Breaking the fever of a febrile political climate.
Should Brits cherish their ties with Europe or throw away those chains?
How can America be great again with Trump as President?
Who will keep liberal world order in the West, when Germany’s chancellor departs?
Why is the anti-populist French President actually reinforcing populism?
Seemingly wherever we look we see politicians mired in dysfunction and division, geopolitics in a state of flux, reports of political apocalypse. National Politics with a capital P is drowning other news, consuming the collective conversation and those who take part in it. If we let it engulf us, we are left with no space to contemplate anything else.
We live in an unsustainable twenty-first century global economy and an unstable environment. And yet our true calling to lift these shadows is itself overshadowed by the limelight given to partisan self-interest and political brinkmanship. However, the good news is that the systemic change we need requires leadership at every level of society – from the bottom up as much as from the top down. Our livelihood depends on many things, not least a different perspective and broader aspirations.
Despite the current meltdown in the U.K., national government has a long track record of driving positive change through policy innovation. Strikingly, cities are also in a position to change the balance of equilibrium nationally, in a way that is neither entirely mandated nor led by party politics. As such, citizens can play a unique role in addressing imbalances in Politics and in changing the conditions around us so we may prosper.
We have formidable collective energy because the cities where we live are the focal points in implementing change. As former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg said, “the difference between my level of government and other levels of government is that action takes place at the city level”. In our urbanised and highly networked world, positive local action can have an amplified impact on our overall national mood and outlook.
Civic revolution is apolitical, at least at the level of national Politics. Instead of left to right, the spectrum is turned on its head from horizontal to vertical: we turn our attention from political parties of different colours to citizens, communities and cities. We are able to see people and places more clearly when we rise above the entrenched party lines dug in below us. Paradoxically, we see further by looking closer to home.
We never truly escape the political undertow however, and political philosopher Hannah Arendt went so far as to say that any act undertaken in public is a political one. It is true people are becoming more aware that politics is not something that only happens in the House of Commons or the White House, in the Bundestag or the Matignon. Increasingly, it is happening at a more personal and non-party political level.
The collective way forward when the climate is so febrile is through civic engagement and greater participation at a local level, in looking to be civic minded instead of politically dutiful. Building “social capital” – the bonds and bridges between people with a shared sense of belonging and identity – has always been the work of all of us, locally, face-to-face. These are the links and common values we build that enable us to trust one another, building the foundation for better understanding and collaboration. Perhaps this is how we will break the fever nationally.