Beyond the Soundbite But With Necessary Soundbites, Jamming, 28/04/2016

One of the core issues that came out of this month’s national convention of the New Democratic Party was the embrace of the LEAP Manifesto. Well, it was a qualified embrace. 

Actually, let me qualify that one more time. To my colleagues in the party more accustomed to talking about specific policies, action plans, and legislation, the NDP’s embrace of the LEAP Manifesto was a significant compromise. 

My own book is a little tripper and
complex than LEAP, but that's the idea.
LEAP was intended for the most popular
audience imaginable. I'm writing for a
more niche market of intelligent,
environmentally-minded people whose
pot-smoking habits open them to
conceptual trips.
None of its content was adopted as official policy. The party only agreed to discuss it at the local level – our riding associations and local membership organizations – and use those discussions to inform specific environmental and green economy development policies shaped to our local situations.

But as someone who has a fair bit of experience dealing with political philosophy, this was exactly the point of the LEAP Manifesto. This is a work of philosophy, an essay of a few hundred words. It’s a discussion of ideas, produced by committee. 

Granted, it’s a committee with a noteworthy, intellectually powerful figure. Not a leader, as its communal composition must not be the vision of any one person. But the single most powerful force among its creators as a group.

And no, I’m not talking about Avi Lewis. Frankly, I’m a little peeved that the discussion of LEAP in internal NDP circles has talked so much about the leadership of Avi Lewis in this regard. Chatter has even included the idea that Lewis (with the help of his still-living legend father Stephen) is promoting the LEAP Manifesto as a sneaky route to the NDP leadership.

It strikes me as a little sexist, to be honest, as if so many members of my own party are dazzled enough by the Lewis family legacy that they forget that Naomi Klein is the real philosophical innovator in this relationship. 

She’s the one who wrote the central books of North America’s anti-globalization movement No Logo, one of the most concise analyses of how the security and surveillance justifies and legitimates itself, The Shock Doctrine

And she wrote the philosophical underpinning of the LEAP Manifesto itself, This Changes Everything, which traces the interdependence of new liberal economics and politics with mass-destructive industry. 

You know, it kind of pisses me off that Klein’s own profile kind of disappeared from a lot of the public discourse surrounding the LEAP and the NDP convention. Because she is manifestly the one in charge here. 

The end product of all this is my own personal endorsement of all the philosophies in LEAP. It’s basically the set of moral principles that an ecologically-defined subjectivity would naturally find intuitive and ordinary. 

Communities need to have control and reap any benefits that come from the natural resources of their territory. Indigenous people especially, because their longer cultural relationship with the territory gives them, on average, a deeper knowledge. And as a kind of reparation for colonial mistreatment and cultural genocide.

Naomi Klein's style blends journalistic accessibility
with conceptual analysis more clear than many
professional academic philosophers. She's a
forerunner of the kind of popular outreach where
I think the future of the tradition lies.
Economic structures, principles, and trade deals that curtail this local control or encourage doubling down on destructive industry need to end. States should organize the building of new energy and transit infrastructure housing, but only acting as servants of people, not their masters giving orders from a bureaucratic power centre. 

Just the sort of principles that I avoid describing in my own book, Ecology, Ethics, and the Future of Humanity because I concentrate my argument on a different place. I’m more concerned with the back end of things, because people who think of themselves in a new liberal (or traditionally liberal) framework will never be real environmentalists.

Their individualism makes them think of themselves as absolutely separate from the rest of the world, where an ecological person understands their intimate and intricate connections and interdependence with everything else. That kind of person finds political principles like the LEAP Manifesto much more intuitive and sensible.

So I’ll be spending my summer (if all goes smoothly) leading workshops with our membership and the wider communities of Toronto about ecological politics. Ostensibly, we’ll be debating the ideas being LEAP, but what’s really going on is conversations to change people’s minds, make them think more ecologically about the world and themselves. 

That’s how progress happens.

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