Welcome to the first of my Starting Monday blogs at patkane.global (reposted on LinkedIn). I want to use them to muse on the last seven days - and hopefully identify something that can propel me through the next seven days. I'll try to make them as objectively interesting as I can - a kickstart to the opening of the week for you as much as me.
Last week's story, across a range of meetings, was essentially about the crisis of politics - and the possibility that there might be new forms of citizenship, of collective and individual action, on the horizon.
I'm the co-initiator, with Indra Adnan, of The Alternative UK - a political platform (inspired by Denmark's Alternativet) which is trying to reimagine a new culture and discourse around power and resources on these islands. We're not a party - but we are holding "laboratories" and conducting experiments with communities who want to progress themselves, here and now, not waiting for top-down politics to deliver.
We talked to a German Social Democratic operator, embedded in one of the federal regions, who spoke to us about the appeal of the (bad, and no relation!) Alternative Fur Deutschland to his working-class constituents (and BTW, Germany still has an industrial working-class). "The AFD essentially say, 'we won't judge you for what you say, for how you eat and drink, for your habits - unlike those liberal elites, from both parties, who are always telling you what you should and shouldn't do'."
His own response is to set up "field offices" at the heart of major housing schemes - their symbol a big, modernist heart - and make them more like creches or art centres than the usual MPs surgery. And then listen. "We just asking people what they need, how they're feeling, we don't come in with an agenda. It's beginning to work.".
The emotional undercurrent beneath political positions are so important. We set up A/UK in response to Trump and Brexit. And like many, we've come to realise that "taking back control" is a much profounder and more heartfelt cry than any surface trigger of anxiety about immigration, or even nostalgic national pride. In an age that casts the future as endlessly disruptive and implacable, It feels like "control" can't just happen at the national or parliamentary level - or more precisely, we can't just wait for that to arrive, after 2 or 4 years of tit-for-tat bickering.
Yet "local power", as we're coming to call it - others say its the new localism, or municipalism - can take many forms. Another A/UK conversation this week was with the friendly and vibrant founder of a summer dance festival, Noisily, who's interested in creating a "new politics" space amidst the revels and repetitive beats of his event.
"People come to our event to feel uplifted and transported from their everyday lives", he said, "but how can we get them to carry that energised feeling with the beyond the festival? What can we get them to fiercely imagine, or commit to?" Great questions: we'll be exploring them anon.
I'm also continuing my curation of FutureFest, and amid much bustling had a Skype call with the extraordinary Alexander Bard. Based in Sweden, Bard is what you might get if you mixed Slavoj Zizek, Richard Branson and Simon Cowell together - he is a philosophically-rigorous disruptive entrepreneur and public intellectual, who appears regularly as a judge on Sweden's version of the X-Factor (and used to be a pop star with Army of Lovers).
In a conversation that went to the stars and back, one theme that was consistent with the rest of the week was Alexander's belief in what he called "digital tribes". Our swirling network world is dissolving or denting all the accepted modern structures of identity - nationality, ethnicity, gender - and, says Bard, we will have to start anticipating new kind of collective being. I want him to speak on a panel about digitality and religion at FFest - Bard started a religion for the internet age called Syntheism a few years ago (doing pretty well, tens of thousands of followers across Europe).
The root of religion is, of course, the latin religare - to tie, to bind. Yet the overall message from last week is that we will have to become better, more skilled, at binding, unbinding and rebinding ourselves, according to circumstances. In order to keep the peace in a society which could easily polarize itself into competing bubbles.
And this is an urgent question. Take Sunday's huge story about how Facebook's apps were used as a stream of data and behaviour, secretly informing marketing companies deployed by those driving for a Trump and a Leave win. Their technique was to use algorithms and psychological tests to compose their own little "digital tribes" - tailoring precise political messages to niches, even individuals.
Is there way that this digital tribal system can be open rather than closed? Socially useful rather than corporately exploitative? The one good thing about the infomation age is that everything, everything, eventually gets surfaced. We then have to figure out how to deal with the next level of social complexity these revelations demand. The ambition and vision to design something better is key.
As a futurist friend of mine tweeted on Sunday: "If Facebook was released today, and their offer was 'talk to and share stuff with your friends while we profile you in detail, sell that info to all comers, and pocket the vast amount of the value generated' you’d delete it in seconds. Communities can be built on other platforms."
Thought for the coming seven days: What would those "other platforms" be? Who's making them? Are you?