Why we should at least get our feet wet in Flux

For each ideology, there exist simplified summaries that help to categorise the political landscape, but that damage a healthy understanding of what each ideology actually believes its concerns and conclusions to be.

So Marxists want to make everyone exactly equal by taking away all belongings, because they hate everything about capitalism.

And libertarians want to replace all welfare with ruthless evolutionary competition so as to kill off all poor people.

For Flux, the simplification is probably something like: kids these days think that because they voted on Australian Idol over SMS in 2003, they should get to vote on tax reform and gay rights on their phones as well.

Funnily enough, this isn’t a bad point. There are endless examples of digital voting that shine a light on potential alternatives. Also, Flux comes from the tech start up world, so an explanation of it must elaborate on the fact that current technology is viable, and that it stems from a group of people who understand technological development as having a vital potential for progress. Nevertheless, there are other reasons why flux is needed today. These reasons stem from our culturual, intellectual, and political histories.

That there are problems in our world that need fixing has always been a truism. Nevertheless, we have today the biggest problems that history has ever grappled with. But while we require forms of collective decision making that meet the task, the political system we inherited no longer works well even for traditional problems.

Voting for one of two shit options as a means of reflecting all of our many beliefs has suffocated rather than encouraged healthy democratic conversations. A political class and culture emerged that was blind to large segments of voters. Because voters were ignored, healthy public discourse was impossible. This is why the political class has been so surprised by Brexit, Trump, and Sanders.

The surprise that the political elites felt towards attempts at attacking the status quo, however, was also supported by a sense — which is fading — that “there is no other option”. This feeling, while once widespread, was wrong but not stupid. It was an intelligent response to our past.

When the Cold War ended, leading intellectuals pronounced that the historical struggle for the best political and economic system had ended. Market democracies, they argued, were the best that we would ever get. These assurances rested on fundamentalist overconfidence in both representative democracy and free trade. But even for those who weren’t so fundamentalist in their support of these ideas, there didn’t seem to be any other options. When looking back at the 20th century, we see a litany of creative and hopeful political experiments that achieved, in total, a crushing of the very emancipatory spirit they had aimed for, and millions of dead people.

While this history feeds into the deep cultural assumption that our system of representative democracy is terrible but still the best option, it also feeds into our intellectual history. That is, the failure of fundamentalist ideolgical ambitions in the 20th century created a suspicion of any set of ideas that claims to have “figured it all out”. Most people understand that they vibrate at their own political frequency, one that borrows little bits from all over the many different political spectra. Is this mishmash a result of our political beliefs being illogical? Sometimes. But it’s also because we realise that each political ideology is, essentially, a useful but limited way of thinking. Or at least we either tend to realise this, and so produce our own unique syntheses, or we grow increasingly and mistakenly disillusioned by a belief that nothing is worth risking what we already have, even though what we have has many problems.

What this all means is that for a political movement to break through the current stalemate of ideas, it can’t pretend to have all the answers. There is too much justified suspicion for one-sized-fits-all political ideologies. Without the possibility for belief in this way, how can we create a better system? We can do it by offering not a rigid and fundamentalist political ideology, but one that takes pride in the fact that there is no one objective answer.

Proper democracy is based on such an understanding. Rather than there being one correct answer, it understands that there exist many possible answers each with their own downsides. But it is the conclusion that democracy makes about this situation that is pivotal. It concludes that because there is no one best answer, the true best alternative is a good public conversation about which downsides (or for the optimists, which upsides) people would like to chose.

Less economic growth, but also less poverty?

more economic growth, so that we can then redistribute more later?

Or a rainbow/green fascist alliance to end overpopulation and deforestation by killing all heterosexuals, so that we can have more public orgies in more rainforests?

Each option has its ups and downs, obviously.

In the current cultural, political, and intellectual stalemate, we require a system that maximises creativity, so that political experimentation can fine tune our understanding of the downsides of policy choices. Flux doesn’t promise or even try to give the correct answer on policy, but it promises the current best way to strive to find out the most possible number of answers, and the best way to learn about their problems.

Through a system where each person decides how representative, and how direct, they want democracy to be for them, the contours of the political system are themselves always in flux. And this constant fluctuation reflects as precisely as history ever has the will of the people.

In such a topography of power, wide sections of voters can never be ignored. If a group of people have views that shock you, you will know it exists early on. Social movements will have the best possible chance of empathising with each other, in attempts at growing consensus.

But best of all there is no fundamentalism about this. Beginning as an experiment within systems of rigid representative democracy, if it fails, it fails. But it’s failure, by representing a monumental reemergence of creative political experimentation, cannot possibly be anything but a success. OK so maybe that’s a tad fundamentalist.

Amateur Historian / Passive Aggressive Inline skater

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