This is the first part in the documentation of the Utopian World Championship Conference 2005, which was held on April 3, 2005, at Färgfabriken the day after the grand gala night.
The participants were, in order of appearance: Jon Brunberg (UWC project manager and moderator), Cyril Belshaw (Utopian World Champion 2004), Per Norbäck (second prize winner 2004), T.R.O.Y., (the first Utopian World Champion 2001 and particpant of the jury 2004), Oliver Kalleinen (Artist), Tellervo Kalleinen (Artist) Annika Drougge (UWC project manager and camera-woman) and Tuomas Finne (producer). This is part 1 of the recorded debate where Cyril Belshaw elaborates on the possibilities of the development of Utopia and the role of the people, where Per Norbäck talks about Demoex, the political direct democratic party that he founded, where T.R.O.Y. talks about existing forms of direct democracy and Oliver and Tellervo Kalleinen points to the concept of micro-nations. The video is 15 minutes long. Unfortuneately the sound is quite bad, so for your help you have the trascript below.
UWC 05 DOCS: The Conference (Part 1)
Note: some minor edits have been made, and a few passages have been removed from the original video/transcript.
JON BRUNBERG: I wanted to start with this years winner of the Utopian World Championship, Cyril Belshaw, and ask about your impressions from the gala last night. Did it give you more hope for the possibility of the utopia that you describe in your proposal?
CYRIL BELSHAW: Actually yes. /.../ One of the themes in my argument is that if we are going to get to utopia within this century it has to come from the people, and they have to decide how, why and how it is going to work. It is not for people like me or anybody else to do anything except to make suggestions. And part of that process has already begun, and in all sorts of places like the discussion around here, and people are doing it on an ordinary community level trying to do something there. But the activity of SOC is a part of that process and it is very heartwarming. And the interest of the people that came. You know, to talk about utopia can be a very dry subject and they seemed to be very enthusiastic. All the whistles! It was a rumbunctious group and full of energy so this is an extremely important part of the whole process.
JON BRUNBERG: You are talking about the possibility for the people to decide. Some would call the twentieth century for the peoples century. How far do you think that process can go?
CYRIL BELSHAW: I think it can eventually go all the way. You see, it is a question of deciding where we go. And we're all doing that, in effect, I mean just by sitting here we are doing that, when we are walking down the street, looking at things and thinking about things we are really deciding about the future. Everything we do affects what is going to happen down the road. /.../ If you look at what has happen for the past thirty, forty, fifty years in terms of the most intimate social relations there has been a huge jump. In the beginning of the twentieth century you never dreamed about same-sex marriage and things of that kind, in fact the changes have been at the most intimate level of our lives and if that can happen so quickly... I am not a futurologist but I guess that it is going to happen even more quickly. What is going to happen this century is going to be enormous. So, I would say people power, because I don't see any government, as a government, as they stand at the moment, that is going to be willing for example to give up its power unless it is forced to, say, by a world government. No way. And although it is happening it is happening despite. It is happening all sorts of other ways. /.../ So it has to come from the people. How do you engender that? I mean, if you asked people, I think nearly everybody would say yes, let's do it. But how do you get it on the road?
JON BRUNBERG: Per, you have been working on this project, Demoex, which is in part is a kind of people's jury or the kind of popular democracy which Cyril is talking about. Do you agree with him? I mean that your model is a glimpse of a spark of that process for people to get power of their lives. Your project started from a situation where you wanted to find out how young people could engage in politics. How do you see the future? How could that happen?
PER NORBÄCK: The problem is that ideologies are not enough for young people in our individualistic era. They don't want to buy the concept of a package of opinions, they want to pick and choose. /.../ I think that is the reason why Demoex started, because the students at my school felt uncomfortable by taking one politicians' opinions. /.../ Why should we choose between them if we can pick the best from him and the best from her? It [the creation of Demoex] is just a matter of analysis. Can we analyse it? Ok we can do it. We can see that I want this and I want that. Can we make a system which makes it possible to divide between these opinions, so that you don't need to bunch them together and be able to vote on every point of issue? Yes we can do it, it's very easy. Well, let's do it.
T.R.O.Y.: What does it demand of the participant?
PER NORBÄCK: From the beginning it demanded that they vote for the system and that is the tricky part of it. They had to buy the pig in the bag. They had to vote for something that they did not know what this party would stand for since it will follow the majority's will. /.../ You don't have to know a lot from the beginning. The principle of our little system is that you get your information there. You collect the information from both political sides in one time and place where you can read it very comprehensive and make your own decision.
CYRIL BELSHAW: I think what your doing is to start something that could be very, both politically and technologically, explosive. /.../ I don't know how many of you here have studied the Swiss constitutional system. I did a study which isn't published comparing Canada and Switzerland. Switzerland is a constitution built from the bottom up. Canada is like most other countries constitutionally from the top down. The constitution was written as it was imposed, whereas in Switzerland it grew out of the cantons, the communes. Now, one of the things that you are getting at is this picking and choosing, but our problem at the national level and provincial state levels, is that you don't have a chance to pick ans choose because the party does it. The party once it is elected is hugely a dictatorship for its term. In the Swiss constitution, when you get to the national level, it is a coalition. The cabinet is split among the parties so that every party is represented in the cabinet, not just the majority party and the president is chosen for one year and then circulates among the parties. It doesn't work utopianly but it is a model to continue to think about, if you are thinking about it on the national level and improve upon it. But what you are doing somehow ties in with what the Swiss believe.
T.R.O.Y.: With disregards for a moment how it actually works in Bolivia, which is hugely approaching a dictatorship, and talk about an idea, which is direct democracy but without the electronics. It is basically the same thing what you are doing here with electronics. The idea is that people are organised into neighbourhood units and they vote every month and they vote on every single issue. And that is how it works in praxis as well and one could argue, I don't know how much power they actually have to [enforce] their decisions, but without going into that issue, the whole structural idea is the same thing. But one thing that seems to have gone wrong to my understanding is that people do not have the energy that on every month go down there and vote on every single issue. So what it has meant is that people who burn the most for it, who have the most time and most energy, sit there the longest and argue the longest are the ones who end up devoting themselves to it. So that most people, even though they are paid time off the job, won't do it.
PER NORBÄCK: I think that you can't make a system in which everyone has exactly the same power, because you must be free to say that "I'm not interested in this issue" and therefore it is necessary in any system that some people will gain more power. And the questions are: who is going to gain more power, which system is the best, how can you spread the power most? I think that the injection of direct democracy that we have made in Vallentuna spreads the power a little. Not very much but a little. It is just a complement to the normal system and that is the point. The point is not to make a revolution, the point is to spread the power a little bit more, just a little bit. Just so that people are getting more. A tiny step.
CYRIL BELSHAW: But you know - and I'm jumping back to Switzerland now - there are still cantons, very small rural cantons, which legislate about public meetings where everybody comes together and the resolutions are pulled out and people pull up the hands. And I mind you some of these exclude women, but apart from that...
JON BRUNBERG: There is very interesting variation of this that you can see in the micronation system, which deals with spreading of power. In a micro nation you create your own state, which means that you have the sole power. You reacting to this by taking the power but on a very, very, very small scale, which is quite interesting.
ANNIKA DROUGGE : Democracy is not needed.
JON BRUNBERG: No, exactly you can be your own dictator.
OLIVER KALLEINEN: This was actually a proposal from Elgaland Vargaland. They suggested to the world leaders to split up their countries in as many sub states as they have citizens.
CYRIL BELSHAW: This is something to be thought about because when I was looking at Canada, as distinct from Switzerland, I thought that what we could try and do with Canada is to set up small units, equivalent of a canton or whatever. What is more, it could be done linguistically. So that you have communities that are German speaking, you have entities that are Chinese speaking etc, etc, etc. In those communities we could have services in the appropriate language. The point really is getting down to the grassroots again and building up from that, somehow.
PART TWO WILL BE PUBLISHED SOON!