We need a practical handbook to build a bottom-up democracy | Letters

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The Guardian

Many of us have been crying out for a sea change in our politics such as the one described by George Monbiot (Feeling the urge to take back control from power-mad governments? Here’s an idea, 13 July). He mentions the social ecology of Murray Bookchin, but getting to grips with that is very hard work, so I recommend reading The Dawn of Everything by David Wengrow and David Graeber, which suggests that the way things are is not inevitable and that people have lived successfully in decentralised polities for thousands of years.

Many of the older generation, who continue to prop up this dishonest and incompetent Tory government, yearn for things to be the way they were in “the good old days”. Perhaps knowing that our ancient ancestors actually were capable of caring about their less well-off neighbours, and seeing to it that people like Boris Johnson got their comeuppance before they had the chance to ruin the country, might make them feel that governance from the bottom up is not new and terrifying but simply another way of doing things that has always been an option.

What we need is a practical handbook for making the change in these increasingly undemocratic times. Perhaps Monbiot could write one – preferably soon, as I am on the last leg of my life journey, and I want to be part of this revolution.
Janet Bayford
Little Hulton, Greater Manchester

George Monbiot is right, but the solution to our enfeebled democracy lies in a complete revision of economic and legal systems as well as the political.

People cannot be enfranchised politically while just a few thousand extremely wealthy individuals protect and enhance their asserted right to use the planet’s resources for their own benefit, at the expense of everybody else. In particular, we a have a completely inequitable ownership of land – Britain is a stark example, with only a dozen or so owning most of it – and the assumed right to exploit assets such as farming, fishing, minerals and fossil fuels on or under that land, with no participation, ownership or control by the population in general. It’s feudal.

Among the necessary reforms is the urgent need to define the true wealth of environmental assets – breathable air, clean water, fertile soil, biodiverse forests and oceans – and to establish legal and economic systems that protect those things from harm. For instance, we should define a crime of environmental theft, which is what pollution amounts to.

Today’s political class seek millionaire status by doing the bidding of the billionaires who are stealing the planet’s resources. Getting rid of them and their silly circuses is just the starting point.
Bill Dixon
The Hague, Netherlands

I am very happy to support George Monbiot’s call for participatory democracy in the form of assemblies. I would be even happier if he would accept the recommendations from an assembly that has actually taken place, the Climate Assembly UK, in September 2020. There, a majority of assembly members agreed that three ways of generating electricity should be part of how the UK gets to net zero: offshore wind, solar and onshore wind. Nuclear power, which Monbiot continues to advocate, saw lower levels of support. Here is an example of his “enclaves of democracy” that it seems he would rather disregard.
Linda Rogers
Llangoed, Anglesey

No, George, no. As Simon Jenkins explains so eloquently (Why the Labour party is praying for the Tories not to vote for Rishi Sunak, 12 July), the answer to our governmental ills is not more power to the people – which has brought us Trumpism, Johnsonism and populist rule by the angry old white men of the Daily Express and Daily Mail. The answer is to strengthen our institutions so that errant prime ministers cannot prorogue parliament or disobey international law when they feel like it, or have their cheerleaders squeal “enemies of the people!” when the law gets in their way. If ever there was a lesson from the last few disastrous years, it is this.
Jonathan Harris
Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire

July 15, 2022 at 11:24PM Letters

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