Sunday, December 07, 2008

Lets Get Away From the Political Extremes and Move to the Radical Middle

I have been watching and reflecting on the policy events, media set-ups and staged political theatre of the past week in Canada. I have seen with despair the partisan theater of the media staged photo-op phoniness at the heart of the partisan demonstrations for the Conservatives or the Coalition, as if we only had to choose between them. Even their adlib lines seemed well rehearsed (hat tip to Paul Simon) in the strained spontaneity of the small recruited and artificially earnest crowds.

There are, however, some reassuring signs of a different consciousness that may be forming in the Canadian head and heart. It is not a perspective that is sees the world as left versus right, “we” versus “them”, or even “us” as better that the “other.” These inclusive, caring and nurturing impulses are going to be key and necessary character qualities for survival and progress in the globalized inter-related economic, ecological and cultural world we have now created.

The power politics of the times are still stuck in that medieval adversarial mindset. Win-win is for sissies. We are stuck in stale debates and see policies sponsored by too many of the same old-style politicians, of all partisan persuasions. We see all too clearly that they are merely offering self-serving non-solutions aimed at either avoidance or deferral of accountability.

The cautious Canadian operating principle of constant compromise into the traditional muddled and mushy middle does not work anymore. This is because the power players have become cleverer. They have changed their tactics. They have caught on that if you are extremist or reactionary enough you can generate superficial “he said, she said” media coverage. That conflict energizes the party troops and helps convince your base of the worthiness of your cause. The goal is a compromise middle ground that skews to your side. In the ground game of mean-spirited muddling politics a skewed compromise, however marginal the utility of the "win," it is still a major political victory in the partisan land of the trivial and the trifling.

I am seeing from the public reaction to events this week, a new enlightenment and a new sense of hope. Perchance even some Audacity of Hope (a book worth reading if you are a Progressive) emerging in the citizenry. This is from its collective articulation of a growing disdain for the devious ways of old-style politics and pandering partisans. Citizen’s cynicism and skepticism has become anger and activism.

Citizens have been ignoring elections but they are starting to pay attention to politics again. They are becoming individually intentional and many are engaging to actively overthrow the status quo system. That status quo system is the destructive political model of the self-serving political classes that we lobbyists too often sustain as the "experts" in the old ways and means of the darker arts of politics.

Mark Satin’s book Radical Middle, the Politics We Need Now calls for a new politics that can deal with the disappearing borders inherent from the highly mediated and connected world. He calls for everyone to embrace a radicalism in “fresh and principled way” that is “bold and yet savvy enough to want idealism without illusions.” He calls for a new kind of radicalism that addresses the “fundamental public policy issues in ways that are honest and imaginative and creative.” His middle is not about over throwing corporate capitalism of representative democracy but “…committed to finding practical, humane…answers to the very real problems of (our) institutions and corporate capitalism.”

I for one, am up for a new radicalism that is realistic and practical and focused on real solutions to the real problems of our times. I am not up for any effort that merely does what Satin calls “twiddling the dials on the status quo.” I sense some kindred spirits out there. I hope we find each other and that we get together and become a force to be reckoned with and effective agents of change.