Newsletter Archive

Newsletter 2018/09

We’re back from summer break, successfully staving off the post-holiday blues with some hopefully interesting reading, especially curated for you.

Guest contribution: “The neighbourhood as a commons” by David Brocchi

People living in cities often don’t know their neighbours, living increasingly lonely lives. Secular societies have not found substitutes for places like church and rituals like mass that helped people bond and form communities. In many ways we have lost the ‘art of association’ that Alexis de Tocqueville believed to be a crucial success factor for our ability to solve problems collectively and cooperatively.

The Day of the Good Life, initiated by sociologist Davide Brocchi, has the potential to revitalise the art of association and show how we can contribute to the Great Transition in a meaningful way from the bottom up. We have asked Davide to write an article explaining the ideas (and theories) behind the Day of the Good Life, how they were put into practice (with great care and devotion) and what the plans are for scaling up.

A self-made dining and living room in the neighbourhood on Day of the Good Life 2013 in Cologne. Photo by Marén Wirths
A self-made dining and living room in the neighbourhood on Day of the Good Life 2013 in Cologne. Photo by Marén Wirths.

Why we need to switch the story for the Great Transition to succeed

In our recent essay, Micha wrote: “I have been convening conversations about the role of activism in tackling the root causes of climate change, inequality etc. for more than ten years. During the last three years, the conversations in social justice and environmental activist spaces have changed considerably.

These conversations have increasingly been captured by an ideological agenda where all problems are seen through the lens of patriarchy, racism and colonialism. The dogmatism developing in these spaces has become so extreme that I’m now convinced we need to relaunch this strategic conversation. Under the prevailing thinking that tries to explain almost everything as a consequence of persisting systems of oppression, I don’t believe we will be able to explore the best ideas necessary for contributing to the Great Transition. What I suggest instead is that the premise for a new space has to be the honest willingness and ability to explore ideas beyond a dogmatic post-modern ideology that is inherently anti-intellectual.”

After initial feedback from thought leaders in our network, we feel encouraged to take John Stuart Mill’s ideas to heart and broaden the diversity of views in our discussions. We also believe that we need to deepen our understanding of evolutionary science to find more promising approaches for the urgent cultural evolution of humankind.

We welcome further feedback from our wider network.

Evolution as depicted by the ape-to-human progression

The case for complicating our narrative

This is an article for journalists, but it is highly relevant for activists, academics and civil society leaders because we’re all communicators in the digital world. Probably counterintuitively, it makes the case for “complicating our narrative” in these times of growing polarisation and tribalism.

“The lesson for journalists (or anyone) working amidst intractable conflict: complicate the narrative. First, complexity leads to a fuller, more accurate story. Secondly, it boosts the odds that your work will matter — particularly if it is about a polarizing issue. When people encounter complexity, they become more curious and less closed off to new information. They listen, in other words.

There are many ways to complicate the narrative […]. But the main idea is to feature nuance, contradiction and ambiguity wherever you can find it. This does not mean calling advocates for both sides and quoting both; that is simplicity, and it usually backfires in the midst of conflict. Just providing the other side will only move people further away […]. Nor does it mean creating a moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and their opponents. That is just simplicity in a cheap suit. Complicating the narrative means finding and including the details that don’t fit the narrative — on purpose. The idea is to revive complexity in a time of false simplicity. The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete.”

Read the full article here.

How to build global cooperation: Simpol

Leading evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson discusses the ‘simpol’ solution on the Evonomics website.

“The Simultaneous Policy (SIMPOL) will consist of a series of multi-issue global problem-solving policy packages, each of which is to be implemented by all or sufficient nations simultaneously, on the same date, so that no nation loses out. Citizens who join the campaign can contribute to the design of those policies and to getting them implemented. But how?

By joining the campaign, citizens agree to ‘give strong voting preference in all future national elections to politicians or parties that have signed a pledge to implement Simpol simultaneously alongside other governments, to the probable exclusion of those who choose not to sign’. This pledge (the ‘Pledge’) commits a politician, party or government to implement SIMPOL’s policies alongside other governments, if and when sufficient other governments have also signed on.”

Read the full article here.