Opening closed doors

We need to expand the very idea of democracy. And that begins with democratising the way the global economy runs. Everyday, deals are made, trade regimes expanded, and rules agreed upon, by governments and corporations, without consent of the people. And even though these decisions affect each and every one of us, few of us are ever made aware of them, let alone allowed to partake in these decisions. Why? Because these decisions happen in secret, behind closed doors. The dream of democracy is built upon openness, but today we find our hard-fought democratic dreams flipped upside down, turned into public privacy and private transparency. While all of us find ourselves being watched more and more, those with the real power are being watched less and less. The way forward begins with a reinvigorated idea of democracy, a democracy with existential teeth, a democracy that opens doors, instead of closing them. And it begins with shining a light.

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Flip the Principle of Secrecy

Secrecy is a negative tool. In other words, it is the active removal of something that would otherwise naturally exist, in this case visibility. You can tell this because most secret information requires active and costly guarding. Left to its own device, information, especially information with value, travels. Which is not to say secrecy is never required, only that it should never be a default. Its parameters must always be visible, democratically authenticated, justifiable, and have that justification humbly on hand for those who would know and challenge it.

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Trump: Join us in connecting the dots

The election of Donald Trump has left millions, maybe even billions of us in shock. Although we may be looking with bewilderment at the US today, we should remember that he is not an isolated phenomenon. He is a symptom of a sickness that is raging all around the world. People are hurting, disillusioned with mainstream politics and increasingly angry at a neoliberal economic system that is destroying lives and the planet with increasing ferocity. And in their desperation they are willing to consider extreme measures to make themselves heard.

Demagogues thrive amid fear and insecurity, which is why they paint the world in such dark terms. It’s a strategy that has put right-wing populist leaders in power in an Axis of Egos: from Brazil to Turkey, the Philippines to Russia, authoritarian strongmen like Trump are on the rise. Meanwhile, many centrist liberals, like the Democratic Party in the US, have been so intent on rejecting left-wing populist solutions, and so sure of their ability to beat anyone running on a white supremacy platform with its misogyny and homophobia, that they opened the door for Mr. Trump to walk straight through. Their preference is always to maintain the status quo that has served them so well.

As dangerous as the election of Trump is for the world, we can also see in this moment the truth that we simply cannot rely on the electoral political system to save us, because it is designed to prevent the fundamental change we need. Its own survival is at stake and it will marshal all its champions and resources to defend itself and stop the emergence of a new system. But when we work, or continue working for change from the ground up; when we build or keep on building new ways of living and being with each other where we live; when we construct or keep constructing the future we know is possible with our own hands, rather than hoping distant leaders will build it for us, we find our true power. Finally, when we combine that with the unbending hope that has powered change through the ages, we know our power has meaning.

A 400-year-old economic system is dying and another is struggling to be born. Change on this scale is not going to be smooth or easy. We should not be surprised, then, that moments like this — where the establishment is dealt a body blow — become more and more common. We can despair when that blow comes in the form of right-wing extremists, or we can step-up. We are the ones we are looking for, who can and must grasp the opportunities in these crises that are undoubtedly there.

So it’s time to come together, taking time to remember the earth. Remember all the successful struggles for justice that came before us, and imagine all those to come. Remember that social movements are growing all over the world and realising the common struggle. Remember life. Then, organise. Find each other and help midwife the inevitable transition that brings forth from the ashes of neoliberal capitalism a system that works for the good of all life on Mother Earth. This is not just activism; this is our responsibility as human beings alive as this all unfolds.

This is why we are here.