Sunday, April 09, 2017


There is a whole new literature out there about remaking the world. Its the mood of the moment.

Before introducing two recent titles, I keep returning to some of Jean Paul Sartre's thoughts and words - notes I've taken whilst reading 'At the Existentialist Cafe' by Sarah Bakewell [reviewed in this earlier post].

One of Sartre's biggest things was the notion of freedom. With freedom comes choice. Ultimately you must take the plunge and do something. The whole mixture of things around you is 'the situation' out of which you must act. Sartre writes: 'Starting from where you are now, you choose. And in choosing you also choose who you will be.' This is 'difficult and unnerving' and 'the need to make decisions brings constant anxiety', To make it more stressful, says Bakewell, what you do really matters. 'You must make choices as though you were choosing on behalf of the whole of humanity.' Sartre believed that if you avoid this - claiming to be the victim of circumstance or of someone's bad advice' you will be choosing a fake existence cut off from your own 'authenticity'.

It is possible to be authentic and free as long as you keep up the effort. There is no traced-out path to lead a man to his salvation. He must constantly invent his own path. If he does so, he is free, responsible, without excuse, and every hope lies within him. [Simone de Beauvoir shared his views and spoke out for women's freedoms in 'The Second Sex']

It was 1945. Europe was in ruins, the Death Camps had been discovered and atom bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.A new world had to be built out of the old, Sartre's big question was 'If we are free, how can we use our freedom well in such challenging times'. He believed  we have to decide what kind of world we want and make it happen. In his essay 'The End of War' he wrote that from now on we know we can destroy ourselves. If we want to survive we have to decide to live.


'Flatpack Democracy' is a DIY Guide to Creating Independent Politics by Peter Macfadyen. []

We are used in Britain to the idea of Independent candidates. They are usually considered somewhat eccentric. Lone Independents can make a difference and serve a purpose but for Peter Macfadyen this was not enough.

Disgusted by local elections which he considered to be a democratic sham, he decided that the way forward was to take over the whole council in Froome, Somerset. They succeeded in capturing 17 seats and have set out to completely change the culture and purpose of the Council, successfully creating a track record of projects and schemes that have proved to be of real value to the people of the town. His book explains how to go about this.

There is another movement abroad to build a coalition of Greens, Liberals and others to take on the major parties and move the country towards proportional representation. Macfadyen doesn't favour that route.

A few other places in Britain are following the same path, either influenced by FD or arriving at the same place by a different route. They include: Liskeard (Cornwall), Newbuty (Berkshire), Bradford-on-Avon (Wiltshire), Wells, Wedmore and Shepton Mallett (Somerset), Arlesey (Bedfordshire), Buckfastleigh (Devon) and Alderley Edge (Cheshire)


See: Video Interview with McFadyen on Educating Independence website.

McFadyen writes a 'Flatpack Democracy report: The People Are Revolting' (March 16th 2017) on

How Flatpack Democracy beat the old parties in the People’s Republic of Frome
On 7 May, a small Somerset town voted against traditional party politics and gave a coalition of independents control of all 17 seats on its council. As the crucible of ‘flatpack democracy’, Frome is leading a small-scale political revolution – and it’s one that is spreading
John Harris/22.5.2015


This engaging book, first published in 2015, has acquired added relevance in our new world order. Popovic's light touch and fluent story telling make it a pleasure to read. It delivers valuable ideas. Here's some basic info from

'Srdja Popovic outlines his philosophy for implementing peaceful world change and provides a model for activists everywhere through stories of his own experience toppling dictatorships (peacefully) and of smaller examples of social change (like Occupy Wall Street or fighting for gay rights). Through examples of using laughter and music (e.g., Pussy Riot) to disarm the opposition and gather supporters, to staging a protest of Lego Men in Siberia (when flesh-and-blood people would have been shot), to a boycott of Cottage cheese in Israel to challenge price inflation while organizing around rice pudding to overthrow the dictator of the Maldives, Popovic uses true and sometimes outrageously clever examples of the ways in which non-violent resistance has achieved its means. Popovic argues in favor of non-violent resistance not for ideological reasons (as persuasive as those are) but because non-violence actually works better than violence. This is an inspiring (and useful!) guide for any activist--and a thoroughly entertaining read for any armchair politico. In addition, the stories Popovic tells here are hilarious, accessible, inspiring, and at times outrageous. Aside from his own experiences, he includes little-known stories from the lives of Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Harvey Milk, Martin Luther King Jr., etc.'

Srdja Popovic, the slacker-turned-world revolutionary--named "the secret architect of the Arab Spring" by The Atlantic--who orchestrated the non-violent fall of Milošević in his native Serbia, and went on to influence peaceful uprisings from Georgia to Zimbabwe to Lebanon.

Srdja Popovic was one of the founders of the Serbian nonviolent resistance group Otpor! Otpor!’s campaign against Serbian president Slobodan Milosovic was successful in October 2000 when thousands of protestors took over the Serbian Parliament. After the revolution, Popovic served a term as a member of the Serbian National Assembly.

In 2003, Popovic and other ex-Otpor! activists started the non-profit the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS). CANVAS has worked with activists from 46 different countries, including Zimbabwe, Burma, Iran, and Venezuela, spreading knowledge of the nonviolent strategies and tactics used by Otpor!. Recently, CANVAS worked with the April 6 Movement, a key group in the 2011 Egyptian uprising.
In November 2011, Foreign Policy Magazine listed Srdja Popovic as one of the "Top 100 Global Thinkers" of 2011 for inspiring the Arab Spring protesters. In 2012 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2014 he was listed as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum in Davos.

See: 'Meet Srdja Popovic, the secret architect of global revolution' Jon Henley Guardian 8 March 2015


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