Sunday, 12 December 2010

Communicating a Political Message

This blog has its origin during the period leading up to the British elections in 2009 and a discussion sequence on Facebook. The instigator of the Facebook discussion sequence initially encouraged people to listen / watch a “Prime Ministerial debate” but also emphasised a desire to see “green” policies / projects promoted. Others in the discussion emphasised that in the current economic environment where “green” options are more expensive, moving to “green” fuels wouldn't happen simply because they are too expensive. They never discussed the reason for them being more expensive or why oil companies were continuing to make healthy profits from current non-“green” fuels.

The issue is really one of political will and being willing to challenge current economic and political thinking. In the discussion, I endeavoured to raise this challenge and to promote the idea that we need to think differently if we are to resolve the problems that we have created. I place emphasis on “we have created” because the problems being debated are things that we (people) have put in place. They are not things that simply happen as a result of natural events (i.e. volcanoes, weather, etc.). People created financial systems and people make decisions on the use of fuels. People can change these things if they have the political will.

As I have thought about this, I keep coming back to Walter Reuther's (a civil rights leader of the 1960's) quote “If we can have full employment and full production for the negative ends of war, then why can't we have a job for every American in the pursuit of peace?” I would change this and argue that we will accept the cost of destructive practices (war, pollution, unemployment, ...) but not the cost of positive practices (peace, clean environment, full employment, ...). The justification is based on the upfront cost and not the ongoing cost cleaning up or putting right the destruction.

Britain and the US never asked whether they could afford war in Iraq or Afghanistan. They never looked at the ongoing cost of restoring these countries or retaining “peace” keepers. The desire was to enforce their own political will on these nations. The costs of doing so were not fully considered.

Reuther's comments relate to World War II and maybe the Vietnam and Korean wars (the cost of the Korean war are on going). particularly for the “World Wars” nations were mobilised for the war effort. Cost was not the concern. After the first World War, there was a period of economic depression possibly partially caused by a return to “peace time” economics but during those war periods funding was found to maintain the machinery of war. Money was injected into the system to pay for things that would be destroyed.

When we look at the issues of “peace” or “green” technologies, we seem unable to find the resources or the will power to make these things happen. Instead, we will use thousands to dollars to pursue environmentally unfriendly projects. If we want “peace” or a “green” economy then we need the political will to fund it or to change the accounting system so that it becomes economically viable to pursue desire outcomes (“peace” and a “green” environment) and economically lacking in viability to pursue destructive outcomes (war and a polluted environment). In the current economic thinking, you tax heavily the destructive focussed projects and use the taxes to support “green” or “peace” initiatives. Better still is to change the economic thinking.


The great era of building empires through colonisation may have come to an end with many former colonies gaining independence or so called independence. These colonisation efforts ignored and destroyed the indigenous cultures of the nations being colonised. As the empire took over, the people of that nation were expected to conform to the systems being implanted by the colonising power.

In some places, we see attempts to revive or recover some of these indigenous practices but the share determination of the colonising power often destroyed the culture and the will of the aboriginal people.

No nation would now claim to be a colonising power but we see the western nations continuing to ignore eastern practices and systems. It is my belief that colonial thinking has driven the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the so called “war on terror.” There is no desire by western nations to understand the concerns of the opposition rather the desire is to see these people conform to western style democracy and economics.

Just as the colonial forces of the past era ignored the wealth of knowledge and cultural practices of the indigenous people, so the western nations are ignoring the eastern knowledge, practices, and systems. There is a wealth of knowledge to be learnt from other cultures but again like the pursuit of “peace,” we ignore that learning in the pursuit of conformity to western democracy and economics.

If we really wish to pursue peace then we have to learn to listen and to learn. Our own systems need to be critiqued and revised. We need to give those cultures room to adapt and grow. Our interaction with them has to involve understanding how they wish to trade and not enforce our trading practises on them.

Defence of our society has to be seen through developing understanding rather than pursuing conquest. Again we need fresh thinking. As Einstein said “we can not solve the problems with the same thinking that created them.”

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