Opinionista Denis Beckett 29 January 2015

Seriously Sound Politics: A cure for xenophobia?

Inadequate politics rears its head again, this time in the form of xenophobia. Such a sanitised term for the horror of what has occurred in the last two weeks; and what could so easily be remedied by putting the power back in the place where it belongs.

How sad and demeaning a thing is this xenophobia. Last week looked for a while like we were getting off lightly, but then up came the trampled baby and “lightly” doesn’t go with hurtling boots rushing from an arsoned building crushing an infant corpse in the rush to get away with a stolen tray of pilchard cans.

Then aftershocks in far places; more deaths, more scarrings. Then the lame round of solemn statements, the deploring and the lamenting and the never-again, just like last time. And the blaming.

What I heard much of, was the blaming of absent leaders. On the second morning, trawling the channels, I was struck by the consistency. Winnie had been there, everyone said, but all alone. Whether she had done or said anything other than be famous and be present, I don’t know, but the theme was that the leadership had dumped her in heroic solitude while they went awol.

With the studio chatters I share a faith in the power of leadership. But I shudder at the idea of leadership as the property of the twenty-odd politicians whose faces everyone knows from TV.

Here’s a funny question: say you barged into the Cabinet room with weapons of destruction and issued an ultimatum: those guys had to design a cast-iron way to obviate future xenophobias, or else… That would concentrate their minds, all right. What might they come up with?

Not to drag things out, I put to you in concertinaed form an answer that should satisfy you.

They say: “There must be people on the spot who are expected to take a lead, which means they have been elected to roles that matter in the lives of the many, on both sides of the conflict. They must know each other and have dealt with each other, sometimes as allies. They must have built-in reasons to be mindful of both their own side’s successes and the other side’s fears, and we therefore provide that when big conflict looms the nonpolitical people have a natural incentive to take up the role of flywheel or stabiliser. What we have set up entails very local decision-makers having access to very significant powers at very little cost, an apparently risky procedure which is quite easily secured by the logical extension of those same powers to national and regional governments, producing majority rule in a vastly fuller sense than has previously been known, rooted in the cautions of the meek who used to be considered the footballs of democracy to be kicked about by the go-getters”.

Yep, it’s a mouthful in a paragraph, but it does add up to a final and full end of mobs chasing the Somali shopkeeper down an alley with axes. It leaves much room for the issues of foreignness and ingress and taxpaying and social justice to fill the battlegrounds of ballot booth and council chamber, and no room for barbarity.

So if you had total freedom and omnipotence and you sought nothing other than to eradicate xenophobia, your first choice would look like demogarchy, sound like demogarchy, talk like demogarchy. Lo, it would be … demogarchy, the system that I’ve been trying to tell you reduces Big Raving Hairy Tiger Issues like wealth distribution and addressing historical imbalance into little pussycat issues that have to end up in reasonableness.

            If the route to social justice is the same route as the route to ending xenophobia, is that a coincidence? No, it’s not. It’s that the sound foundation of politics, now lying in wait, enables soundness all round. It does not eliminate glitch and cock-up, this is human affairs, but it removes the central obstacle to apparently unalterable phenomena such as Africa’s continued under-developing or the Arab Spring’s continued wintering. It lets nearly everything work better.

I don’t blame you for distrusting that proposition. It sounds implausible, or worse. But there are circumstances in which I could legitimately call you stupid to not explore that proposition. If you set store on seeing an end to things like the trampling of infant corpses by looting mobs, and if you despair of any known way of bringing them to an end, and then when you see a claim they can easily be ended you flick it away, telling yourself it must be rubbish, that’s not smart.

A choice is coming up, for everyone who is disturbed by wrongs and ills in society. The majority choice will be to continue bewailing the wrongs and denouncing their authors. That’s what people know, that’s what people are attuned to. The minority choice is to remove the wrongs, to find the political foundation that suffocates wrongs and nourishes rights. That choice will grow.

There is somewhat more on this in my book Demogarchy on Amazon, and I’m going to keep on going through it here, column by column. I leave you for now with the basics, restated.

Part 1: the route to seriously sound politics lies in the next step of mankind’s long march from the power of the strong to the power of the many; the step that makes the ordinary nonpolitical people the rulers of their leaders.

Part 2: so far one way to make that step is on offer; it lies in the structure I call demogarchy, which counters the power of the strong by multiplying the power of everyone.

Until next week, health and strength. May you yet live in the world where no lives are ruined by inadequate politics. DM

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