book your place with Eventbrite

Dive into the Thinking Tank today to share your insights and consider those of the diverse group of participants we have come to expect. for a short while today think freely about something that affects us all and let’s see where we can get together.You can share your views in advance on twitter #ttt.

Check out our report from the last debate on nationality.  The Thinking Tank Report Nationality 1412

The Thinking Tank debate on Nationality revealed this to be a complex and under-considered topic which requires a more proactive approach to make the most of the potential benefits and mitigate against leaving it to be hijacked by nationalism.

What’s next?

We are in the process of developing our programme of Thinking Tank debates and, as always, welcome some co-creation.

Here are some of the ideas that have been suggested. What do you think we should do first? Or do you have another idea?

  • Beware of the loan shark. How has short term credit been so successful in persuading people to make what can end up being catastrophic choices about their finances. As the Archbishop of Canterbury rails against Payday Loans we look at short term credit and the reasons it exists. Causes like lower benefits and higher costs as well as social aspects like the shame of asking for help outweighing the shame of asking for money. And we wonder what we can learn from Wonga and co to improve the situation.
  • What’s the point of old people? As western society creates more ways to separate its citizens by age are we missing a trick? What if old people are not just a problem to be dealt with but a valuable resource? What can they offer and how could they improve their connectedness to support that? A hotbed of ideas from young and old to redress the balance and include the elderly in our world.
  • When is murder justified? The psychological test of who you would sacrifice to save lives is well known. It’s a tough one to consider but when is murder the least worst option?
  • Decline of the West. Is it true – as Niall Ferguson claims? Do we care? What will improve or deteriorate or just stay the same? Participants welcome from East and West (and North and South) to hammer this out

Falling off pedestals or getting ready for the future?

News drives events, events drive news. Are you a news gobbler? Is it the first thing you do when you wake up or the last thing at night?

Click here to join the debate. Feb 14th, 4pm UK, 5pm CET, 11am Eastern time. Twitter hashtag #tttnews… feel free to share your views in advance of the debate

Today we will be considering three current news stories with a common theme – the pope, horsemeat and the Hadron Collider – to consider if things have to get worse before they get better. Is the disruption of change justified by the end result?

It may not be a traditional move to resign as pope, but do you see it as a wise and
generous move making way for new energy? With half of the world’s one billion Catholics
in the Americas (mostly South America) is it time for a non- European pope?

And while horses don’t seem to have any better argument for not being eaten than cows
or cod, the discovery that we are not eating what we thought we were strikes our primeval
instincts for self protection. D you think the current scandal is a sign of progress for
consumer protection or yet more evidence that everything is corrupt and misrepresented?

As for the Hadron Collider – it feels less exciting now we didn’t all go up in smoke, so how
do you feel about it being closed down for two years for maintenance and upgrades. When
it is switched on in 2015 with redoubled power will you still be interested?

So three examples in the news today of ways of moving from old ways to new. Are you
feeling hopeful or despairing. Or just uninterested in it all? Does the news even matter to
you? Hundreds of years ago we would have had no idea of most of the events in the news
– certainly not in the timescales we see today. Did it matter? Is the 24 hour news cycle
helping us evolve? Improve? Enjoy life?

Dive into the Thinking Tank today to share your insights and consider those of the diverse
group of participants we have come to expect. for a short while today think freely about
something that affects us all and let’s see where we can get together.

Join us to share your views on the news, on the day of the headlines.

Click here to join the debate. Feb 14th, 4pm UK, 5pm CET, 11am Eastern time. Twitter hashtag #tttnews… feel free to share your views in advance of the debate

The F-word Apr 12

Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.” Active in the late 1700s, Mary Wollstonecraft is considered one of the founding feminist philosophers. It’s been around as long as women, so what do we need feminism to do today? Or is it simply past its sell-by date?

Join us online, 4pm UK time, Apr 12 and let’s see how we think about feminism in 2012. Meanwhile tweet your views #tttfeminism

Here are a few points of view to get you thinking

@BillyBragg on physical equality: Anyone who believes that equality has been achieved and feminism no longer matters should listen to the women at #ididnotreport

@Pimpleye: I’m glad such a thing as feminism exists, it gives women something to occupy themselves with whilst the men do important stuff.

@Platform51: Our Woman of the Week is Fawzia Koofi, brave champion of feminism in Afghanistan.

@thenatfantastic: if you think you’re being ‘held back by feminism‘, chances are you are actually being held back by gross stupidity.

There is no shortage of strongly held views for and against, by both men and women. What are you thinking on this subject these days? Still work to be done? Time for a strategic repositioning? Wither feminism in 2012?

Join us online, 4pm UK time, Apr 12 and let’s see how we think

Post-capitalism? Where next 1 Mar 2012

Now it turns out the crock of gold at the rainbow wasn’t quite what we expected, there is much debate about where we go from here.

Let’s say we consider deBono’s approach of zero budget thinking. If nothing was already decided, what would we want our socio-economic model to look like?

That’s too big a question, so we reframed it. See the quick results here: ttt1203 quick report The New Capitalism

What does the new capitalism have to do for me? What do you want from it?

Bill Gates says Creative Capitalism is the answer…

This RSAnimate video might also help get us started…

Results: the passing of time

On Jan 26 we paused for thought to consider our relationship with time. We were joined by Old Father Time who posed some challenging questions. Quotes below got majority support from the group. Those in bold were top 10 statements. Read the full list here Thinking Tank Time or read the summary below

Short of time?

Many of us were aware of a time squeeze.

  • chasing my tail trying to get what has to get done today done – thinking about this afternoon as opposed to time in the context of broader lifespan

While others seemed to have more of a balance

  • Time is like a rhythm. I am invigorated by sometimes racing through tasks and doing a lot, other times by sitting in silence watching the water. I like the changes in pace
  • I love wasting time once in a while.. just hang out, drink a glass, watch a stupid film on tv.. It gives me peace

So we had some advice on making better use of time

  • I try to make sure there’s some time-freedom in amongst a usually time-bound week
  • Those with life threatening illnesses talk positively about their better relationship with time and making good use of it

How much time do you want?

Old Father Time offered us a hypothetical choice of how long we wanted the rest of our life to last for. Choices varied from 10 to 1000 years but the majority plumped for about a century.Aside from wanting to be healthy during this time there were only two strongly shared views on the reason for wanting more time:

  • [I would spend it ] enjoying it and giving it sense
  • Time to have several lives /careers

Time for a change?

In closing we considered any learnings from the discussion. There was certainly more consideration of time, and an intention to be more conscious.

  • I think we are not enough in touch with time, the present. How could it be is we feel we are chasing all the time, needing to prioritise constantly.  A greater connection with the moment should educate us to have a better relationship with time.
  • [we can consider] high value uses of time and low value uses of time … looked at and determined by contribution, progress, impact on quality of life

Click here to join our next debate on Feb 23. 4pm (UK time) where we will be discussing the future of capitalism. Bring your bonus, your politics, your resentments and your ideas!

Modern Rituals. 22 Dec 2011

In the December 2011 Thinking Tank we considered rituals and their role in modern society. Some of the discussion focused on Christmas preparations but we also considered marriage, funerals and other rituals. There was some dissent over what was a ritual and what was just a habit, but in general a triumph of personal meaning over social conformity. Just over 100 ideas were proposed and considered by the group. Here is a summary of what was shared

Espresso Summary: Top 5 (the most supported comments)

  • You don’t need “official” rituals to have rituals of your own – different and at different periods of the year
  • Rituals are fine as long as they can be somewhat “tempered” otherwise they could be quite boring
  • Christmas feels like a big task. Not just the work involved (wrapping presents, preparing food etc) but also the ritualistic ways people behave at this time of year
  • Christmas is too commercial
  • Rituals don’t work when they too superficial – no time and no space to really pay attention to people

Latte Summary: when you have a bit more time

ROLE OF RITUALS

General view is that they can – and should – be personalised to increase their meaning

  • You don’t need “official” rituals to have rituals of your own – different and at different periods of the year
  • Rituals are fine as long as they can be somewhat “tempered” otherwise they could be quite boring
  • Some of the old rituals appears as not mine, others are new and very welcome

There were less supported comments about the specifics of Christmas preparations – carols and family and gifts and food.

BENEFITS

Benefits of rituals were contemplative: a time for reflection, pause for thought.  rather than anything to do with pomp and circumstance.

  • The positive side is that it creates space for family time, that it creates moments in the family history
  • Is almost a way to learn myself better, getting a deeper insight into myself
  • My marriage: although I don’t believe in God, I enjoyed the ritual.
  • a time to share

Opinion was divided on more mundane rituals – these comments became Synthetrons but also attracted negative scoring.

  • arriving home. Not just shuffling in and getting straight into the jobs but taking a moment to arrive, greet each other, be present
  • Having a cold shower after a family struggle – you are immediately nourished by fresh energy
  • The checkin and checkout of meetings: To get a sense of the feelings that are in the room, to see the development of the meeting, to get a closer feeling to what happens

HAZARDS

There are potential downsides to rituals that the group were aware of, mostly around coercion and falseness:

  • when a ritual is felt more as a constraint rather than an event to look forward to
  • When the ritual itself becomes more important than its original intention
  • When everyone pretends

The group agreed on some strategies to avoid these risks

  • rituals must be considered as occasions – not obligations
  • Distinguish between personal rituals and traditional rituals. Maybe knowing our own reason for participating makes a difference too. It’s not the ritual that has meaning in itself, it is we who choose to bring it meaning (or just go through the emotions)

IDEAL CHARACTERISTICS OF A RITUAL

Ah. Let’s hope that we can all remember these wise words in our hearts during the Christmas and other seasonal festivities

  • a ritual that encourages me to think of the rhythm of life, the tides, the seasons, the births and deaths. Get a sense of perspective and stop obsessing about my own trivia
  • a ritual that encourages us to look within hearts and also at our global connectedness
  • A trueness-ritual … perhaps … like this: If I was born in Ohio, now i would be this, if i was born in Kabul, now i would be this, if I was born in ….
  • A ritual that includes time for deep reflection in a safe environment
  • pause to think about the meaning of what we do
  • It’s not about the stuff – or the stuffing! It’s about the meaning. I can choose for it to be meaningful or I can choose for it to be a chore. Right now I am hoping to have the presence of mind to choose meaningful.
  • Relax, be authentic, thoughtful of others

Full Summary

Click on this pdf file to see all the comments 1112 Rituals full report

War on Drugs? Nov 24.

In June of this year one blog made this summary “Forty years and $1 trillion later, America’s “War on Drugs” remains a costly, colossal failure – as evidenced by a new report released this week by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.”

Click here to join the debate at 4pm UK time, Thurs Nov 24

One Thinking Tanker has commented

“The war on drugs not only is a total failure, it makes the problem much worse.
It creates much more and much bigger problems than it is trying to resolve, because it starts form a totally wrong premise: for purely ideological reasons, it totally irrationally defines a difficult medical problem as a criminal one.”

Click here to join the debate at 4pm UK time, Thurs Nov 24

Start the debate now by tweeting with #thinkingtank

Stimulus

  • Yesterday’s article in the NY Times ““It could lead to a nationalist backlash in the countries involved,””
  • Huffington Post: Is legalisation the answer?
  • RSA Drugs – is it always abuse?

Click here to join the debate at 4pm UK time, Thurs Nov 17

Future Thinking Tank Discussions

(always Thursdays, always 4pm UK  / 5pm Euro / 11am US East Coast…). Topics may change if there is a more pressing issue at the time. Please feel free to make suggestions by adding a comment below

  • 22 Dec (Winter Solstice): Rituals and their role in modern society. As you prepare for Christmas, Hannukah, recover from Eid or plan your own rites, we take a break to reflect on why rituals are so important to us and how they might help even a post-modernist society.
  • New Year (Jan 26). Stopping and Starting. What will you leave behind with 2011, what will you work on in 2012?
  • Feb 23: The F-word. Over a century after New Zealand gave all women the right to vote and nearly 50 years after the US Equal Pay Act the situation is still far from balanced. 70% of the world’s poor are women and girls and the gender pay gap still exists. Where do we go from here?

Next: Sep 29th 4pm. Lies, damn lies…

Next discussion

No, thatWhen do you lie? Does it matter? Is lying increasing or on the wane as transparency shifts our expectations but mobile phones and Second Life allow us to be who we want, when we want? Good for you? Bad for me?

CLICK HERE to join the discussion on Sep 29th

Stimulus:

CLICK HERE to join the discussion on Sep 29th

    Future Thinking Tank Discussions

    (always Thursdays, always 4pm UK  / 5pm Euro / 11am US East Coast…). Topics may change if there is a more pressing issue at the time. Please feel free to make suggestions by adding a comment below

    • 20 Oct: Prosperity. As we approach Diwali* let’s consider what prosperity means in the 21st century and how we can enjoy and spread it
    • 24 Nov: tbc
    • 22 Dec (Winter Solstice): Rituals and their role in modern society. As you prepare for Christmas, Hannukah, recover from Eid or plan your own rites, we take a break to reflect on why rituals are so important to us and how they might help even a post-modernist society.
    • New Year (Jan ). Stopping and Starting. What will you leave behind with 2011, what will you work on in 2012?

    * Diwali, the festival of light, is an important day for Hindu (awareness of inner light), Jain (equivalent of Easter when Lord Mahavira attained Nirvana) and Sikh (celebration of freedom) communities as well as the beginning of the Indian financial year

    CLICK HERE to join the discussion on Sep 29th



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