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Surfers' Paradise April 09

Dixe Wills

Dixe WillsJudging by my hefty mailbag each month (what my postman has to say about Third Way readers is, happily, unprintable) I know I speak for many of you when I say that the time when the most pressing problem facing the truly progressive thinker was the correct placement and interaction between one's chaise longue and ottoman has finally drawn to a close. (For what it's worth, I still favour a Nietzschean 'twin room' approach, but I realise that must sound unbearably old-fashioned.)

Apparently, making declarations about what is 'the new black' is now very much the old black, so let it suffice to say that nowadays all the cerebral young Turks are abandoning furniture deployment-based discussions for the wider debate surrounding just how one ought to live in these most modern of times. The global economic crisis/collapse/meltdown/duvet day/[insert preferred degree of disaster here] has focused minds wonderfully, and led one left-wing think-tank/pressure group to challenge the view that there is nothing new under the sun by boldly proclaiming, 'Nothing like this has been tried before.' The this to which they refer is
How to Live in the 21st Century, a project that Compass, the think-tank/pressure group concerned, hopes will make us unthink the thinkable and ponder creatively about our future rather than blunder aimlessly into it like a man who has exchanged his eyes for turnips.

Suggestions for designs for living are canvassed under the rubrics Democracy, Wellbeing and that faithful catch-all, Miscellaneous. To exclude wilfully mischievous submissions, those posting an idea must justify it against a rigorous set of criteria that deals with the desirability, feasibility and ethics of the proposed course of action.
There's everything from a motion calling for an obligatory referendum before the UK enters a war of aggression; to the use of capital gains tax to avoid housing booms and busts; to pay-outs for anyone working abroad on community or environmental projects; to a Trappist-inspired suggestion that 'once a year [everyone] shuts up for the day'. Sadly, by the time you read this, the deadline for submissions will have passed. However, up to April 6 you can exercise your democratic right to put your oar in by joining Compass and voting for your favourites.

Once upon a time, Marx, Lenin et al, dreamed dreams - for good or ill - of sweeping the political system aside and implementing something new. Perhaps it says more about our times than cash ever can that the stated aim of the How to Live in the 21st Century project will use just the two top policies in each category as 'campaign priorities'. Still, where there is no vision, the people perish and all that, and it's touching that the people (all right, Compass members) have been asked to supply their own vision. Whether it will be enough to stop the most vulnerable from doing the lion's share of the perishing is up for debate.