What’s happening these days in the political and legislative system regarding freedom, fundamental rights and social justice is a source of deep worry. Terror-stricken in front of the emergence of citizens able to express themselves, exchange, share and innovate in unexpected manners, the aging powers of money disconnected from the economy, audio-visual media, and governments disconnected from society try to prevent being dispossessed of their monopolies. They use the inertia of their accumulated power to build a dam against humanity1. The inhibitions that partially kept them from violating fundamental rights no longer hold. Here are a few symptoms :
- A great democracy can conduct a global operation to gag a legal site and try to capture its founder. Most other democratic countries gesticulate in the same direction.
- Whether for enforcing restrictive rights on our common knowledge and culture, for controlling the public sphere of expressions on the Internet, for creating preventive controls and an administrative pseudo-justice2 Europe and its Member States compete to straight-jacket the Internet and citizens.
- The same are silent when Internet censoring and controlling goes together with massacres in Tunisia3. They are also totally indifferent to the Algerian youth that desperately tries to escape the joint traps of dictatorship, corruption and fundamentalism.
- The staggering increase in inequalities, the absolute injustice of the choices made to save criminal financial organizations, the growth of major social and individual desperation is not answered politically, not even through proposals on how to address such stakes.
What can be done in such a situation? Some more than 85 years old intellectuals (Edgar Morin, in French, Alain Touraine, in Italian) seem to size up the problems. Edgar Morin, stressing the liberating power of decentralized initiatives made possible by information technology and the Internet, addresses in the same analysis the sharing of cultural works and the capability of public expression even in dictatorial countries. He is indignant in front of the inaction of governments that are not even trying to master or at least control markets, that is speculation and financial capitalism. He affirms the optimism of The Principle of Hope and of the open uncertainty of the future. Can we go beyond these reminders?
Two processes are at work that motivate a slightly more substantiated optimism:
- Systemic social and ecological reconstruction projects are elaborated, combining commons-based approaches to knowledge and the environment, the exigence of social justice, and an eclectic toolkit bringing together decentralized initiatives and macro-economic or policy action. This elaboration takes place in various contexts, that one can discover in a recent book by Juliet Schor or in the exchanges at the International Commons Conference.
- In various domains, concrete alternatives are developed. Their full deployment will require some policy action, but they can be experimented and debated immediately. The financing models for cultural and expressive activities are an exciting laboratory for the development of these concrete alternatives. It is vital that those who put in place platforms that can be immediately experimented and those who work on proposals that need action at the scale of a full society engage in a permanent conversation.
There is a speed race between these constructive processes and the too certain outcome of business as usual4.
This post is also available in: French
- Note for English-speaking readers: in French this is an allusion to Marguerite Duras’ novel A dam against the Pacific. [↩]
- Or an automatic judicial process based on minimal sanctions, for instance in the recent LOPSI2 French law, that creates minimal sanctions even for first offenses, or based on private and administrative inquiries such as in the French HADOPI law and the UK Digital Economy Act. [↩]
- Yes, I know that Baroness Ashton did a declaration showing that she was aware that something was happening. [↩]
- Juliet Schor makes a possibly excessive use of this expression in her Plenitude book, but it has the merit to apply quite well to the present political inertia. [↩]