Discussed in the House of Lords (Eerste Kamer) in The Hague on 1 October 2015:
The conference was about ‘Contours of the Third Century of the Dutch Kingdom’ in the House of Lords (Eerste Kamer) at the Binnenhof in The Hague. The seminar was organized by the Scientific Advisory Board of the Dutch Government (WRR) and marked the end of all the festivities of ‘Two hunderd years Dutch kingdom’. My presentation was on globalization, the retreat of the nationstate and the future of Dutch cities. Most of the lectures in the morning were about democracy, citizenship and the Dutch constitution. Many complaints were heard, but I really felt a lack of imagination; it was almost depressing. Andreas Kinnegin, professor philosophy of law at Leyden University, was quite pessimistic (he warned for the tyranny of the state and the disappearance of the protestant ethos), so was Kustaw Bessems, historian and journalist of de Volkskrant (who warned for islamic antidemocratic acts). His message: we are living in the best possible world, it will get worse. Even Jonathan Holslag of the Free University of Brussels was negative in his analysis of the international geopolitical situation. Nothing to be proud of. Scary even.
It reminded me of the lecture of Peter MacFadyen at the ‘Flatpack Democracy’ event of last Saturday in Brighton, UK. Peter had told us about creating independent politics in Frome, Somerset, south of Bath. After years of missed opportunities, a group of residents had taken control of their town council and had set about making politics relevant, effective and fun again. Frome counts 26.000 inhabitants. Its political system lacked vitality, people didn’t feel represented any more. Peter: “Britain today has a dysfunctional political system. Many politicians are making decisions to meet their own needs or those of their party, not the needs of the people they serve.” In detail he described how citizens took control of the system and searched for a radical democracy, without making use of political parties. “The underlying ethos of all our actions is to build confidence and facilitate opportunity.” MacFadyan’s speech inspired many in the audience who apparently do not feel represented after the last election too, when most of the UK turned ‘blue’. MacFadyen gave a manual of how to develop a political system from the bottom-up. Essentials: work as a group, agree your ways of working together, use facilitators, friends, experts, people with skills, keep it light, decide on a good name. He told us it works. Why not?