Date: Dec 7, 2012 2:02 PM
Author: kirby urner
Subject: Re: WG 13 Announcement: CERME 8 [Turkey]

On Thu, Dec 6, 2012 at 10:15 PM, GS Chandy <> wrote:

> My question is: how, in even such 'nominal democracies' that are extant
> today, do we go about making people aware of such facts of our economic and
> social lives? By and large, we do not know how to do that.

Paul and I talk passed each other a lot because he casts himself in the
role of a "big government" advocate (as a conservative might put it),
whereas I'm more interested in "democracy in the workplace" and/or/also
"micro democracies".

I have a history with DemocracyLab ( and its project to
shepherd social networking software to fruition which supports democratic
forms of self steering (more trustworthy than mob rule by warlord dons, the
Mafia model) but perhaps only at an ultra-local level.

Picture a building of boarding school size, a small campus, with 200
permanent or semi-permanent staff and a constant turnover of some 1000-2000
passers through or semi short stay visitors.

This could be a democratically administered institution with integrated
medical facilities, perhaps rather deep in some wilderness, perhaps
dome-covered. Or maybe picture a small military base like on Okinawa, but
reprogrammed (i.e. "converted") to run as a democracy, not as a military
hierarchy (more Athens, less Sparta).

The Occupy camps were incomplete experiments along these lines,
demonstrations. The chief concern of many campers was to role model a
micro-society in which egalitarian ideas and spontaneous organization were
possible. Doing so in the middle of a city, with lots of traffic, in full
view of the police and justice center, not to mention city hall, provided a
useful microcosm, an experiment. I learned a lot, felt like my experiments
at CERN or on the Hubble were finally being run. The camp became
overwhelmed by folks in need of social services, with the onlooking social
service people feeling they had better treatment facilities in the vicinity
whereas the camp was cold, the bathrooms clogged. The social service
people helped the camp mercy kill itself. We saw we weren't able to cope
with a city's caseload, but we'd all learned a lot. I posted a lot of my
own analysis in Psychiatry Today (a blog post):

Now think of refugee camps around the world, lots of them. No, not just in
the Middle East, not by a long shot. Think of how any community of any
real size needs to self organize in some way. Software might help, but
even more useful are living demonstrations. If one refugee camp gets its
act together and structures as a democracy that works, a success story...
that could prove catching. But you need catalyzing ingredients, and you
need ways to spread the memes you want to spread (a kind of
cross-fertilization). This might require a small fleet of smallish jets,
with various paint jobs and tail fins (an art project for homeless kids:
show Food Not Bombs fleet, what it might look like).

Paul is thinking in terms of a Federal government, on the model of Sweden
or Norway, but perhaps in the vicinity of Washington DC somewhere. I'm not
sure where he plans to buy the land and send the bulldozers. It could take
awhile to construct a parallel reality in which competent Federal
leadership gets a building. How will it then get its share of the taxes?
Will Congress approve. Just seems like a long shot to me. And besides,
were Paul successful in creating a competent Federal government, it would
need to run democratically, by definition, so here again there might be
need for DemocracyLab and what we "the Occupy people" learned from our
study of refugee camps. We could offer a few pointers.

So maybe someday, Paul, the new president, and I, the seasoned foodie, can
have a good meetup and help bring about the moral revolution he envisions
for his country.