Friday, September 27, 2013

Is it kicking off where we are?

The other book I read as I lazed by the canal in Le Somail was Paul's Mason's Why it's till Kicking off Everywhere: the new global revolutions. The former Newsnight economics editor who is now with Channel 4 News tours the world's places of unrest - from the Arab Spring to Occupy - exploring common features (especially the use of social media to spread ideas.

It's a great read full of stories from the front-line of protest and agitation for social change. Mason identifies common threads in all the movements that have erupted since the global crash. And while the second edition has been overtaken by events in Egypt - one wonders whether a democratic spring has given way to an authoritarian winter as islamists and militarists take centre stage - it still seems prescient.

The more so as I reflect on an event I attended last night where unreconstructed monetarist Simon Heffer offered an engaging lecture on ethics in the City in the light of the crash. Predictably he blamed Brown and Clinton for the crash, made virtually no reference to the Reagan/Thatcher economic experiment and therefore seemed to suggest that a dose of monetary discipline would see everything right. His argument is worth engaging with and the text of his lecture can be found here.

It was interesting listening to him with the memory of Ed Miliband's conference speech still fresh and being reminded that beyond the bruhaha of British politics there are ideas and arguments being floated and made. We should be encouraged by this.

The media has a tendency to reduce debate to soundbite, to give the impression that politics is only about who can spend the least and get the most done, and, in particular, that listeners and viewers are only interested in what's in it for them. Indeed, if the polls are to be believed, most listeners and viewers do not believe that politicians are interested in them at all.

Paul Mason's book reminded me that there is a debate going on across the globe about what kind of world we want to live in. It is debate filled with passion and creativity, fuelled by new technology and fresh thinking, social media, street protests and coffee shop discussion; it's a debate where old ideas, long forgotten approaches, are rubbing shoulders with the new; it's a debate we are all invited to be a part of.

So is it kicking off where we are?

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