TIMES ARE CHANGING: Citizens' assemblies and independent politics.

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We live in a time when political parties are hardly respected. We have entered a competition to support "the lesser evil" in order to avoid the "worse", which also leads to the emergence of irreconcilable positions. Rather than contributing to community building and dialog, party structures tend to do the opposite, at a time when far-reaching agreements are needed for significant change that can no longer wait.

As if this were not enough, most of these parties also have unbreakable ties to financial structures - big banks and investment funds, the so-called "too big to fail" - that demand their own red lines not be crossed, slowing and corrupting the functioning of democracy. Partly, too, because the parties generally owe them money and thus a certain obedience.

Undoubtedly, it is time to look for alternatives. Here are two that already exist:

On the one hand, we have the French model of the citizens' assembly. But on the other hand, the country that revolutionized politics 250 years ago has done it again. It is now forced, so to speak, by circumstances and civil society. Thus, a tax increase falsely labeled "green" sparked discontent and eventually led to a revolt that found an international echo: that of the yellow vests (gilets jaunes) against President Macron. The latter felt compelled to react and convened the so-called Citizens' Convention on Climate Protection.

If you do not like my measures, he probably thought, let us see what you come up with. The result is fascinating: 150 people selected by lot, representing the diversity of the French population, adopted 149 measures after advice from climate experts and a personal consultation process. Few of these measures were implemented unchanged, contrary to Macron's promise to implement them "unfiltered."

This proves two things: first, that citizens propose much more ambitious measures than political parties, and second, that traditional political parties are an obstacle, even when they promise to step aside.

All of this has at least set in motion a process in which many countries around the world are now holding similar gatherings and stimulating media discussion about the most important question of our generation: "How do we transition to a different energy model without completely compromising climate stability and biodiversity?" Our civilization depends much more on these two crucial factors than people realize.

To be fair, however, we must say that the process is not perfect for one simple reason: we live in a time of agitation, fake news, and hoaxes. Switzerland, for example, recently rejected its new climate law in a referendum. And that happened in large part because of media campaigns controlled, unsurprisingly, by the big business media companies.

Perhaps the only way is to regain control of politics and the media.

Constant misinformation cannot be legal. Otherwise, we expose ourselves to new proposals and reforms that will always end up being rejected by society. However, there is no other way out for people than to follow this system.

A few days ago, the French press agency (AFP) exclusively published a draft of the sixth report of the IPCC: the scientific institution responsible for assessing the state of ecosystems and climate change. The conclusions are startling. Essentially, the point is that we have already lost control. That is, no matter what we do, it is now a far-fetched idea to try to prevent an escalation toward what the leading experts have called the "Greenhouse Earth. "This is a scenario in which the warming we have already triggered sets off feedback processes that result in "humanity not being able to cope with what is coming”. As a reminder, because the IPCC operates on the basis of consensus among multiple voices, it tends to side with conservatism, which is why subsequent reports have been repeatedly revised for the worse.

However, this does not mean that all is lost; on the contrary, it is more urgent than ever to act quickly.

For this reason, I would like to discuss the second option, which is even more transformative. However, this option does not exclude participatory processes such as the citizens' assembly; on the contrary, it is nourished by them. In this way, a small democratic revolution is now emerging in Chile after the uprising in the streets.

There was a big surprise in the constitutional elections a few weeks ago. The old parties suffered a massive defeat. What won were mainly independent candidacies, among which women stood out. All this happened after seeing the army in the streets and seeing the official candidates of the traditional parties being showered with money and trying to silence the small revolution that was beginning to brew in the streets.

However, these attempts failed, and the new constitution is drafted by 64% of the independents. Among them are system-critical judges, writers, social and environmental activists, journalists and many more. In short, ordinary people who have won the affection of the population in recent months through their honesty and courage. The shock in the traditional parties was great; no one had expected this result.

Chile is in a historic process that can be a great success if progress is made on social justice measures. But it can also be a great disappointment, as was the case half a century ago. Not because of the process, but because the losing economic power, fearful of change, is likely to do everything it can to regain its dominance. There will be much to observe in the Andean country that marked the beginning of neoliberalism even before the victories of Thatcher and Reagan. May it be its grave. Otherwise, it may be ours. Those who follow the rhythm of the invisible hand and the logic of the markets have no other fate than ecological and economic collapse.

Perhaps it is time for us to sing, "Times are changing."

About the Author

Juan Bordera

Journalist and content creator.

June 28, 2021 — Juan Bordera

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