So I was wrong when I wrote that Occupy Wall Street would at best help draw media attention to inequality. I had suggested that instead folks should spend their time building startups that disrupt existing institutions. It now seems that the Occupy Together movement has the potential to disrupt one of the most important institutions altogether: the political process.
Unlike much of the media, however, I don’t think it’s important for there to be immediate concrete suggestions for what to change. In fact, I fear that any quickly formulated demands would either be empty (“jobs for all”) or fall far short of the magnitude of change we actually need. Instead, as I pointed out in my rant from last week, what we really need are a set of values that can form the basis for a future politics and society. Having spent more time thinking about it, here are the values that I personally would hope to see embraced: sustainability, tolerance, transparency, individuality and enlightenment.
I am sure that there may be others but I picked these because I believe that they are each foundational for the kind of future politics and society that I would like to see. Sustainability is there because we need to make the environment an integral part of decision making. Tolerance is the basis for freedoms of speech and religion. Transparency suggests a different approach to disclosure for governments and corporations. Individuality is about sources of meaning. Finally, enlightenment grounds society and politics in science and a quest for improvement.
If we don’t engage in that foundational discussion first, we will be immediately caught up in highly tactical debates, such as how to change tax rates. That already takes the need for most money to be funneled via government as a given instead of seeing whether we can invent new systems entirely. The success of Kickstarter suggests to me that we can. So let’s first agree on our values and see if we can build a broad consensus around those that would cut across many of the current dividing lines.