This weekend saw the election of the first Pirate Members of Parliament to a national-level, proportional parliament. (Pirates have previously been elected into the European Parliament, the Czech Senate, multiple state-level parliaments, and many local councils.)
The most fascinating thing about that election wasn’t that it happened a mere seven years after the movement’s founding, but that it happened in another country than where it was founded.
They say that each generation must reconquer democracy. In practice, there seems to be a little more time between each major wave of new political values. Universal suffrage and liberalism gained ground about 120 years ago, the labor movement gained ground about 80 years ago, and the environmental movement gained ground about 40 years ago. But still.
These movements took decades from their inception to their first successful elections. Decades! In contrast, the Pirate Party’s first election success was in 2009, a mere three and a half years after the movement was founded. Today, there are Pirate parties in 70 countries – arguably in varying stages of development – and support is growing pretty much everywhere, slowly but measurably.
Some would say that the Pirate Party movement is “just a protest party”, as if that were something bad. Such parties are part of a functioning democracy. We call them “opposition”. If you’re not content with the way things are run, then by definition, you are dissenting against the incumbent administration.
All major movements have followed the same pattern. They started out as a protest against what they saw as unfair, solidified that protest into a narrow set of policy changes, and ran for office. Then, they deepened into an ideology that could be applied across all of society.
The labor movement protested exploitation of workers, solidified that into a narrow policy that would legalize and strengthen labor unions, and then deepened into an ideology of solidarity. The green movement protested pollution, crafted a narrow policy that would regulate industries, then deepened that into an ideology of sustainability.
The Pirate Party movement is in the middle of this deepening and broadening process. I find it fascinating that whenever I speak to self-identified pirates no matter where in the world, we seem to be in agreement on the most minute of policy details far outside the cores of sharing, transparency, and accountability, as well as how we arrived at that conclusion. It’s true that we started out protesting that some businesses’ neophobia (fear of the new) were allowed to supersede civil liberties online, but we’ve come a long way since.
It’s like the understanding of society spread by osmosis through the Internet. Perhaps the Pirate Parties really are the political arm of the Internet, as some have called the movement.
Anyway, with this election, the movement is officially out of the starter blocks.
The election of Pirate MPs on Iceland is an exciting beginning. My congratulations to Birgitta, Jon-Thor and Helgi on your new jobs.