In my first blog in these series on ‘Politics on Ideas’ we started our journey to rethink politics. In my previous and second blog we explored the multiple meanings you can give to a political system or environment. Is a political system there to find solutions as Michael Ignatieff claims? Or, is political system there, as Rob Wijnberg stated, to facilitate a struggle between people on ideas, influence and power? Or, as Jon Stewart proposed, should a political system be more focussed on having a conversation with the country? Or, is it more important to pay attention to democratization of information and the mobilizing of citizens as Thomas Piketty and Joseph Stiglitz suggested? I concluded that a political system does all of the above. That in my view a political system is based both on competition and cooperation, contrary to what Christopher Hitchens said, who stated that politics was division by definition. It is much more useful to find out when it is better to be competitive and when it is better to be cooperative in a political environment.
A lot of themes out of real life which I will discuss with you in the coming blogs I want to put in a made-up structure from which we can think in a more holistic way. My goal with this set-up is to show as explicitly as I possible can how everything is connected. And, more importantly why that matters in the actions that you, I, and others take or do not take. It also forces me to be more clear when I come with certain ideas; to explain to you where I place such an idea on the map and how this could impact others areas. It also gives me the possibility to show what I cannot place or categorize yet. Finally, if my made-up structure works for you and others it creates a common framework which you can use to bring in your own ideas and discuss those with others. The structure I am going to propose is not reality. It is just one of the ways you could look at reality to try and get a better understanding of it. Like special glasses you can put on and off.
The structure that I will use from now on is ‘The Game’, ‘The Players’ and ‘How the Game is Played by The Players’. You can compare it to ‘Humankind’, ‘Humans’ and ‘Interactions’. For machines you could make the same kind of categories: ‘The System’, ‘The Parts’ and ‘The Connections’. You could also think of a profession and do the same: ‘Journalism’, ‘Journalists’ and ‘Peer-to-Peer Interactions’. It gives us the opportunity to explore the relations between the behavior of a certain group and the personal behavior of participants in this group. How group behavior is or might be effected by personal behavior, and vice versa. I want to create a simulation of a political ecosystem and try different things out in the safe space of our minds. What happens if we do this differently? What if we do something else differently? What could be constructive and destructive consequences of these new directions and initiatives? Is it only constructive for my personal life or also for the lives of others? Is it only constructive for the lives of others, or also for my own life?
We’re going to pretend to be a journalist, a politician, a scientist and other roles and ask seriously how we might do better. Not to blame any of these groups for their shortcomings, but to look for patterns of human behavior and recognize those in ourselves. Which things that we find irritating in the behavior of any professional group or person would we be tempted to do ourselves if we where in their position, and why? In other words, when you put yourself in the positions of others and focus on behavioral habits you will be better able to identify common persistent problems to finding solutions, which hopefully will lead to betters answers and strategies to deal with them.
The name of the game I would like to play with you is called ‘The Political System’, in which all the players play and interact. Our game has different areas like ‘The Civil Field’, ’The Scientific Field’ and ’The Journalistic Field’. Every field has its own players. The ‘Political Field’ exists out of “Politicians”. The ‘Artistic Field’ out of ‘Artists’. Players in our game have a shared responsibility for the hallmark of their own field. The hallmarks each field has for a game could be:
The Journalistic Field: Collective Awareness
Our collective watchdog. Journalists are there primarily for transparency. If we know what’s going on, then it’s easier to face the challenges of our society.
The Scientific Field: Public Knowledge Base
Our collective think tank. The better we understand complex issues the better we’re able to find answers for the challenges we face as a society.
The Artistic Field: Shared Subjective Experience
Our collective spirit. When we’re able to a find a greater balance between ourselves and the outside world(s) we will have more harmony in our society.
The Political Field: Common Direction
Our common action group. In the end we need to make choices to move from here to somewhere to be able to take on the challenges our society faces.
The Civil Field: Integrated Society
Our connectors. Protecting the autonomy of every citizen and making sure every citizen is included in a wider community.
The purpose of the hallmarks is to give players from a certain field a common goal where they have to work on. That common goal is a shared responsibility of all the players in a particular field. Individual players can take actions which make it more likely that the hallmark of their field is upheld or improved, but they are dependent on others to reach that goal. There may even be situations when the outcomes in your field also depends on the behavior coming from another field.
A game will have ended if we have gotten through six steps of politics more constructively: 1. Create an Idea; 2. Getting this idea on the Political Agenda; 3. Get the support needed for execution of this Idea; 4. Execute this Idea; 5. Evaluate this Idea and 6. Maintain, Adjust or Cancel this Idea.
What I would like to explore with you is different view points on the same challenge: how to make the political system or environment more constructive. What I am going to do is to relate the behavior of different players and fields to the six steps in politics. If you choose to be one of ‘the artists’ what is your role in the first of six steps: in the creation of an idea? Do you have a role at all to play in that stage? Does your ‘Artistic Field’ have one? And what can you as an artist and your field do to be a constructive or destructive force for the political system in that particular stage of the game? You could do same thought exercise with any of the others players you could choose to be and their related fields at any of the six political steps.
What makes our game even more complicated is that all the players and their fields have also a few shared hallmarks of the political system as a whole they have to uphold and even better yet to improve. You could think of these four overarching political system-hallmarks:
Culture of Creativity
Culture of Candor
Culture of Collective Intelligence
Common Communication Structure(s) for the different Cultures
The players in the game now have different kind of hallmarks they have to try and uphold or improve: the hallmark of their own field and the hallmarks of the political system as a whole. If the players and fields succeed as a collective in doing that they will have moved through the six steps of politics in a more constructive way and will have won the game together.
What connects all of the players in the political system is ideas, issues or policies. What makes them different is how they approach these ideas. Take ideas with regard to climate change and a few examples of how these issues are addressed by different roles. Journalists inform us of the scientific work on climate change, and of weather events across the globe (tornado’s, drought, melting of glaciers and so on), and journalists also inform us of the views of politicians on climate change. Scientists do research to find out what the causes of climate change are, what the possible consequences of climate change are, and do research to find out what we can do about it. Artists make movies, songs, poems or other artifacts on how climate change could impact our lives by bringing it to live and showing us multiple possibilities. Politicians advocate for (not) taking measures against climate change and try to find the necessary majorities for their different proposals. Politicians might use some of the scientific work available to try and persuade citizens to adopt their point of view.
When you look to the way players influence the political environment you can zoom in and out. You can look to the differences between players in what they do and how they interact with each other. And you can take a certain player-group and look to different approaches within that family. You can look in general how politicians and journalists act and compare those two groups. And you can zoom in on how some journalists differ in their approaches from other journalists, and how some politicians differ in their approaches from other politicians.
Imagine that the majority of the players of one of the fields is being destructive, because for example they do not accept facts as part of their reality. What can other players in that field, who trust in facts and are in the minority, do to minimize the potential damage? What can other fields do to make sure the system as a whole still comes out more constructively than in the beginning of the game regardless of tendencies of that one more destructive field in their game?
Imagine that one of the fields is outperforming itself in its constructive influence and output. How could players in other fields use that to their advantage to improve their own field and the system as a whole?
Would it matter if players in a particular field support different or the same kind of ideas for the possible outcomes of the game?
These are some of the questions we can ask ourselves when we are exploring the different players and fields, and their roles in the shaping of the political system.
Another way of using this structure is to see in which way journalistic skills, scientific skills, artistic skills, and other professional skills can be used by political citizens themselves. Which skills do you need to learn or improve as a political citizen to make a more constructive contribution to a culture of candor, creativity and intelligence in which ideas for the progress of human lives and society can really flourish? Here we switch our perspective from certain roles to certain skills and behaviors we would like to stimulate in ourselves and others to improve our political climate.
By asking why do we need politicians, journalists, artists, scientists and other professionals in a political system in the first place we’re asking which human skills and outcomes they bring to the table to make it work properly.
Let the games begin!