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More on Vision

The Road to Resilience

Last issue, I began exploring the importance of focusing on a new vision rather than just combating the present incompetence.  Addressing an article recently published in YES! Magazine by Gar Alperivitz titled “Six Ways We Are Already Leading an Economic Revolution,” I discussed the first three ways, public banking, worker ownership of business, and building local economies and showed how we are already working on these right here on Vashon.  

In review, Alperivitz raises the question, “Can we imagine a system that undercuts the logic responsible for so much suffering at home and abroad?”  In answer, he sketched the idea of a “‘pluralist commonwealth’—an economic and political system different from both corporate capitalism and state socialism grounded in democratic ownership, decentralization, and community.”  I’d like to cover the last three ways we can further this now.

We all know that we need to get the money out of politics, but we really need to do much more than that.  We need to gain control over where all public money eventually goes.  Participatory governance is the term used for actually allowing the citizens affected to assert control over the disposition of public funds.  The idea first became popular in Latin America, but has made inroads in the US in major cities like Chicago, New York, and Boston, and many smaller cities as well.  In an unusual display of trust, the city of Boston recently has placed $1 million of public money under binding, directly democratic control of Boston residents between the ages of 12 and 25.  What is at play here is the idea that people rise to the level of responsibility entrusted in them, and, likewise, show little responsibility when none is expected.  Entrusting a big sum of money to a bunch of adolescents and young adults is a massive show of faith.  Will it turn this group into assets to the community instead of liabilities?  

If budgeting by the citizenry goes awry, getting back on track is similar to problem solving in an employee-owned business.  No need to spend time finding someone to blame.  It is self-evident that everybody is accountable, so all the energy can be applied to a solution.  If there is any dislocation or discomfort required to correct the problem, it is much more readily accepted when it is self-imposed.  

Imagine if we had control over the Pentagon the way we do over our School and Park Districts?  

The fifth idea is energy democracy.  Energy, like money, is another, more direct, manifestation of power.  Like money, the possibility of corruption and poor decision-making goes up as control of it is concentrated.  Unlike money, energy is costly to transport and the most cost-effective sources of it vary from one region to another.  Also the nature of renewable energy is that it is diffuse and available in some form close to where it will be used.  The fact that we have an energy oligarchy is why it is so difficult for us to transition to renewables.  The energy oligarchy, i.e., the fossil fuel industry and the big energy providers, has a clear stake in the status quo, and, much as they may tout the benefits of renewables, the fact remains that renewables are not readily extracted at highly concentrated, capital-intensive facilities that only they can afford.

When we decide what is in our energy portfolio, we will choose the cheapest, safest, and most efficient sources, that is, locally generated renewables that we own and control.  When you install a solar collector on your roof, you are creating energy democracy.  When we invest in a solar, wind, biogas, or wave generation project in our community, we are creating an energy future.

The last item is on the global scale and is really a goal we should have in mind as we assert our power and initiative through the first five ideas above.  When we change the focus from competition and domination to cooperation, we will subdue the drive to imperialism and the intrinsic value of growth.  If you could vote on it, how many of our 500 or so foreign bases would you close?  How much of our foreign policy is geared toward enhancing our domination and control?  How much of the terrorism that we so fear is caused by our claiming a highly inordinate share of the world’s wealth and resources?  I understand that the world is very complex, and that the need to dominate and a propensity toward violence are innately human, but that does not mean that we need to make them official policy.  

If you manage to subject yourself to the upcoming presidential debates, I very much doubt you will hear any consideration of prioritizing what is in the world’s interest over what is in the US interest.   I doubt that you will hear anybody question our need to have the most powerful military in the world.  I doubt that you will hear anybody tell you that  we are jeopardizing the future of all on this planet because we refuse