Minutes from Democafe meeting, Saturday 30th May 2015 held from 2pm to 4pm at The Forge, Delancey Street, Camden NW1 7NL.
Present: Eddie Farrell, Sara Jolly, Janos Abel, James Richmond, Carol McNichol, Audrey Barker, Mary Fee (notes). Apologies: Denise Arnold, Michael Mulvey, Alan Spence.
Minutes of the meeting held on Saturday 23rd May 2015 were accepted.
Position Papers: Michael Mulvey’s latest email – see MM-150529 – asked us to produce finalised position papers, but people generally felt uneasy about this, as issues were ongoing and felt that we needed to develop a mechanism for updating papers on a rolling basis, focusing on one issues one at a time, with an event to promote it (see below).
NB with the current format of the website, authors can create their own “posts”, so copies of papers which are linked to the page called Our Campaigns could be copied as posts and updated, and if agreed at a meeting, they could be copied over to replace the stored “page”, with the Campaigns page including summarised statements for reference, so that we would gradually evolve a “rolling manifesto”, which could be reproduced periodically as a hard-copy summary. To facilitate this, everyone present who had not already been given an Author account and wishes to would get a password.
Social Dividend: This was identified as a key issue, the fact that with technological development, which has added to our cultural and scientific heritage, we are not all getting the benefit, but remain enslaved to the system. Industry has developed practices such as built-in obsolescence, which makes profits, to the detriment of the consumer (and the environment). James’s précis was that capitalism has built up a surplus that has been appropriated and not distributed in a democratic manner, because the system has been rigged in favour of the few instead of the many. Other ways of describing this idea were “Economic Democracy”, or the need to develop a “stakeholding democracy”, i.e. having shares in society. James pointed out that the word “socialist” has now been dropped in favour of the word “progressive”. The problem is how to communicate the right messages to get these ideas across.
Democratic Deficit: Eddie felt despondent about the track record of 38Degrees, because every time they put a petition together, which can gain thousands of signatures, the government seems to change the goalposts. Carol pointed out that some petitions have had an effect, e.g. the Forestry ones, and that it’s founder, David Babbs, was quite impressive. Mobilising people against globalisation had inspired the beginning of 38Degrees – David understood that you have to get people together to make a fuss. Mary felt equally concerned about CCMJ and the Global Table, and wondered what has been achieved there after attending meetings for many years – Eddie, a regular attender in recent months, said he had always known the Wednesday meetings as the Global Table and was interested how that was progressing in moving forward together with the 2015Constitutionalists.
Connecting Things Up: We discussed the problem that many well-meaning people are so tied up with earning a living that they are only aware of what goes on inside their own “silo” and are not able to see what is happening in the system as a whole. (Dr.Tim Ball, on the last universal person, starts at 19:10.) Mary felt that as a freelance worker she had been able to see more than most people what was happening in different sectors, e.g. with recent involvements with Social Services, The Care System, and the NHS. We expanded on problems with the NHS, e.g. fragmentisation of services, outsourcing of administration (e.g. letters being recorded on voice tape then typed in India, emailed back, and eventually posted out to recipients), also costly clerical errors such as sending out duplicate letters to patients. The problems seemed to not just about privatisation of services, but also about sheer inefficiency and waste of resources.
PROMOTING OUR IDEAS
• Carol suggested talking to the main political parties, and Mary mentioned that she had attended a meeting of the St Georges Ward branch of the Labour Party, so had a connection there.
• James pointed out that with their role of monitoring legislation, the House of Lords assumes even more importance than before, and are a key and powerful target group, who could be emailed individually – Janos added that when you address such people you should press for an answer, and Sara said that David Owen is the person to lobby about the NHS.
• Mary also mentioned connecting up with GlobalNet21 which has live meetings and webinars which are well networked, and also our connection with Free Critical Thinking (of which Eddie helps edit Daily Pickings)- everything on the topics they discuss is stored on their website and they send out frequent blogs linking to papers in areas of the media that we might not be aware of.
• Mary expressed outrage at the suggestion that Housing Associations be forced to sell their stock at a discount, as an attack on “freedom to associate”, and wondered if we should specifically make contact with them on this issue.
• Eddie suggested encouraging a democafe position paper (as Michael Mulvey is pushing for) by organising an event. We could take material from the website and bring it to a temporary point of conclusion by going hard copy for an event.
Housing Event: We then brainstormed running a presentation about housing, we could make enough little cardboard houses – see image of a house that Eddie made recently – to fill a room and publicise a house sale as a critique of Cameron’s “home-owning democracy” by inviting people to come and buy a house for £1 or £3 or £5? This event would include a presentation, printed and presented, of Democafe’s position on Housing. James suggested we could present our position in the form of a title deed and that a copy of each could be put inside each cardboard house. Carol suggested making a rule that you could only buy a house if you make another to replace it. If we can plan well in advance we could publicise it and make sure we get a decent amount of media coverage etc.
Eddie knows a shop front/gallery in Seven Sisters Road, where we could hold the event but maybe we would want to hold it in Camden? We could see about an empty shop front for the day….Blustons on Kentish Town Road is recently empty.
An event could force us to present an updated position on Housing, raise some funds and give us some badly needed press to hopefully bring some younger people to our Democafe meetings. On this Eddie noted the recent Brick Lane Debates in Hoxton, lots of younger people politically engaged – we may want to contact them to form a link. Odd considering what has happened to that area in the last 15 years – an area they describe as Silicone Roundabout, Carol said the area used to consist of empty warehouses which are now occupied by start-ups and posh shops.
• Another idea Mary offered was running a Film Club, where we could put themed presentations together, from various sources, e.g. YouTube, or complete films, then discuss them. Sara suggests The Torriano Meeting House, 99 Torriano Avenue NW5, she knows Susan, who runs it, they have poetry and storytelling sessions, what about films? Carol also mentioned that she had seen “We Are Many” (see events) and recommended this for a group outing.
• Carol referred to an article she had read which pointed out that in fact the Labour vote went up, but lost the election because of the swing to the SNP in Scotland, and the fact that most of the Lib Dems went to Tories, but you would not realise that from the mainstream media’s report’s of Labour’s massive losses.
• Eddie Highly recommended a new film he had seen by the Artist Taxi Driver, Mark McGowan called “WestMonster” started doing monologues to his phone, then interviews with clients, including people like Vivian Westwood, and Frankie Boyle, and uploaded them to YouTube.
• At Sara’s suggestion, we can now all add events to the website, and hoped that Michael will also get on board with this.
• Sara mentioned that Michael has the idea to increase our own membership. NB The 35 current contacts are on a separate email list, but if we enrol them as subscribers, we should also be able to email them from the website.
Next Meetings: As CCMJ and the Global Table are having an AGM/appraisal on Sat 6th June, which Janos and Mary are attending, it was agreed not to have a meeting, and the week after, Sat 13th June, to develop further thoughts on the housing event on Housing.