The Localism Sham

The first thing that struck me about an article on the subject in the Guardian this week, was that I’d corresponded with the author, James Derounian. The second was that I couldn’t add a comment.

I’ve been blocked from commenting on Guardian articles since challenging the claims of Mark Kramer that corporations can profit by solving social problems. Kramer a Harvard professor co-authored ‘Creating Shared Value’ with colleague Michael Porter last year.

Clearly I had attempted to rise above my station in the Guardian’s corporate sponsored hubs.

My business is very much about localism. It began in a practical sense, in 1999 by sourcing the Tomsk Regional Initiative which brought a community bank and micro enterprise development to Russia. With a focus on developing localised economics on a global basis, we launched in 2004 with a business plan to tackle poverty by doing what had proven successful, stimulating local economies bottom up.

At the local level in the Forest of Dean I’d also been involved as secretary of a Parish And Community plan where we’ve seen new development activity.

It’s an entirely voluntary process and I have to say that having James Derounian confirm what we’ve long suspected fills me with anger.  During the two years our parish plan has spanned both the chair and myself as secretary had to deal with the issues of being diagnosed with cancer and finding employment. For all our unpaid efforts, it seems, we’re to be pushed aside in favour of powerful business interests. I’d written recently of a colleague working overseas who was pushed aside and died in poverty, due to similar vested interests.

Locally we found, in spite of the rhetoric on localisation there would invariably be obstacles which prevent us creating the kind of initiatives that would create jobs and reduce environmental impact.   .

They’ve take to the streets over in Totnes where the threat of Costa coming to town has rankled with the Transition movement.

“What’s the use of localism if it doesn’t give communities the power to protect themselves against predatory extractive multinationals?” Rob Hopkins tweets.

That took me back to where we started, with a critique of how capitalism imagines money into existence and accumulates wealth for a minority to the detriment of most of us,  All it takes in unscrupulous human beings.

It takes me back to the business plan we wrote in 2004, saying:

“Dealing with poverty is nothing new. The question became ‘how does poverty still exist in a world with sufficient resources for a decent quality of life for everyone?’ The answer was that we have yet to develop any economic system capable redistributing finite resources in a way that everyone has at minimum enough for a decent life: food, decent housing, transportation, clothing, health care, and education. The problem has not been lack of resources, but adequate distribution of resources. Capitalism is the most powerful economic engine ever devised, yet it came up short with its classical, inherent profit-motive as being presumed to be the driving force. Under that presumption, all is good in the name of profit became the prevailing winds of international economies — thereby giving carte blanche to the notion that greed is good because it is what has driven capitalism. The 1996 paper merely took exception with the assumption that personal profit, greed, and the desire to amass as much money and property on a personal level as possible are inherent and therefore necessary aspects of any capitalist endeavour. While it is in fact very normal for that to be the case, it simply does not follow that it must be the case.”

Our own approach to localism differs from that of Transition in that it begins with influences like Peter Drucker’s ‘Post Capitalism Society and focusses on the ethics of  denying others a basis standard of living.  We arrive seemingly at the same point, advocating localised bottom up development through community enterprise.

I mentioned earlier that I’m unable to comment on the Guardian which has a lot to do with the profitable  world of sustainable development.  There’s a lot to be gained from a life on the conference and speaking circuit. The last thing wanted is an interloper. This was particularly noticeable when I’d introduced our work on Economics in Transition and was again block from commenting for some weeks. As I observe in another recent blog, the work I’ve introduced to several journalists is sooner or later served up as their own original thought.   It becomes a dog eat dog process of pushing others out of the way to build reputation which leads me to describe real cooperation as the holy grail.

While we fight each other,  government does what none of us want.

I’ll allow the colleague, whose life ended after he was pushed out of the way to offer the last word:

‘Growing numbers of people are coming to understand that “them” might equal “me.” Call it compassion, or call it enlightened and increasingly impassioned self-interest. Either way, we are all in this together, and we will each have to decide for ourselves what it means to ignore someone to death, or not.’

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