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Change We Can All Believe In

December 31, 2011 Leave a comment

‘This new world requires something else beyond more promises, something beyond new theories of interpretation, something that might, just might, make us feel that the tools fit the job.This new world requires a new politics’

The world is a chaotic place. We seek to put structure on it, vainly looking for simplified patterns where complexity exists and ask governments and business leaders to manage the unmanageable. Who can we look to lead us through the chaos? Who can we turn to for hope and empowerment? In Carne Ross’s ‘ The Leaderless Revolution – How Ordinary People Will Take Power And Change Politics in the 21st Century’, the answer is that ultimately we must turn to ourselves. No selfish manifesto here, instead a rallying call to ruthlessly interrogate authority at all times and reject it where it has failed. Do not wait for leaders – trust in yourself.

The author of ‘Leaderless Revolution’ has had an interesting journey. Ross is a former diplomat who has renounced the speciousness and cynicism of much of what passes for International Relations. He became disillusioned with the British Foreign Office, where he was on a fast-track career path; his loss of faith in ‘the system’ was both personal and political following the WMD fiasco around the events of the second Iraq War. Unlike most of us, he stood up to be counted, resigning his position. Now running a New York-based NFP  think tank, Independent Diplomat, Ross and his institute help the stateless and powerless get a seat at the diplomatic table.

‘Time’ readers have already declared 2011 the ‘Year of the Protestor’…from those on the Frontline, marching, and dying for democratic rights, to those in the West protesting economic inequality and speaking for the 99%. ‘Leaderless Revolution’ appears as a zeitgeist work, tapping into these fears and concerns and giving  practical advice on how to protest. Whether this year turns out to be as epochal as 1968 remains to be seen, but the issues of 2011 are here for at least the coming decade.

Ross writes of a broken pact between governments and the governed; that corporate power and lobbying have rendered representative democracy almost completely ineffective. He proposes a participatory democracy, i.e. where the individual participates in more decisions about their everyday life. Ross posits that peaceful anarchism, where authority is replaced by democratic involvement, is the best solution.  He constructs some impressive arguments to persuade that anarchy does not equal chaos; authentic anarchism promotes stability over much of the chaos behind international relations and capitalism.

How can the individual become empowered? Surely the issues are too big, too complex for one person to make a difference? Ross drills down into how people can change the system, and it is an important part of the book, where theory can be turned into practice. Included in his prescriptions are goal defining; what’s the ‘bottom line’?/what do you want to achieve? Getting to the roots of the power structure is crucial too; who is in charge? Embracing cosmopolitanism is also central; Ross defines this as adhering to the ‘Golden Rule’. He proposes that non-violence is at the core of this empowerment.

‘Leaderless Revolution’ could well be 2012’s ‘No Logo’. By  offering us truly democratic alternatives to the status quo, Ross presents us, the reader, with a choice. We can either continue abrogating responsibility by ‘slacktivism’ and doing nothing or, we can act. We are all part of a greater society  – change starts with the individual; ‘[in] a world that is more interconnected than ever before, where each person is only a few links away from anyone else….actions in our own microcosmos have global consequence’

‘ The Leaderless Revolution – How Ordinary People Will Take Power And Change Politics in the 21st Century’, Carne Ross, Simon & Schuster, £16.99

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