Since stepping down from the leadership of the Swedish Pirate Party, I have tried to grasp the big picture. Trying to summarize the new lines of conflict in one marketable word isn’t easy, but having talked to brilliant people all over the world certainly helps.
There’s so much changing right now it’s hard, really hard, to back up to 10,000 feet and see what’s new and what isn’t. Everything related to communication and information is intensifying so much, it is easy to mistake something exciting for genuinely new, when it’s really just a difference of scale or ease.
The privacy debate is not really new, for instance. The landmark Entick vs Carrington court case was in 1765, and the United States’ Fourth Amendment guaranteeing privacy dates back to 1791. There’s a bit of question on how to apply these centuries-old principles in new circumstances. All well so far. That recycles the question, what are the new circumstances?
The reason for my asking is that I’ve been trying to identify one word, just one word, that lies at the core of the pirate ideology. One word that can be used as a positive insert-word-here to indicate adherence to pirate ideology.
The Greens, for instance, have used the core word sustainable. This is such a word that describes the Green ideology — not perfectly, but close enough to cover 95% of it. “We want a sustainable society.” Also, this needs to be a word that can be used by businesses that tout adherence as a marketing advantage: “Our hotels are built on sustainable principles.” That is what’s needed: something to fall back on.
I’ve received a couple of suggestions. It’s not going to be a made-up word; part of the point of using words is that they convey meaning in themselves, and don’t need to be explained in a second round of communication.
This spring, I was into humanism as the pirate core. But it’s not really new. The conflict between secularism and religion dates back to the Enlightenment. While those are principles we certainly subscribe to, so do we subscribe to the liberal ideas of privacy and individuals’ rights, as do we subscribe to the socialists’ ideas of the right to education for everybody, although in a new light. So what is this light?
…so I come back to the original question all the time: what has changed, and where are the new lines of conflict?
What I come back to all the time is that monopolies have been broken. Both legal and formal monopolies (think the copyright monopoly, patent monopolies, design patent monopolies) and informal monopolies (notably the monopoly on truth, news reporting, and what culture we are exposed to). Monopolies that have previously been reserved for the elite of society have been totally shattered — the citizens have become empowered.
The key phrase here is that nobody needs to ask permission anymore to make their opinion heard, to partake in society, or to create culture. This, I feel, is at the root of the conflict, and what causes the old elite — the ancien regime — to come down so hard on the new technologies. It used to be, that if you were part of the unwashed masses, you needed to filter everything through society’s elite in order to reach the rest of the masses.
That way, this elite held an effective griplock on what the masses knew — what they were allowed to know — and therefore on what they could say, play, perform, build, and do.
That’s the key thing that has changed. Communication is no longer one-to-many, with the “one” being part of society’s elite, but many-to-many. Or, if you like to phrase it that way, all-to-all. This is something we cherish in the pirate community, that nobody asks permission any longer, and that people stand up for one another’s right to not have to ask permission to broadcast.
So I’m moving towards rephrasing the core principle to empowerment. We want an empowered society. In the balance between individual and government, we stand firmly on the side of the individual, with government’s role being one of allowing individual fulfillment and always assuming good faith. Governing, not ruling.
Nobody should need permission to observe, report, partake, communicate, create, share, or build.
This extends further and fits well in with the tangential thoughts that many pirate parties have been moving towards on education, on jobs, on economy — it fits extraordinary well with the thought of empowerment, of empowering everybody to take charge of their own lives without having to ask anybody’s permission.
So can all the other key tenets — privacy, culture, knowledge, diversity, swarm economy, and transparency — be described as deriving from empowerment? I think they can. What do you think?