Monday, 31 October 2011

Party Time

Pirate_Party_BE_20100509_Bxl_Cinquantenaire_P1550668_cc-by-nc_Didier_Misson.jpgOver this past weekend, Pirate Party Australia conducted its yearly (?) get-together. It was held at Sydney, but I followed it up when I could through a live video feed. There were also a live audio feed, live discussions over IRC, and the constantly updating online minutes. You can’t argue this relatively small group of so called pirates don’t know their technology and how to use it in order to organize themselves.
At the basic of levels, I enjoyed the “show” for the example it provided in how the democratic process should and could take place. People were respecting one another, people were asking one another questions and looking for opinions, and in general the atmosphere was one of great cooperation. For example, the current party president stepped aside out of worrying him staying too long at his post will keep the party stagnated. Then there was the motion to stop for lunch. You won’t find any of that at your average Liberals/Labor conference (can anyone tell the difference between the two anymore?).
Entertainment aside, I had a lot of personal interest in the conference. A lot of the party’s key people are people I follow on Twitter. That is, they may be half my age, but in many respects we are like minded. I totally agree with the party’s agenda, and I consider it important for society at large to implement its policies.
Before you dismiss them pirates as a party based on silly notions, check out your newspaper. This day alone had two articles published in Delimiter concerning how Aussies’ online freedom of speech and other basic human rights may be put under threat in the immediate future (see here and here). If you expand the discussion to closely related social movements, you can easily see (the way this opinion article does) how pirates stand at the forefront of rolling social changes.
Due to the party’s relevance, the thought prevailing in my mind as I watched the conference was whether I should join the party or not. If I agree with everything they stand for, and if I want to be active in the areas they stand for anyway, then surely joining to become an official Aussie pirate is the way to go? Hold your registration forms, I am not rushing in there yet. My problem is simple: the pirates’ agenda great and all, but what about other issues affecting our society? How would an elected member of the Pirate Party deal with, say, global warming, education or health? The way things are, the Pirate Party deliberately avoids discussion on non core issues out of the fear of creating internal rifts, but let’s be honest: the party cannot expect to be anything more than an obscurity without better policy coverage.
Looking at the matter from my own personal point of view, no Australian political party, pirates included, will accept me if I am a member of another party. If that is the case then how do I choose which party to join given there’s at least one other party with whose agenda I generally agree (the Secular Party), not to mention the Greens who are the party closest to my views with actual power?
Then there is the fact that most of the Pirate Party agenda items are already covered by the EFA (Electronic Frontiers Australia). The EFA has the advantage of not being associated with any political party. It also has the advantage of having world class experts on its side, the likes of privacy expert Roger Clarke (but many others more). As I am already an EFA member, I currently choose to keep an open and very favourable eye on the Pirate Party but nothing more; at the moment I do not feel the party is ripe enough for me to join it. Unless, that is, I decide to make myself active enough so as to try and change the party from within, but that’s a totally different ball game.


Image by Didier Misson, Creative Commons license

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