Progressiveness and the Tribe

This is an pretty old post from my blog, which has been preserved in case its content is of any interest. You might want to go back to the homepage to see some more recent stuff.

As a former supporter of the Liberal Democrats, I found my support leaning toward Labour due to the Lib Dems’ ongoing disastrous coalition with the Conservative party.  But in truth, the Labour party are just a convenient political marker for some of my opinions on economic and social policy.  What I really care about, I suppose, is progress – changing things that are broken, trying new ideas until we discover something that makes the country work better.

But all three main parties now label themselves as “Progressive”. (I suppose “regressive” isn’t much of a vote-winner.)  The minor parties mostly have limited agendas that make it impossible to support them to the exclusion of all others.  Who, then, do I vote for? The truth is probably that none of the UK’s political parties are as progressive as I would like, but more than that – a politician being progressive on my behalf isn’t really what I want at all.

I want to design the future.

Then I want to engineer the future.

Then I want to sit back and think “bloody hell, we made that.”

That’s what gets me out of bed and halfway across the county five mornings a week, what keeps me sketching interfaces and gets me through design meetings, what keeps me coding and soldering and getting covered in grease and salt-spray.

I’m not pretending that I could engineer the future of this country by myself, or that I should have any more of a say than the other sixty million of us, but I’d like to at least have some input besides a simple vote.  As far as I’m aware, there exist only two ways of having this kind of input – sell your soul for a career in politics, or be ignored on e-petitions.

All of this leads me to the conclusion that having our voice heard and our experience utilised on our own terms is not something that a nation state can offer its citizens.  Our voices are heard and our experience utilised by our families and friends; at our places of work – tribes of a few hundred people at most – but not on a national scale.

Is there some useful way for citizens to help engineer their future at the state level, or are we relegated to having that kind of influence only in our hundred-strong social tribes?  Are there any countries that are significantly better at this than ours, countries that progress with heavy citizen involvement?  Am I dreaming of an impossible society, and most importantly of all, should I go to bed and sleep it off instead of filling the internet with my ranting?


Kieran Martin 21 February 2012

As an individual citizen you can not only write to your mp, but also lobby them, if you are willing to either go to a session with them in your constituency or go to the houses of parliament, where you are (I believe) allowed to turn up and chat to them in the lobby.

Pressure groups do this all the time, and are one of the most effective ways for an individual to make a difference. So if I was greatly concerned about human rights, I'd join Liberty, and as a group my voice would be much louder on issues I care about. Thats what pressure groups exist to do, and they do prove effective, because blocks of votes are important for politicians to win. That said, they'd be more important with a fairer voting system, but c'est la vie.

I've given up writing to my MP, he and I disagree on virtually everything :)

Thanks for pointing out that and pressure groups though, I was a little unfair to say there were only two options available for influencing government. The thing that stops me (and presumably others) joining pressure groups is essentially their poor value-for-money -- you could donate a heck of a lot of cash to a lot of groups, with very little effect.

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