Code Orange: local politicians taking the lead in democratic change

Submitted by webmaster on Sun, 15-07-2018 - 15:30

In The Netherlands the call for democratic reform not only comes from concerned citizens; also a group of worried local politicians named Code Orange has emerged. Although the Code Orange participants more or less seem to support the idea of sortition, they don’t want to wait for it to become a reality. Referring to orange, the color both signaling imminent danger and national unity, they want to start right now getting citizens involved in new ways, but within the current framework. As a matter of fact, the word "code" also has a second meaning: it is short for co-democracy, meaning democracy not just carried out by politicians, but together with the citizens concerned.

The informal leader of the Code Orange group is the somewhat ‘disobedient’ Mr. Bert Blase, currently mayor of the town of Heerhugowaard. In the spring of 2018, just before the local elections, his novel Het verhaal van de wereld (“The Story of the World”) came out. In this novel, three story lines alternate, one of these concerning John Barrenn, Mr. Blase’s forefather. John Barrenn left an intriguing document in an old bible that was handed down the generations. In this document John Barrenn tells about his dramatic flight from a Swiss religious sect, and the quest for freedom of conscience in the midst of the turmoil of 16th century Europe.

The main theme of the novel is that now we live in a time of fundamental change as well. The current, vertical system is malfunctioning - political parties are incapable of being agents of this change. A still to be developed horizontal system will inevitably take its place. Blase sees The Netherlands, historically a freedom minded country, and open to new ideas, as an excellent breeding ground for this transformation.

Interestingly, a German theologian and also writer and local politician by the name of Frank Richter, also drew the parallel between the turmoil of 16th century Europe and current times. Richter wrote a book called Hört endlich zu (“Finally start listening!”). Last April in a brief radio interview on MDR Aktuell (southern East Germany) he stated: “We need to reorganize. At this point, it is not yet clear how this will take shape. Maybe we are in the middle of a transformation that more or less resembles the early 16th century.”