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I repeat that what we achieve through the 'power to vote' (without those further structural changes) is only 'nominal democracy'. [I believe that this is what Kirby Urner is getting at when he discusses the "Occupy" movements, for all their flaws and weaknesses (mainly, I believe, that they are not about to give us anything like a 'sustainable democracy' that can be applied across society)].
You should think of me as an empirical scientist wanting to give more of my fellow humans more chances to experiment (successfully and unsuccessfully) with ways of self-governance.
Such experimentation is happening already, as people practice steering school boards, small businesses, county governments, small countries, mega-states, religious organizations, non-profits, unions, zoos, game parks, naval fleets and so on and so forth.
Institutions in other words.
Humans develop them (institutions), sometimes from shared, open, thought-out designs, and sometimes more haphazardly, or in response to shamans or diviners who instruct based on intuitions (visions, prophecies).
What I'd like to see continued, is the possibility of humans coming together on the basis of shared values and visions, to create communities and civilizations in great numbers, partially overlapping and engaged in the exchange of goods, services, and personnel.
In the Occupy movement we saw a great many encampments spontaneously forming and individuals actively exploring ways to form community. A system of arm bands was spontaneously adopted with people semi-choosing their roles. Forms of governance were tried.
I'm not claiming some bold success, only there seemed a lot of pent up willingness to creatively explore institution building. I'd like to facilitate more of that happening.
Where a lot of self governance is clearly needed and has to be there already in some form, is in refugee camps, especially those of long standing. I would like to facilitate the positive synergetic outcomes that might result from greater cross-fertilization not just of abstract ideas, ideologies, meme-plexes (complexes), but of artifacts, such as GIS and GPS devices, smart phones and the like.
I'm not into dealing in outward weapons (as a trade), so lets say roughly "civilian goods" though straying into para-military in that "survival gear" might be army surplus and you have more than just usual urban skills needed, such as maybe the training to jumping from an airplane with a parachute (I've only done that once so far).
In addition, there are categories of software that might be developed that distill a lot of practice and wisdom in an easy to use form. The minute taker at the meetings is entering into the shared database, so minutes are easily called up later. Roles have been defined, and committees.
You might be thinking of a congress right now, with its shared speaking chambers and smaller meeting rooms. That would be apt. The congressional record flows to the electronic archives, and goes out to the people via Web. Or call it a "general assembly" -- it might just be virtual much of the time, or a combination (we played with this at Occupy, having a general assembly with live feeds). Smaller meetings: also virtual much of the time. That's why the telephone was and is so convenient: you don't need to burn fuel to get the sense of the meeting.
Finally, when it comes to localizing an encampment, you want a "not tacky" aspect, which means good feng shui with the environment, not just rows and columns. Encampment architects have more to work with as we fill the inventory with new catalog items, including but not restricted to new kinds of dome.
J. Baldwin's "pillow dome" is promising in that the triangular shell panels are like sealed pillows of inert gas that's non-filtering or UV-damping as required. The Eden Project in Cornwall (UK) shows off similar concepts.
Could a people evolve new forms of government out of the blue? They bring a lot of cultural baggage with them. However, skilled designers could create small self government communities from zero and get them going, set them running, themselves as participants. This was the promise of moving to a New World not so long ago: many peoples immigrated to North America hoping to start over with new patterns for civilization. The USA itself was such a project. We can argue how successful.
The point being: how do we allow many such experiments to continue and/or get off the ground? Low barriers to entry is part of it. The open source movement, in not enforcing intellectual property rights, but rather encouraging sharing, is starting over with the basic machines a civilization might need.
Exactly which 50 or 100 machines those would be is worth discussing, but there's no need to reach some "right answer". The goal is to get a lot of people launched within their chosen experimental communities, and to have better than adequate shelter (protection from extremes) and nutrition in the process.
The Occupy encampment we created in downtown Portland, was in no way a full cycle, full service community. It was "half-assed" by any account. I was fine with it being taken down when the time came. However, as an experiment, I consider it both successful and a source of personnel. New contacts were made. Community building happened, and has continued happening.
The role of voting and polling is somewhat complicated. I have this book 'Democracy Despite Itself' to think about as well. It's not like we expect humans to be suddenly more rational or logical than they are. The book's thesis is participation in and of itself smooths the pathways for governance to happen, in a somewhat "between the lines" way sometimes.
It's like when individuals guess "how many jelly beans in a jar": their individual guesses are often wildly off, but the aggregate intelligence is actually spot on. The effects of "averaging" are not as simple as the operations of adding and multiplying in arithmetic would lead us to believe.
"Groupthink" is both a descending spiral, a bad trip, and a soaring to higher levels, i.e. the power of groups to work for better or for worse is amplified beyond the idea of "individuals working independently" in some simple-minded simple sum. Homeostasis, equilibrium, stabilizing self-governance, a balancing act -- whatever you wish to call it, it sometimes happens, even when no one individual is the homunculus of the leviathan's intelligence (allusion to Hobbes).
Many will seek to "channel" and / or claim to "predict" the group mind, all of which is just more welcome participation.
You would clearly understand all of this if you actually worked out what democracy really means - "government OF the people; BY the people; FOR the people". That takes some doing - both in terms of 'understanding' and in terms of 'practice on the ground' (and there is very little experience in the world of that needed practice).
What the power to vote provides is only some initial, halting moves towards government BY and FOR the people.
NONE of the above means I am dumping on the 'power to vote' or on those who died to bring about that important - even crucial - step to democracy. But we all do need to recognize that the 'power to vote' by itself will bring about nothing more than 'nominal democracy'. This is something that many proponents of 'anti-democracy' realize pretty well but that very few 'pro-democracy' proponents adequately realize.