Saturday, 18 April 2009

Collectivism versus community (or giving your volunteers the keys to the kingdom)

It's tricky, publishing. About as tricky as learning a language (more background here) - and just as emotional. I'm convinced there's a place for a true community of like-minded souls in progressive publishing. Future thought - its power, its longevity, its trueness - lies in harnessing the sum of so many disparate parts. But I'm having a helluva job convincing good and even brilliant souls that this is the right way forward.

Yesterday, I attended a meeting at which Emily Richards from Progress gave an overview of what the Obama election campaign did differently from so many election campaigns that came before it. The key message that came out of her presentation seemed to be that of trusting your volunteers - giving them the keys to the kingdom if you like. So many people were so prepared to do so much for Obama because his team soon realised you can only properly engage supporters through empowerment.

Yes. I know. Awful word, that. At least, awful the way it sounds. But it shouldn't. We should reclaim it on behalf of progressive politics.

We should not feel ashamed of using it.

Collectivism versus community.

What - really - is the difference?

Why - really - is the idea of community so acceptable to societies like the US, where anything that smacks of socialism almost denotes a kind of political terrorism? Where is the essential difference between collectivism and community - except inasmuch as the former has such an awful emotional baggage?

High taxes on 90 percent of the population is not what a community-minded politics should be about. Surely democratic socialism is about just that. We end up agreeing with the far right in ways which might - perhaps, in truth, really should - make us shudder.

If volunteers were truly empowered in our societies, truly trained up to do what they wanted to do and when, truly given responsibility for the real things that truly matter, then perhaps the left and right would come together and the burden of the concentrated state - what people traditionally call big government - could indeed be reduced to the satisfaction of everyone.

Tricky one this one because both politically and intellectually it's such a moveable feast.

In the meantime, I'm aiming to get a community-based progressive publishing project off the ground because I believe in the power of the masses.

Not as an awfully predictable lumpen proletariat which can be taken advantage of but rather as a continually evolving, surprising and fascinating group of individuals which - left to its own devices and unencumbered by the distorting forces of traditional marketing - would always choose to work together to a common purpose instead of spinning wildly apart on savagely independent paths.

We are social beings.

If the word socialism is a barrier to understanding, let us explain what we mean in terms which people can accept.

And let us ensure that whatever we do, the keys of the kingdom belong to those who deserve them.

Yes. I know. Core support and all.

No answers here for the moment. Just musings.

Just wondering if there's any point in not starting from scratch.

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