Fumbling for change

If politics is “the art of the possible” then 2011 has left us, as artists, with suddenly a much larger canvas and a new palate of colours to choose from. This broadened scope requires of us a new capacity for imagination.

“If there was hope, it lay in the proles, because only there could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated…If only they could somehow become conscious of their own strength.”

Graffiti in Tahrir Square. The Arabic word is “execution”.

On the cusp

While the conditions are ripe for a severe and thoroughgoing renewal of politics, the possibility remains that the moment will pass, and that this will be a flash of false hope preceding a long and steep decline. We cannot surrender to the euphoria of the moment and fall back on the truism that whatever people are doing in the square is working.

Real time democracy

Every day election day

The most obvious advantage of such a system is increased accountability. In a sense this is a model of democracy without elections, in another sense it is a model where every day is election day. This would bind representatives far more closely to their constituents, and I believe, force them to take more consistent long term positions, rather than promising one thing before the election, and doing another for the duration of their term.

Belief in democracy

One of the main objections raised to this model is that it expects too much of ordinary people, who are thought of as either too lazy or too stupid to be involved in an ongoing way in politics. To the argument that they are too lazy, I answer that the current level of participation, both in street and online politics — despite the fact that neither of these realms is invested with any formal power — tells a different story. People get engaged when they see that issues affect their lives. To those who fear that people are not intelligent enough to be engaged at this level, I ask, do you really believe in democracy at all?

I am not an anarchist — are you?

These words may seem jarring, given the extent to which I have praised the leaderless creative chaos of the uprisings so far, but at the end of the day, despite seeing great value in their critique of the state, I am not an anarchist. I still believe in a role for the state, enforcing law, and also building and running schools hospitals, roads and railways, and otherwise ensuring the welfare of its citizens.

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