Monday 29 June 2020

Ideas from France

 A Citizen's Convention on Climate in France, which consisted of 150 randomly selected citizens, reported its final conclusions after nine months of deliberation. You can read the (English version) of their report here.

A Citizen's Convention to discuss an issue of great importance is an interesting idea - certainly not representative democracy as we knew it, but as we are seeing in many countries - and the UK and the US are worrying examples - democracy is being smothered to death, by interference in the democratic process - not just by hostile regimes, who have their own fears of democracy - but through the influence of massive amounts of money. We've seen both of those in the UK Brexit Referendum & 2019 General Election and US Politics. Is it perhaps time to build new structures to better represent the aspirations and wishes of ?

What do you think?

Then there are the proposals themselves - what do you think of them?

Both questions deserve to be discussed - and while I'd love to hear from you through - it's more important that you discuss with your friends, family, co-workers, and with and within political parties.

Could France have some ideas that could be used in the UK and USA? - both on procedure and policy?

Today, the Guardian reported -

"Emmanuel Macron has promised an extra €15bn (£13.7bn) for measures to combat the climate crisis over the next two years and a referendum on whether to introduce the crime of “ecocide” for harming the environment.
The measures were announced just hours after environmental candidates sparked a green wave across France with major gains in local elections in which the president’s governing party failed to make its mark.
At a meeting with members of the Citizens’ Commission for the Climate – a committee of 150 randomly chosen French people that reported back after a nine-month deliberation last week – Macron promised extra funding and strong measures.
He said he accepted all but three of the 149 recommendations put forward by the commission.

Wednesday 10 June 2020

Wisdom from a Whip

I have a great deal of respect for Jim Clyburn - currently the Majority Whip in the House of Representatives. [I studied whips in both the British Parliament and US Congress for a long period of time]. He makes some very wise points in this article, first published in South Carolina's "The State", and send out by him as a press release. The principles apply to other countries too.


In my memoir “Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black,” I share a philosophy I developed as a student protester on the campus of South Carolina State College in Orangeburg:
“We can be no more or no less than what our life experiences allow us to be.” 

I continue to hold to that notion.

As Americans, we must come to grips with the reality that the life experiences of blacks in this state and nation have been vastly different from those of whites. 
With few exceptions, whites came to America of their own free will, fleeing bondage and subservience in search of freedom and justice. To the contrary, with few exceptions, blacks came to America against their will, shackled in chains and enslaved. 

Our country’s economy and social order were built upon these two sets of divergent experiences — which were based upon race and color. The unrest we are witnessing across the nation and around the world are responses to the remnants of these experiences and the pain and suffering they visit upon their current victims.

Vicious and senseless killings like those of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are not new stories. 

In South Carolina we remember Walter Scott, who was shot in the back and killed by a North Charleston police officer in April 2015. Then just two months later a white supremacist infiltrated a Bible study at historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and snuffed out the lives of nine black worshipers.

There were protests after both of these events, and I participated in some of them. Both North Charleston (led by a Republican mayor) and Charleston (led by a Democratic mayor) provided enlightened leadership; their constituents responded appropriately and justice was served with the convictions and significant sentencings of the perpetrators.

Not a single business was looted — and not a single building was burned.

Today’s protests are sustained and growing because of the larger inequities that have plagued our society since this nation’s founding. Our racial health disparities have been laid bare by COVID-19, and judicial discrepancies exposed in the deaths mentioned above have ripped open a scab that has been long festering.

Time to repair

In one of his iconic poems Langston Hughes asked, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore and then run? ... Or does it explode?”

And in his great work “Democracy in America,” Alexis de Tocqueville observed that America’s greatness “lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”

We must repair the faults in our law enforcement practices that allow young black men and women to die at alarming rates at the hands of police officers. 

We must repair the faults in our health care system that have led to chronic inequities in health delivery and outcomes. 

We must repair the faults in our education system — exposed by this pandemic — that have caused children of color to fall further behind because they lack access to affordable high-speed internet in their homes. 

We must restructure our judicial system to outlaw primitive methods and provide police accountability and transparent oversight.

Stay vigilant 

I am often asked what advice I would give to this generation of protesters. As the son of a fundamentalist minister, I often reply by quoting Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

I have faith that we shall overcome but as the age-old adage tells us, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

Vigilance means organizing, not agonizing.

It means organizing peaceful protests, organizing legislative lobbying efforts and organizing to vote. 
As my fellow student protester and current congressional colleague John Lewis often says, “Keep your eyes on the prize.” 

The prize of “liberty and justice for all” remains a lofty pursuit, and its attainment requires our eternal vigilance.