Jerry Weyer: From Activists to Politicians [Pirate Visions]
Jerry Weyer points out that Pirates need to embrace their inner politician as they move from activism into politics.
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.
Many Pirates don’t like the word “politician” – it reminds us of all the bad reasons we are active in our movement: old-school, behind closed doors, lobby-driven decision-making without the participation of citizens. After a few years of active campaigning for the Pirate movement I say we should leave this pessimistic attitude behind and fully embrace who we are: politicians!
You know the story of why we call ourselves the ‘Pirate’ Parties – you told it often enough to friends, family and interested citizens during elections campaigns. In only a few years we managed to turn the meaning of the word from describing a thieving group of brutal criminals into that of worldwide activists fighting for civil rights, the free-flow of information, culture and a more participatory democracy. Now the word ‘politician’ might be even more toxic than ‘Pirate’ in some cultures, but embracing the nature of what we do and changing the meaning of the word will be one of our objectives for the next few years.
Embracing the fact that we are politicians is important: you are being honest with your voters and you are being honest with yourself. Activism is an important part of the Pirate movement – activism and politics are not mutually exclusive. But the moment you are a candidate for an election, you are a politician. This means you want to take responsibility, deciding for your community on issues that concern many people around you. As a result, you need to be more than an activist: you have to talk to people who don’t share your opinion, perhaps even find common ground, compromising. As politicians, you need to realize that most people don’t care whether you use Liquid Feedback or Piratepads – your responsibility is not to find the next new tool, but to shape the public debate. It also means that it’s not the journalists’ fault when you and your party are ignored by the media. Do voters know your candidates and their positions? Standing for elections means you have to accept certain rules: embrace them and try to hack the game.
Once you accept that as a Pirate Party representative, you are politicians, use the momentum to change the negative connotation to a positive one. Show that politicians can care about the opinions of their citizens, that participation is not a risk, but an opportunity in a democracy and live the transparency you demand from your political opponents. Only by showing people that politics doesn’t have to be a rigged game, we can we promote our vision of society.
The Pirate Parties International has struggled in the past because its members didn’t realize they were political organizations. When debating statutory amendments on closed mailinglists becomes the rule, rather than discussing political issues and exchanging best practices on how to promote the Pirate values, it is hard to progress as an organization. The good news however is that the PPI has made the right choice and focused on the highlight from the past years: bringing together Pirates in offline conferences. Organizing events like the ThinkTwice conferences is what the PPI should concentrate on: discussing Pirate politics with people from all over the world is the single most important step in realizing that we are actually all – if you want it or not – politicians.
Jerry Weyer is co-founder of the Pirate Party Luxembourg and former Co-Chairman of the Pirate Parties International. He was the lead campaign manager for the first national elections of the Pirate Party in Luxembourg. Jerry currently works as a digital communication consultant.