Leading with the chin

The progressive political parties represented in the Dáil, Assembly, and Council chambers around the country have been slow to understand the potential opened up by the #Occupy movement. During the recent presidential election, with all the coverage it was bound to receive, none of the candidates representing progressive politics in Ireland – Higgins, McGuinness and David Norris (although, I understand that not everybody will see him in this category) referenced the it. I found this strange. Not only because it was clear, even at that stage, that there was occupation activity across the globe, but it was also strange because the occupiers were making the case that the system – a system opposed by progressive political activists – was clearly failing.

We all realise that the #Occupy movement has deliberately not been prescriptive in putting policy positions forward. I may have issues with some within those structures not defining themselves as ‘left’, but I am an old fashioned leftie and acknowledge that this is as much my problem as anything else. What cannot be denied, however, is that this global protest has begun to focus minds in a way that we haven’t seen for years. It has created the space for political parties to move beyond mere opposition to policies framed within the existing political paradigm. It has enabled progressive politicians to talk about the ‘V’ word – Vision.

Progressive politicians on the way up, so to speak, who are seeking to advance electorally and to gain increased access to the media, tend to fall into the trap of framing discourse within the existing paradigm. The need to illustrate their ability to understand Realpolitik stifles bravery. And they need to be brave if they are to put up with ‘experts’ in the media and in the conservative political establishment rubbishing any idea that doesn’t sit somewhere between the centre right and the centre left.

Any advance made for and by ordinary people over the centuries, and particularly over the last century, has been made by people brave enough to shift the paradigm – to lead with the chin, to use that boxing analogy. Ideas that have become mainstream began life as ideas ridiculed and dismissed as unworkable or naive. Thousands of ordinary people camping out this winter in the middle of all sorts of places around the world are leading with their chins. In some places, the authorities are itching to knock them out. We should support these people and thank them for giving our mainstream political leaders a chance – should they choose to take it – to do something really interesting: to work together on a broad platform to find our way out of the failure of untrammelled capitalism; to challenge the consensus and cast aside Realpolitik; to lead with the chin.


Image top: infomatique.