“Not just the mere organization of a new party is becoming increasingly difficult – so is the expression of a new political idea or doctrine. Ideas no longer exist except through the media of information. When these are in the hands of the existing parties, no truly revolutionary or new doctrine has any chance to express itself, i.e., to exist. Yet innovation was one of the principal characteristics of democracy. Now, because nobody wants it any longer, it tends to disappear.”
Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (1973)
Regular readers will know that this blog has certain regular themes. Most fundamental is the localist and regionalist conception of democracy, coupled with a constant critique of the London-chauvinist, egocentric and militaristic thinking denying us the happier world we should all be enjoying.
A second group of themes links Peak Oil, food supply, population, sustainable transport and the long-term agrarian perspective. We aim to take a realistic view, rejecting both the head-in-the-sand, business-as-usual approach and the hopeful hippy idea that if we leave well alone it will all work itself out in the end without anyone getting hurt.
Last, but by no means least, is the theme of unjust possession, especially of money and land. Along with this, we oppose the Thatcherite cult of private property as an end in itself, and her abandonment of any attempt to define the common good by civic means. We envision economic life as a co-operative, not competitive or exploitative endeavour, and one in which quality and local distinctiveness are both highly cherished.
These are themes that have emerged in our discussions about the future of Wessex. There may be others we haven’t thought of. Maybe we put too much emphasis on some of the themes we already have. We are always open to feedback. We aim to provide quality in terms of the range and depth of posts here, and also their tone. Occasionally, a more strident note will be sounded, on juxtaposing the urgency of the problems, the simplicity of the solutions and the sheer lack of imagination that prevents them meeting up.
The themes above are all ones we view as vital to any self-governing Wessex worth having, one which is aware of the issues and knows where it’s going. But they’re not what defines the Wessex project, since they’re all about analysis and direction, in the abstract, not a fleshing-out of the new structures through which a fresh approach can be delivered. We believe in Wessex as one part of a more streamlined and sustainable system of government than the UK as presently constituted. Devolution has unleashed the potential of Scotland and Wales, long suppressed by the London regime. We are eager to join the achievers.
Wessex itself is more ‘meme’ than ‘theme’. It’s an idea with something for everyone, whether you love dialect, make T-shirts and car stickers, market holidays here, or are just impatient for the future to arrive. We are passionate about the Wessex dimension to our policies. That can mean building a Wessex-oriented transport system in place of one driven by London’s priorities. It can mean taking control of our seabed to harness the energy potential of tides, waves and wind for our benefit. It can mean feeding ourselves, not housing London’s overspill. Getting the meme ‘out there’, getting folk to ‘think Wessex, and why not?’ is something worth being passionate about. It’s the only way to make it stick and grow, so that Labour can’t go around re-inventing regionalism every 20 years as a convenient diversion, and as if it had no back story. The best guide to the memes and sub-memes we need to propagate is Celtic nationalism. We don’t have to become nationalists, or acquire uncritically, to learn from what works elsewhere.
A number of posts have explored our political philosophy, that is to say, what informs what we think ought to happen. We also need to become aware once again of the need for ideology, of the need to be on our guard against what must NOT happen, of what threatens those things we hold dear and against which we must not be afraid to speak out. An example given recently is the financial decapitation that has repeatedly robbed Wessex of an independent regional banking sector.
Although we are told that we live in a post-ideological world, that is just another way of saying that we live inside the ideology that won. Which is why any other way of looking at the world, any assertion of other values, gets dismissed as unreality. The political value of history is that it tells us that there are other ways. They’re history because, applied as a whole, they failed. But elements of them, proclaimed and applied under new conditions, can still represent a more promising future to go back to than persisting with a status quo whose own success is now seriously called into question. Pushing against the weight of that status quo is what ideology is for.