Penny Waterhouse: Civil disobedience may be the only way to fight back

There will be a time soon when it is one of the few remaining routes to express our democratic freedoms, writes the co-founder of the National Coalition for Independent Action

Penny Waterhouse
Penny Waterhouse

We are under attack. All agreed at a meeting organised by Melbourne City Council to discuss the future of democracy: the council officer, policy commentators and those active in community issues. I'm in Australia at the moment, and they face the same dangers as us.

We joined up the dots: the secret TTIP trade agreements, which open the door to global profit before ethics; the weakening of representative democracy; the crackdown on dissent and intolerance of diversity; a growing culture of fortress mentality, sanctions and regulation; the massive shift of resources to the super-rich and to multinationals able to operate with impunity. All lead to cuts in services and entitlements, declining living standards and gross inequality.

Surely now is the moment when, as part of civil society, charities and voluntary groups will be visible in their agitation against such dangers. People involved in voluntary endeavour worry about the quality of their services. They also need to worry about the less visible quality of their democratic job: to hold powerful interests to account; to offer assistance to those who are of no interest to either the state or the market; to provide a space for citizen action outside state control.

Voluntary agencies are not good by definition. We have to earn our reputations. As individuals, institutions and as services to relieve privation, we need to account for ourselves. There will be a time soon in the UK when civil disobedience will be one of the few remaining routes to express our democratic freedoms and to say "not in my name". You think my views are outlandish? Then you're not paying attention. Go and join up the dots.

Penny Waterhouse is part of the National Coalition for Independent Action's NextGen network.

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