He’s still got the trademark earring in both ears, he turned 40 earlier this year, and by his own admission, John Richardson can still have fun.
“I go to parties and dance and wear costumes and juggle and hula hoop,” Richardson, founder of Pivot Legal Society, told the Straight by phone.
Except the legal part of Richardson’s career is done and dusted, at least for now. Richardson, who was called to the bar in December 2001, has removed himself from the Law Society of B.C.’s list of practising lawyers. He gets to save himself $4,000 to $5,000 in insurance, but he also has no means to practice law. In other words, it offers a totally clean break for what comes next.
“When I came up with the idea of Pivot, I basically made a vow that I would give it 10 years, and then I would do a long [meditation] retreat,” Richardson said. “So in September I did a three-month Vipassana retreat, went to the East Coast, and handed kind care and control of Pivot over to the staff, and appointed Peter Wrinch as the CEO, and just kind of went on retreat, did a lot of soul-searching and, ”˜What am I going to do from this point on, now that the 10 years is up?’”
Richardson said he always felt he wanted to get involved in politics, but no longer saw a role for himself as “just another well-meaning politician”.
“That’s not where the fundamental change needs to happen,” Richardson added. “I think we need structural change in our political system. And so, I got really clear on where I wanted to be putting my energy from that point forward, and that the most effective route to structural change of our political processes and our political institutions was going to be through the Internet, and was going to be through collective decision making.”
So Richardson has now launched Party X, a non-partisan activist group that aims to foster greater participatory democracy in the virtual realm. One way it is doing that is through its new HST Debate App on Facebook.
Richardson said he also believes some of the world’s evolving democracies can emulate a more virtual and participatory democracy, rather than copying what many western democracies have had up to now.
“Because ours is, well, not the best,” Richardson quipped. “It’s pretty challenged in many ways. So I think that, if there are processes for people to have participatory democracy through the Internet, I think that’s what’s going to happen. And I think that those developing democracies will leapfrog us in very much the same way that India leapfrogged the rest by not doing telephone poles, and going straight to cellphones.”