How can we survive? What actions can we undertake? (Part I)
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How can we survive? What actions can we undertake? (Part I)
We shall never surrender.
The diagnosis has the virtue of being clear: demagogy, hypocrisy, vote-catching and plutocracy (in order to allow the suspicion of the sincere ones). Naive optimism is what one can hear, however a huge violence is really implemented thanks to a strategy of terror and a culture of the lie.
Nowadays, we have all the tools to take and take back, the power from a class of incompetent and corrupted ones. It is only about taking back what is a ‘normal’ democracy meaning that the power belongs to the citizens. Until today, only those who are brave enough have risked their lives because they are far too few when facing the selfish, the coward and the ignorant ones. But the resistant ones are gaining strength! In his time, the French humorist Francis Blanche had already analyzed the situation when declaring that “In face of a changing world, one would rather think about changing rather than changing the bandage”. The fight for the protection of the citizens must be led nationally and internationally otherwise the citizens will continue being carried away by the culture of the opacity. It is about gathering everyone and taking a united stand against our enemies, in resistance. Sharing the information, act with mutual efforts, skills and expertise will guarantee the success of the action in favour of the general interest. The whistleblowers believe in exemplarity and responsibility whilst being in action. They have understood that solitary fights, even the ones qualified as being heroic do not allow change of anything in the perversity of the system, the corruption and in the impunity. The solution is thus in mobility.
Nowadays, thanks to the magic of the Internet, information can be spread in the blink of an eyelid. Nothing can be hidden anymore. The ones who have enjoyed impunity thanks to secrecy see their names on the first pages of the daily papers. Those who were linked to the Panama Papers, the Football Leaks, the LuxLeaks or even the Malta files, the Mauritius Papers, the Paradise Papers etc. were exposed in the media and cannot disagree. Today, democracy goes through the Internet where the exchanges take place. Facing the plutocracy and the connectivity which have allowed the prosperity of some for years, a French Minister instantly resigned when a daily newspaper revealed that his minor daughters had enjoyed bogus jobs as parliamentary assistants at the French Parliament. The buzz that was generated on the web and on the social networks was such that the protagonist had to drop his guard. Benjamin Griveaux who was running for the 2020 Paris municipal election had to withdraw when a sex scandal hit in the news and the minister François de Rugy had to resign when over spending scandal was made public. Could fear be changing sides?
We do not have to expect those who have created our problems to solve them. This is why the space of freedom provided by the Internet allows the awareness for all and thanks to the possible exchange of information amongst all the citizens in the world. Each of us could have thought that things were better abroad however the citizens reach the same acknowledgement of failure. We have been held hostage by those enjoying connectivity and we can only but thank the IT specialists, first of them being Edward Snowden, who had declared to The Guardian:
My sole motivation is to inform the public of what is being made in his name and what is made against him.
The web actors share the same language: Community, non-manipulated information, groups of interest, hackers or Anonymous… Thierry Bléard is a committed citizen on the web. As a group administrator on the social networks, he participates in forums. According to him, everyone has noticed the outrageous power of money, which creates the worst social injustice in the world. As a consequence, the only credible counter-power is the number of citizens suffering from the economic pressure brought by the banks and the multinational companies. As such, the Web would first bring the awareness that we can all together totally influence the course of the events. He believes that there is a need to act according to our deep convictions based on altruism and cooperation which marks a break with the culture of competition, namely economic competition.
He deciphers a first power, which consists of becoming aware of the actual system by informing each other mutually, whilst learning to look beyond our own filters built according to the condition of one’s immediate environment whereas the causes are located on a macro-economic scale. The arrival of free encyclopedias such as Wikipedia is, according to this French citizen from the north of France, the best evidence of the awareness that each citizen has a role to play in the information. He added: “The second power is to allow the sharing of solutions and exchange initiatives to build a more social and more lasting world as far as governance, food, education, local economy, cooperatives … are concerned”.
Eric Alaime, a social network user, agrees when stating that in his view, “the web allows a multiplicity of points of view, which entail a more objective personal thought. It favours developing the curiosity because of the plurality of the information. The user is inclined to check it, which is an approach that nobody has with the mainstream media. In a word, in the long run, the web will lead the ‘apathetic masses’ to swing towards constructive thoughts. As such, the different communities will have to federate and the trend will reverse when the basis will be strong and structured”.
According to Florimond Constant, an expert in IT security engineering, the solutions brought by the web are plenty. “Without being the transparency space imagined by Pierre Lévy in Cyberdémocratie, nowadays the web is not less than the most efficient and accessible counter-power tool. Information, live videos and other studies are spread within everyone’s reach. There are plenty of programs or tutorials popularizing complex subjects. It is nevertheless necessary to sort them and to be able to quickly evaluate the relevance of the author of the documentary, the article or of the study to efficiently ‘practice’ the web”.
Florimond Constant, as well as his colleagues, would like that the majority of the citizens develop a “collective intelligence”. The initiatives of throwing the political society back into question too shyly are surfacing. The ‘Nuit Debout’ French movement, created in 2016, allowed certain people to meet or debate over an instant of political debate, but its political leanings were very obvious without having a true, precise and auto-proclaimed project. For three to five years, countries that are sufficiently developed and liberal, countries with an asserted political conscience have witnessed the emergence of political parties or popular movements succeeding in the elections. Five Stars (Cinque Stelle) in Italy, Podemos in Spain, Gary Johnson and his libertarian party in the United States of America, the Pirate Party in Iceland to name a few but unfortunately, these principles have not been imported into France yet.
“Since the emergence of the Occident, with several levers (consumption, work, competition, medicine, sciences, properties), the values developed and then taken back by the majority are an individual success and an intensifying impatient competition. This is the exact opposite of federative strategies requesting intelligence, time and means. One of the solutions would be to propose an alternative to the use of fear by identifying trends with the exemplary women and men composing them, those who have strong convictions while being nonetheless deprived of aggression and resentment.
Afterwards, propose to unite them behind a strong and authentic idea, ‘enrich the intelligence’, ‘for a fair, honest and deserving society’. This ideology will be to attract for its cause and to avoid being united against something, against someone. The citizens will desire to participate and will not have the need to participate as it is the case nowadays. This is the easy part of the solution! The most difficult part would be to meet one or several people such as a ‘French man Nelson Peltz, for example, a businessman entering the board of directors of large companies to influence their strategies to bring the financial means necessary to the federation of a movement that could convince a large majority". ("Financial activist” or “capitalist serial killer”, Nelson Peltz is an American billionaire who invests in different companies. He is a cost killer defending the shareholders vs. “The CEO almighty”).
How can the citizens be heard by the mainstream media, by their elected representatives and obtain concrete results?
Boycott means Action
According to the brothers Levent and Bulent Acar, founders of the I-Boycott platform, consuming in a responsible way is a non-violent political action. Their favourite sentence is a quote from the author Anna Lappé:
Every time you spend money, you vote for the type of world you want.
The boycott is a peaceful and intelligent weapon. It is a rapid vector in the change that touches image and money, the two pillars of the consumption society. Companies which do not respect ethical rules are nowadays going to be internationally boycotted. We, the citizens, can very well live without the multinationals whereas they cannot live without us, their consumer clients. Before anything else, a citizen is considered as a consumer. With the boycott, one turns into a “consum’actor” i.e. an actor for change. “Each of us can wonder, at any time, in whose pocket the euro or the dollar we spend ends up”.
With the boycott, the consum’actors actions are important because they avoid the isolation of the whistleblowers. I have often repeated that if the Swiss citizens had massively boycotted UBS by closing their accounts once the scandal became public in 2009, the actions of the bank could have helped to aim towards more transparency.
Photo: Launch of the Paris I-boycott antenna, 2015. Personal collection
The companies which have been contacted by the platform undertake to convince their boycotters. As such, after citizen’s pressures, the Oasis and Jouet Club brands ended their historical partnerships with the circuses where wild animals were used.
Boycott or buycott
Thanks to the ‘BuyOrNot’ application launched on September 2018, every consumer can now know everything about a product, by scanning it. Is a product ethical or industrial? Is the manufacturer targeted by a boycott campaign or a scandal?
For Isabelle Le Gal, the President of the I-Boycott Paris antenna, the web allows the association to be known to the great majority of the people while reaching a good target. She explains that within only seven days, the association was able to win more than 50,000 subscribers on a specific program. She considers that a collective awareness could accelerate because of the scandals and the deteriorated international climate. Furthermore, she claims that the education tools oriented towards a citizen are to be encouraged from a young age and relying on celebrities to convey messages is also very efficient, according to the young woman.
On December 7th, 2010 during an interview with Presse Océan, the former football star Eric Cantona dared to declare that the true revolution is not within the fact that everyone be in the street with a sign to demonstrate against the system represented by the banks but according to him, if everyone would withdraw their savings from their bank accounts, the banks would collapse and the system would follow suit. Without their clients, the banks are non-existent. Cantona was the first one to be surprised that his statement had somewhat been followed and had been in the media. However the action was of limited scale to make the finance world fail. But the idea to boycott the industry taking the citizens hostage is clear.
Join a Citizens Association and financially support Citizens Initiatives
From A for Attac or Au Nom du Peuple (In the name of the people) in France to C for Compassion in Care in Great-Britain, from I for Institute for Public Accuracy in the United States of America to X for X-net in Spain, from the struggle against corruption to the protection of the information supplied by the whistleblowers, the associations do what they can. Their financial means are limited however a certain number of them offer an engaged and in touch citizen network; they operate by organizing non-violent actions.
The financing of the associations is their main problem. In France, Microdon proposes solutions of crowd donations, which allow both the companies and their employees to federate around community life projects bearing meaning. These solutions, implemented to daily transactions, have authority to offer anyone the possibility to make very simple and spontaneous donations in the amount of several cents on a daily basis. For example, when one goes shopping, the client accepts that a 14.72€ sales receipt be rounded up to 15€. The client accepts that the 28-cent difference be paid back into the association supported by the store. This fund-raising out of sales receipts is also possible on employees’ pay checks and is called ‘salary round-ups’. Such solidarity actions are being made possible thanksto the strength of the community and allow the creation of a meaningful social impact and the support of multiple associations in the long term.
In 2016, thanks to the actions and partnerships developed, this social economy start-up thus collected around two million euros, which were totally paid back in 350 general interest associations.
Over the past years, these micro-donations are examples which were made possible with the following associations and companies:
– The association “Toutes à l’école” (supporting education for girls in Cambodia) and the round-up at Sephora allowed a collection of more than 200,000 euros during a two-month period.
–The association “Siel Bleu” (health prevention during lifetime) and the round-up on the Adidas payment terminal collected more than 235,000 euros between the end of 2015 and the fall of 2017.
– The association “Planète Urgence” (acting in more than 20 countries to re-inforce the autonomy of the populations and protect the environment) and the round-ups on sales receipts and on salaries was made possible thanks to the support of the Bonobo Jeans brand and Thalès was able to develop programs of tree plantings in Indonesia and schools kits in Africa.
These fully participative solutions answer an increasing expectation from the new generation, in search of meaning and from the employees who wish to commit themselves with their companies. They offer everyone the possibility to be an actor for change at one’s own scale.
To be followed: How can we survive? What Actions can we undertake? (Part II)
Cover photo: Mrs. Monique Dits, Free Assange Belgium Committee
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