I’m just going to assert this because I believe it to be true: Political systems mostly exist to keep power in the same place. Democracy is usually an illusion. Here in the UK, was can vote between the same suited men with the same beliefs who will do a bit more or a bit less of the same things. We do not have a great deal more genuine choice than a Feudal peasant, Eton sends us a steady supply of new masters, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It seems, looking at the international scene, that you can’t have substantial change without bloodshed, and then people who acquire power work out ways of getting more of it.
I think there’s a relationship between the ways in which money makes more money, and power makes more power. To lead, you do not have to deliver for anyone else. You don’t have to solve real problems, or improve quality of life. You do need the PR skills to convince people that you’re less bad than the other suit. We vote for what we find most bearable, because there is so seldom an option to vote for what we want. Overpaid smug bastards strutting about before the cameras talking about the heroic tough choices they are making for the good of the country while children go hungry.
Tribes tend to deliver very different political systems, because there is a much more direct relationship between the ruler and the ruled. You may quite literally all eat at the same table. You bear the consequences together, and you know exactly where the one in charge lives. The smaller your unit, the more answerable your glorious leader is, perhaps requiring them to be more like the chair of a committee in which everyone gets a say, negotiating a way forward everyone can get behind. Or leading with vision, safe in the knowledge that if the vision doesn’t deliver, they’re out of a job. I’m not a bloodthirsty person, anything but… however I can see how the idea of sacrifice kings in times of crisis would keep a ruler on their toes. Tough, heroic hard choices for the good of the tribe do not, in that context, mean letting children go hungry. It will fall to leadership to take the brunt – and that’s a much better system.
Yesterday I talked about affirmation community. The natural extension of that is a small scale politics dependent on affirmation. People have to approve, agree and be willing for the politics of an affirmation culture to work. In an affirmation culture, everyone has their place, it is known, recognised and commented on. People who have a value are not pawns to sacrifice for the greater good – because at that point, the people are the good. There may be times when someone has to step forward and take the risks, put life and wellbeing on the line, but to do that by choice is very different than to be forced into it by a smiling tyrant’s ‘tough choices’.
Affirmation creates a social currency of valuing. If we have that, we will not demonise the vulnerable, or think it acceptable to leave the struggling to die. If we learn to see the best in each other, we won’t find it acceptable to have far more than others. We will want to express value through sharing, and we will want to be valued as someone who possesses virtues like compassion and generosity. In an affirmation culture there is every incentive to want to be seen as a valuable contributor to your society, doing the best you can with what you have. And so a culture that was based on affirmation would have no place for the kinds of parasites who give nothing, but draw wealth towards them and ask other people to do all the work, whilst at the same time devaluing the bent backs on which they stand. Separate ideas of value from stashes of money, and everything changes.