Political evolution, not revolution – Why direct action is not necessarily the solution

Old Buckminster Fuller knew
Old Buckminster Fuller knew

It’s far easier to imagine ways of disrupting what we currently have in place so that people sit up and pay attention. I don’t think that this is a difficult thing to achieve. There was that guy who jumped in the Thames and disrupted the boat race, the people who stormed St Paul’s and occupied it and then there was the killing of Lee Rigby. The participants had different objectives, differing methods and differing degrees to which they intended to go to but each of them did it to send a message to a wider group of people. What was the success of their intentions? Did they get their message across and did any change come from it in favour of the ideas they were promoting? Did their views represent the views of larger groups of people and so did they represent the views of the movement in general in their actions?

Everything I think about these days is about how we could be doing this thing called society better. I want to shout from the rooftops about some of my ideas for social change. The thing is though, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be so arrogant to think that my ideas for political, social and monetary reform had all the answers that need to be thrust upon people. I think I do have some great ideas but I want to put them to peer review and have them discussed and evaluated for their content. If enough people agreed with the ideas, however deep and complex, then I think the result would be that people would adopt them as better ideas compared to the way we currently do things. The test then is if we can get enough people to agree to our views and our ideas enough to make a change. Of course the word needs time to spread but in an increasingly complex world the solutions are not going to be something we can get across by doing something that receives a fleeting amount of attention.

If we all overwhelmingly agreed with the ideas of the above mentioned protests then they would have been the catalyst for change but we didn’t and they weren’t. The occupy movement had some interesting ideas floating about within the members of their ranks but in the most part the movement was made up of people who didn’t want what we had, beyond that there were varying ideas of what would be better, socialism, communism, libertarianism and varying forms of anarchy. These are not the views of the masses. The masses are made up of people with varying levels of interest in all things political and would not whole heartedly support those in the occupy camp apart from agreeing that what we have is perhaps not the right solution to our problems. Those currently carrying out political activism by direct action are generally not supported by the majority and they have a hard time swelling their ranks. This, in turn, only encourages them to attempt more headline grabbing occasions so that their few numbers achieve far reaching effects.

It is my view that only good ideas will replace bad ideas and when we come up with them there is a process for these ideas to permeate their way into the wider population. Once enough people get wind of better ways of doing things there would be a groundswell movement. If you manage to convince 5 or 6% then the process then becomes more rapid and social change happens. Of course, there are ways of getting the ideas out there quicker and the counter arguments that attempt to discredit new ideas may have a greater power base to work from. Keeping the status quo is always easier to defend than those wanting change.

What we can do is seek to reach general agreement on the fact that the current political and monetary system is not fit for purpose, that is, to represent the people in their collective will to govern the nation they live in and to have that nation find their place in a world of nations. In the most part though people are not yet completely convinced that a better way of doing things will be created outside our current corridors of power. Many are still in a business as usual frame of mind where they are not seeing the systematic failures of the constructs of governance we are currently using. If we can first collectively agree that what we have in place is not the answer then we have taken the first step towards designing what would be a better way forward. The next step would be to set up the apparatus for holding debate on better ways of doing things in all aspects that effect our lives and our world. We cannot do this by confrontations and drawing up head to head direct action battle plans borrowed from the 60’s. We cannot do this by taking a place within a particular community of activists. We can only do this by accepting that we tax paying voters of this nation have the power to decide for ourselves what system of governance and what outcomes are collectively good for us.

We do still have the opportunity to vote. I know it is once every five years but it does give us the opportunity to take to the platform and become the change. If you can demonstrate that your ideas are worthy of listening to then people will listen and if they agree they will vote for you in enough numbers that raises your voice to the next level. This is how I see social change happening: People have new and better ideas and others find out about them and agree with them and subsequently things change.

So, what can you do to effect a social change for the better? Well, mostly you can better understand what we do and why we do it. How have things come about to be as they are? What significance has historic ideas, cultural happenings and the permeation of political philosophies had on the world we see before us. Once you have grasped those things then you have to plug in to the varying options coming on board that offer better ideas, better visions for the future. Let’s better understand what problems we have in the world and then how we can go about creating a better world. We need to have a place where we can discus these things by respectful debate where ideas are intellectualized and framed into chains of thought. Then we need to collectivize to make a change for the better not stand on opposing platforms but to reach the kind of liberal compromises that brings the greatest amount of well-being to the agreed collective.

Be the change.

Reggie Adams
Author of Now Utopia
Co-founder of The Humanist Party
About the Author
Author of Now Utopia, campaigner for peace, social justice and equality of citizenship, co-founder of The Humanist Party in the UK, business owner, musician and playwright.