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New normals
Sunday 30th June 2019 @ 4:10 pm

‘Proceduralism’ as it turns out, is pretty important.

It is the unwritten rules by which social order is kept when political adversaries agree to stick to the same rules of play. Peaceable transfer of power depends on it. Normative nonviolent and diplomatic society keeps on track because of it. This is the grandeur of status quo. Therefore, on one level it is the epitome of ‘nothing changes here.’

Except it’s not – one of the very simple, completely verifiable and unchangeable rules of biological life (of which we are wonderfully a part), is that everything changes here. Nothing stands still. If you’re not changing, you’re not growing, and if you’re not growing, you are biologically dead. Every. Single. Living. Thing. Changes. It is the definition of life.

So how do we hold these truisms together? The proceduralism which makes for peaceable social ordering (everyone abides by the same rules, nothing changes here) and the fact that to be alive means to be constantly changing?

The reality of course is the question is a false dichotomy, i.e., it is true that one of the foundations of ‘everyone playing by the same rules’ is that the rules are constantly evolving and changing. Change is set actually part of proceduralism. That’s why we need people to play by the same rules – one year they may work for you, the next year they may remove you from power. By keeping to the normative actions when you are in power, you affirm those normative actions are the same for everyone – you may need those normative procedures to get you back to power, once those same procedures have removed it from you!

So what? Why this conversation?

My angst with Trump, with Brexit, with Boris looking unstoppable, with an almost frozen Cold War heating up, with consumer driven capitalism (and consumer driven faith, consumer driven education, consumer driven health and consumer driven therapeutic welfare) with actual existential environmental crisis, and with political leaders on this wee island where I live getting paid to deliver a government they are not delivering … my angst with all of this, is the normal course of proceduralism being challenged to breaking point. The ‘rules’ are not being used to keep normative society functioning, the rules are being shape–shifted to shaft opponents, to maximize power–grabs and to coerce communication into the fingers of the fat controllers.

Remarkably the system has proved curiously robust – people who would never have got within a continent of real political power two decades ago (due to perceived lack of serious judgment, authenticity and ability) are now in the rooms that are creating agendas for the next two decades. The system has allowed them to grab power, and as that most deeply set of human characteristics demands (the primate hierarchy) people do not let go of power easily.

We are living in the gray of a change of world epoch. The Modern world is dead (as Stanley Hauerwas notes however, it may be dead but it is still making a bit of a stink).  The Post–Christian Age of technology is dawning, and the only things we know, are that we don’t know what it is yet and the pace of this change is unsurpassed in previous world history.

What an exciting time to be alive. Yes, I am deeply troubled by the old unwritten rules of proceduralism being mocked. Yes, I am enormously distressed by the lack of progressive leadership for common good visible at the highest levels in the Western world.

But yes. Yes we can face the challenges. Yes we can stand for authenticity. Yes we can believe that we are better together, and yes we can build a new normal where those who rise to leadership in the nations are women and men of trustworthy character who desire common good for all.

What we do now matters. What you do now matters. We are building a future not our own. If the rules of ‘normal’ are being re–created, let’s make sure they are being re–created well.


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