Minutes from Democafe meeting, Saturday 23rd May 2015 held from 2pm to 4pm at The Forge, Delancey Street, Camden NW1 7NL.
Present: Sara Jolly, Janos Abel, Eddie Farrell, Carol McNichol, Mary Fee (notes). Apologies: Denise Arnold, Michael Mulvey, Alan Spence.
Minutes of the meeting held on 16th May were accepted.
Relationship with the 2015 Constitutionalists:
The long-awaited website – http://www.2015constitutionalists.uk – has a sub-site for Camden – see: http://camden.2015constitutionalists.uk/index.php, and it was understood that Janos and Eddie were going to be given passwords this week to work on the 2015 Constitutionalists site. Some of those present had come to the DemoCafe group via 38Degrees and did not feel we had to be a branch of the 2015 Constitutionalists movement. A practical solution was agreed that if and when Janos and Eddie were given access to the website they could put some introductory comments and link to our own website.
We discussed what we should be aiming for in terms of influencing decision-making at government level. Given the result of the recent election, which bore little relation to the numbers polled, should we be aiming for proportional representation? Eddie explained that according to the 2015 Constitutionalists, the whole voting system isn’t working and a constitution is called for. None of the main UK parties, have any alternative policies, or are bothered about TTIP, except the Greens, who only have one MP, and in the USA they have put off doing anything about Monsanto.
Eddie mentioned about working as an artist; the process of making is all about change but when it comes to where artists place the work they switch off. They don’t incorporate that into the work and so fall back on a money reliant and pedestrian gallery structure. So sadly a group who usually lead the way to change are not even questioning the over imposing structures. Hopefully younger people who are more open to change are now more aware of the issue to influence those stale processes. He also mentioned that maybe Economics students are the new artists; in Manchester the students questioned what they were being taught and demanded change.
Carol said societies do change, if people want it and are prepared to put effort in a particular direction. Is it because people have to get sick enough of what’s not working before they have the necessary energy to make a change.
Janos mentions the work of John Taylor Gatto in the educational area – https://www.johntaylorgatto.com– mostly we don’t have the enthusiasm to get up and make the changes we know need to be made. We have a complex reason, we always go for small options, instead of doing what seems impossible but necessary, we are dumbed down because of our education: he had given a presentation about Learning from Conflict at the last meeting of the Global Table on 20th May 2015.
Janos says we have to use militant but non-violent, Ghandian methodology – i.e. being prepared to be killed, like a soldier. Sarah says same as in the American Civil Rights Movement. He had a copy of the book “Analytical Activism – A New Approach to Solving The Sustainability Problem”, by a team from http://www.think.org. , and other difficult problems, is by identifying the weak points of your enemy. Most of the time we are trying to shift the weight the hard way, we need to work out how to do it the easy way, drilling down to the weak point of the system. People have an instinct for truth, they can tell when someone is lying. Building on this you can generate a movement to overcome the situation when politicians lie, how to see through it.
Eddie refers to Critical Thinking, a project which is building a collective knowledge over a period of several years, trying to understand how things work. When we have a surplus, there’s space, that’s when we need to make change, the problem is at that moment we tend to get too comfortable: www.freecriticalthinking.com
Janos said the main issue DemoCafe is concerned about is democratic deficit, i.e. our inability to influence the way we are governed. For example, after the demonstration against the Iraq War, the government didn’t have to make any notice, i.e. we allowed them to ignore a democratic clear majority not to invade Iraq, whereas in normal jurisprudence, if the defendant doesn’t turn up the judgment will go against them. So when the people were ignored, in fact something illegal had happened.
Mary wondered if we should have referendums when major issues are at stake, and mentions INIREF, the Campaign for Direct Democracy: http://www.iniref.org, who took part in the 2004 European Social Forum, and continue to send emails to her. People said people might not want to keep taking responsibility, and we should only have referendums for major changes, e.g. in Scotland, it was kept simple yes/no. In the general election the problem was that the SNP came across as more leftwing that the Labour Party. Carol said she would rather vote in someone once than have to vote or things all the time and suspected other people might be the same. However, proportional representation would make the election work better. Sarah mentions www.change.org which is in favour of proportional representation, should we ask them to come along and tell us how it might work.
Proportional representation would make it more likely that smaller parties and independent candidates would be elected, and it was understood that this was one aim of the 2015 Constitutionalists who were planning to hold a conference on July 11th 1.30 – 4.30, called the CONFEDERATION RALLY at Hinde Street Methodist Church opposite the SES on how to build a movement to get more people to understand and to work for confederation as a way of developing the debates about devolution, subsidiarity etc, being aware that increasingly aware that systemic change is likely to come only from the ground up. Thus the discussions about a Movement as contrasted to a Party. Janos says it’s a five-year project, and quotes Peter Challen’s saying that “nothing is impossible as long as you don’t mind who gets the credit for it”.
Eddie had just heard the Test Match Special lunch time interview with Professor Robert Winston talking about the neurones in the brain, and that when Einstein died they looked at his brain and found the neurones were just the same as anyone else’s, i.e. we all have the same potential as anyone else, and we all have the potential to work better if we work together.
We talked about society’s obsession with celebrities, e.g. Russell Brand, he’s just an individual, and Janos said it will be our fault if we don’t organise ourselves. Eddie also mentioned his frustration with the way Tilda Swinton, who is so remarkably unique individual that she’s always being cast as a remarkably unique individual, when surely there are enough remarkably unique individuals to cast a different one now and again. Carol went to the Grayson Perry opening of his exhibition, and enjoyed his presentation, as he is such a consummate performer, and said we need people like that. Mary agreed, and added that every movement needs its figureheads, whilst there might well be other unknown individuals working in the background to make things happen.
Eddie refers to the James Corbett Report – https://www.corbettreport.com – he is an anarchist. Anarchist conjures up black flag waving, burning down buildings etc but really they have to be responsible people. James Corbett argues we should be moving away from our reliance on big government, we could be relying on people more. Carol said if we had understood that devolution is not going to happen, we would have to be more responsible or everything in our lives. in the past we used to know the difference between the left and the right, and knew what to expect when we elected MPs to represent us, but things changed with Tony Blair.
A recent Critical Thinking post, quotes Pepe Escobar said that currently the middle-class is 18% of the world population, it’s soon going to be 66%, our middle class is going to go down to 21%, linked to this is TTIP, he is saying that all the major companies have been in with China right from the beginning, research and development has gone over there. Those with money and power can move anywhere in the world, we are may be in for a very difficult period…..what happens, what is happening to a redundant population?
Janos says in the context of the development of civilisation, it now appears that there are two life forms, one is the human species, and one is the corporate entity which is competing to gain supremacy over the human species, all evidence points to the corporate species and at best humanity will become a servant, they will probably be culled, and ithe climate change movement has become a platform for the idea that the planet can only manage so many people. Carol says we don’t need a conspiracy we can just do it ourselves, as we are already quite good at killing each other!
Carol says there has always been a class of people wanting to be on top and manipulating the working class. Eddie says the working class has been diminished and transformed into an underclass. In other countries they make things, our own population is deskilled. Janos: The financial system devalues the importance of productive economics, this is the way towards a servant economy, this is what will happen, the rich people will have to bring them back again. Mary said a project in France, that sounds very laudable, involved elderly people giving accommodation free to students in exchange for live-in help.
BBC apologies for biased reporting: Eddie reported that the BBC has upheld a complaint for sympathising too much with the Israeli side in an interview conducted by Sara Montagu, when was her questioning was said to be a drop in standards of the BBC’s impartiality clause.
Art Therapy for Recovering Alcoholics: Carol went to a retrospective art show in Leicester, the guy who ran the gallery had been an alcoholic, after nearly dying he went into residential rehab, when he came out he set up a project working with recovering alcoholics, which is now in Peckham, and will be a platform for next couple of months producing videos.
Peace Conference: Mary mentioned the Uniting for Peace Conference she had attended earlier in the day, with input from many individuals and organisations working for peace, and mitigating the pain of war, including: Can we abolish war and build peace by Frank Jackson, Vice-President of Uniting for Peace, Challenging the status quo of political Economy and Solutions by Moeen Yaseen, Director of Global Vision 2000, Peace building through Schools by Anna Lubelska, Promoting Peace in Iraq via Culture, by Hadani Ditmars author and photo-journalist in Lebanon Israel/Palestine and Iraq, and Global Challenges breed Global Solutions by Vijayu Mehta Chair Uniting for Peace: http://www.unitingforpeace.com.
We are Many: Mary mentioned the new film “We Are Many” about the marches for Peace prior to invading Iraq that were ignored, all over the world. A 1hr 50min – Rated 12A – documentary, in English, Director: Amir Amirani – the story and legacy of the biggest protest in history, which took place on 15 Feb 2003. Venues: Odeon 11/18 Panton Street, Leicester Square 14:45 and 20:15 • Curzon Bloomsbury, The Brunswick, London 17:45 • The Barbican Centre, Barbican, Silk Street, 15:30 • The Ritzy Cinema, Brixton Oval, Coldharbour Lane, 13:10 • Odeon Holloway, Islington, 419-427 Holloway Road, London 20:30
Website: The website now has the tag-cloud appearing on the sidebar. Carol suggested an Events Page, Mary said she would set one up if Carol would edit it, which she agreed….