Antonios Motakis: Using the Right Hat [Pirate Visions]
Tony is an expatriot Greek Pirate who has been active in the Greek and European Pirate Parties. Tony describe how the Pirate Movement is a multi faceted organisation with swarm-like qualities, this means that action can range from a few to the many and still be effective.
These articles are part of the weekly series ‘Pirate Visions’ from different prominent international pirates. We asked them to write as individuals and not in their official capacities in their party or organisation. We hope you would like to join us in discussing the future direction for pirates internationally by commenting on this article, sharing it and reflecting upon what the author is saying.
The Pirate Party stands out as a truly international and grass roots breeding ground for new ideas. In many countries, local Pirate Parties have expanded their policy positions beyond the core topics regarding intellectual monopolies. Thereby taking full advantage of the mass participation that the Internet allows.
This is not merely a process of democratic voting; inherently unbureaucratic processes allow ad-hoc groups to form and act quickly. Many Pirate Parties incorporate a “three Pirate rule”: all it takes to speak (or act) on behalf of the whole party is three Pirates, as long as the initiative is compatible with the party’s positions. This style of democratic do-ocracy has proven to work very well, with surprisingly little risk of abuse. This is an example of a policy that one would be hard pressed to accept, if it hadn’t already proven itself in action.
Nonetheless internationally, the movement has been through a series of challenges, some positive, such as the founding of additional international organizations (e.g. the European Pirate Party). However the movement has also been through some “darker” moments; for example a few prominent Pirate Parties have decided to withdraw from Pirate Parties International (PPI).
The Pirate Party is a living and changing movement. In the grand scheme of things these events are nor positive nor negative; we can look at them as merely a part of the changing nature of the movement.
Multiple informal initiatives vs. collective action
The Pirate Party is an abstract concept, and in reality isn’t taking any initiative; it is the individuals that flock together and get to work. Most of the time this can happen regardless of the regulations of a Pirate Party; the work sometimes happens informally.
Anyone, anywhere, and at any time may reach out to other people and get to work on issues that matter without getting permission from anyone, thanks to modern technology and the openness of the movement. There might be even multiple groups, or sole individuals, producing posters, artwork for the media, articles, policy proposals and detailed plans of action.
However, it is also necessary to act in the name of the organization; being able to take an “official” stance, can make a powerful difference when trying to influence the media, and other organizations. This is also a condition in order to interact with other bodies, including national parliaments. It is left for the statutes and the bylaws to elaborate in detail who gets to speak on behalf of the Pirate Party, and under which conditions.
These formalities have their place, but most of the time they can suck the momentum out of a growing movement. However most of the time Pirate Parties have done remarkably well so far by adopting processes with the minimal bureaucracy needed. This is where the example of the “three pirate rule” shines; instead of having a complex voting procedure, or a committee decision, any three party members may opt to take action on behalf of the party at any time.
In figurative speech, we can refer to the different “hats” we wear in everyday life, depending on the roles we undertake at any given time. All of us wear the “human being” hat, and everyone in the movement may occasionally wear the “Pirate” hat, when they speak out about Pirate issues. Further extending this metaphor, we could say that any party’s “Pirate Party” hat can be shared by all Pirate Party members. This is to stress the point that organizations do not take action, ever; it is always individual activists wearing the “Pirate Party” hat at any given time.
A convenient illusion
Pirate Parties never act; it is only individuals that can say and do things. As true as that may be, we still find value in letting individuals act in the name of the organization.
The words “Pirate Party” themselves have already established themselves as a successful brand; the success of one country’s Pirate Party often influences results in all other countries. PPI and PPEU can also be brands, merely labels; but this can be a very powerful tool to generate public awareness around our issues.
The model of empowering individuals to act in the name of the Party that they are a member of, can also apply to PPI, PPEU and any other Pirate organizations. Of course, PPI and PPEU do not have any individual persons as members, only member Parties. However we can stay within this mindset, and give to the member organizations the privilege to act in certain ways without requiring the approval of a bureaucratic body within PPI.
Just as individual members of Pirate Parties can act in the name of their party, we likewise need to consider models where member parties of PPI and PPEU may act in the name of the umbrella organization, when those actions agree with the shared principles of all member parties.
The conditions are relatively conductive to take this direction, as we have already negotiated and approved the Common European Election Program from the European Elections 2014. People have also started working in shared policy proposals for PPI. Nonetheless we do not need an extensive shared policy, just a need to act on common issues.
PPEU is a very young organization, and PPI is still going through growing pains. The organizations (and any others) will still evolve and reform in the future in multiple ways. This is also in regard to how the “shared hats” will be handled and how member Parties will be allowed exploit them.
The challenge of working together
As a concluding remark, it is important to stress again the swarm-like, multiple initiatives nature of the movement. Different ideas on how we should organize collectively are not only natural, they should also be welcome. As multiple groups can take initiative in parallel, as people see fit, different people can have different ideas on how we should organize at an international level, or even what our goals should be.
It is important to handle these facts without judgment on whether they are good or bad; and more importantly to not let these devolve into merely the elaborate background for unpleasant flame wars. People may have different ideas on how the Party should work, and what should be done next. Naturally, this can create conflict and unpleasant situations. Also, with the movement communicating predominantly through the Internet, the Parties’ communication channels are often an attractive target for trolls of any kind.
As tempting as it is, it is preferable to refrain from being taken in by these reactions, and instead respond to the important issues by looking into what can be done. Personally I find it welcome that multiple initiatives can co-exist, and I don’t feel compelled to abandon one for the other. Instead, we can look into what we can learn from these, and try to reconcile the differences in the future in a constructive way.
A mindset of positive action can make a big difference.
Tony describes himself as a technology geek, who has always been sensitive to the core Pirate Party issues on intellectual monopolies, and especially patents. He has been a member of the Pirate Party of Greece since its official founding in 2012. Permanently living outside of Greece, he has been able to represent the Pirate Party of Greece in Pirate Parties International and European Pirate Party meetings and conferences. Today he serves as International Coordinator of the Pirate Party of Greece, and as a Board member of the European Pirate Party.