Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What's In A Name?

Caption: A graphic from the web site of the German Pirate Party, which captures for me their "technischengeweltshaftlich" (see NOTE 1) take on things.

Image credit: Cropped by Cujo359 from German Pirate Party web site

I ran across this bit of European political news as I was checking in at a tech site I sometimes visit:
Germany's upstart Pirate Party has overtaken the Greens to become the third strongest political grouping in the country, according to a new poll.

The survey by Forsa for broadcaster RTL showed support for the Pirates, whose platform is based on internet freedom and more direct participation in politics, pushing up to 13 percent and outstripping the Greens for the first time.
At first dismissed as a passing fad by the established parties, the Pirates followed up their success in Berlin with a strong showing in the state of Saarland last month and now look on track to make it into regional assemblies in two other states -- North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig Holstein -- next month.
The Greens, who rose to prominence in the 1980s on a pacifist, anti-nuclear platform, are now struggling to differentiate themselves from the big established parties after CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel dropped her support for nuclear power last year following the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

German Pirate Party overtakes Greens, survey by Forsa shows
In many European countries, it's possible for minor parties to achieve representation if they can capture a certain minimum percentage of the vote. It's been more than a few times I've wished we had that here.

What I found interesting about this was the Reuters article's description of this new party. It sounds like the sort of things the Occupy movements are after here. It also sounds like a better way to organize a society than the sort of top-down approach the major parties favor both there and here. It's also interesting that they have now overtaken the Greens, an established party that has an imitator here in America, too. In America, of course, the Greens have always been politically irrelevant, but there are times I think they don't mind that as much as they ought to.

A quick cruise of their website suggests that Reuter's description of the Pirate Party isn't too far off. Their position statements emphasize the importance of modern electronic communications and their use as a tool for political and other forms of collaboration. Their emphasis, if my rather bad german is to be trusted, is on making as many aspects of it as possible free to the general public, at least, to borrow from American open source software advocates, in the "libre" sense of the word "free".

Well, if that's true, then sign me up.

There was a discussion of this topic at that tech site, and one of the comments I found especially interesting was this one, which responded to the earlier comment about the name of the party:
Every time I see news about these "pirate" parties I keep thinking that using the word "pirate" in the name is not that good an idea.
Sure, we all know pirates (the swashbuckling kind) are cool but I'm pretty sure that's not the associating most people will make.
I agree, but I love the fact that names seem to become less important. It has always been one of the biggest flaws. Everyone associates different things with them and they are nothing more like a historical thing that has nearly nothing to do with reality.

OS News Comment thread
It's fair to say that this is true of our parties. Whatever the Democrats and Republicans once stood for, that distinction ended a long time ago. In a sense, both are republican, since they both run to be elected as our representatives in our various governments. At the same time, neither seem to be all that interested in representing us. Neither party strikes me as the least bit interested in more direct citizen involvement, either. Occupy Oakland's experiences are an excellent example of how Democrats deal with direct action these days. This cartoon sums up their attitude as well as it does Republicans'.

Names for organizations quickly become meaningless in most areas of human endeavor. A catchy name can grab peoples' attention, but after a while, once the instinct most organizations have for self-preservation kicks in, it means very little. Maybe American corporations' habit of changing names every few years isn't such a bad thing, after all.

NOTE 1 Badly mangled psuedo-German for "technician's view of the world".

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