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Frontiers of democracy: meaningful participation


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As discussed in the previous topics, a statement that is confirmed by logical analysis and practice is what a democracy that is complacent, has stopped to evolve and develop and stagnates, at some point sooner or later will be transformed, or transform itself into a variant of the default organization of pre-human and human herds that, an elitist hierarchy.

This is not a pure philosophy topic as some signs to that have been appearing consistently and persistently, for example: increasing polarization of incomes; social inequality; diminishing efficiency and productivity of social services; not to mention existential problems such as climate change. And who said that the opioid crisis does not have a relation to the perception and realization of an individual in a complex contemporary society? Indeed, we have programs and mechanisms to address these long-standing problems but over the decades they have proven ineffective in solving the problems rather than mitigating them, to a limited extent and within limited time frame. Handouts didn't solve the problems of child poverty; social inequality and citizen's participation in the democracy. Universal income won't solve them either because these approaches are based on a failing assumption: that keeping the status quo and throwing more and more public money at it can solve its essential problems. Of course, it is (and quite obvious) logical self-contradiction.

In this post I will attempt to propose some directions of possible change. It may develop into a longread but I'll try to keep it to the minimum possible. A comment that needs to be made upfront will be on how realistic would be to achieve anything like this in a practical settings and on that I cannot be over-optimistic given that, as already commented, over the centuries already, mechanisms of effective and meaningful change were not developed. Still, even for the record I believe that in the least, the possibility of such a change needs to be stated.

To continue, the democracy needs to evolve. Like evolution it is a moving track, where those who slow down or stop fall off. Evolving means not being satisfied with the achieved progress (if and when it has been achieved) and creating new objectives, new milestones and new frontiers. I think that the next frontier of a modern democracy cannot be measured in a number, but has to include, and be centered around the concept of meaningful participation. Meaningful participation, is not a minimal standard of living and not another handout program. It's a promise and assurance of the society to an individual (I wouldn't state, "a right" as the word is overloaded) to offer all necessary means and avenues to achieve satisfying participation in the society, should the individual so desire and choose.

The objective being stated, the next set of questions is "how". And answering them would require essential or even ground-breaking changes (so, see the disclaimers above). Several key directions can be named, not pretending to be exhaustive.

Open, transparent and egalitarian democracy: the democracy is a continuous; active and open process open to all citizens who are willing to participate immediately and in any convenient to them form.

Replace "democracy by the representatives (and elites) for the people" with "democracy by the people, via representatives". Representatives are facilitators and coordinators of the continuous democratic process, not the owners of it. There's no distance between a citizen and participation in the active democracy, neither time-wise, nor process, format, access and so on, wise. Remove barriers between the citizens and the democracy.

All public affairs are completely transparent to the citizens, upfront and by default. Elitism and entitlement not tolerated, not only through citizen's control but the absolute transparency and absence of situations and environments where it could emerge. That should include any and all forms of traditional and historic unreasonable in an open and egalitarian democracy entitlements, of which anyone can cite examples. Dr. Charlie Smith disaster and similar disasters cannot happen in an active and transparent democracy, where topics are raised, discussed and addressed immediately, hopefully before they cause harm (and unnecessary and avoidable expense) to the society.

Effective and open public service: public service has two essential functions in the society: providing the necessary services; and enacting the objective of meaningful participation. There is no place in the public service for elitism and entitlement; public service is not a corporation, and in fact, the opposite of a corporation; it exists not for its own sake but for the services to the society; it has to be effective; affordable to the society; and fulfill the objective of openness and meaningful participation; the role of the unions in the public sector would likely need to rethought as well.

Cooperative economy: a new sector of economy can participate in fulfilling the objective of meaningful participation. It can provide services in many areas of public life, from food and hospitality to public transportation, education, hospital and long-term care and many others, providing outstanding service to the society and fair compensation and benefits to the employees. As an aside on this topic, in several countries of Europe I experienced to a great satisfaction, public cafeteria, taverns etc. with simple, home-style food of utmost quality and taste, and at more than reasonable cost. For some reasons, it is entirely absent, as a concept, in this country.

Free and continuous access to education: a must in the knowledge economy, and democracy.

There has to be more. And in conclusion: yes I know, and we all heard it. "Such a can of worms! Just try changing this one paragraph. No, cannot be done in a hundred years". Of course. Sure. Yes, we said it.

Edited by myata
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    • By myata
      Just out of the head recently, without even attempt to exhausting:
      - Canada's PM found in violation of ethics multiple times
      - Canada's Governor General retired in a scandal
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      - Dismal epidemiological preparedness and response to Covid-19
      - Phoenix system disaster
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    • By myata
      Just don't credit me, please - all of this was tried before often with certain success (while it lasted). For example, in the great republic of Rome there was a class of patricians and everybody else that is, the regular folk, plebeians (OK let's leave out the slaves for now, times have changed in two millenia).
      Very naturally, patricians lived in nice mansions and held top positions in the public administration of all levels, paid for by public taxes.
      Understandably, they had priority and higher quality access to public services, paid for by public taxes. Like state of the art hospitals with stellar standard of service run by a multi-million public CEO (paid for by public, you get it). Like better city services. Like high speed Internet in remote cottages and so on. And vaccines in the times of pandemics were distributed, understandably, through the local facilities.
      The great system was entirely free and voluntary! Everybody, even a lowest plebeian could one day win a recruitment lottery, be hired into a top (public) management position and become a patrician with a nice mansion and etc. as above.
      Understandably, growing in a family of patricians had certain advantages leading to higher academic results naturally translating into chances of being hired into public administrations. But even with mediocre academic results many a patrician offspring managed to get hired into diverse public administrations, entirely through resoluteness of spirit and positive attitude, and despite stringent and unforgiving hiring process (everybody else got the standard "this position received too many applications so a lottery was applied" response).
      And the best of all is that the country was the best in the world. Because nobody cared (except for, possibly, bread and circuses), and almost everyone was happy.
      And so, why not try it again, if it worked so nicely, two thousand years ago in Rome? Just make it official, less misunderstanding, fewer unnecessary disturbing the public scandals and down with the confusion! Everybody is entitled to their rightful entitlements, out of the common public wealth. Is there anything wrong about it? Anything to be uncomfortable about?
    • By myata
      A small town cooperative bid and won contract to run public transport. No multi-million CEOs and billion advertising budgets. Flat three-level organization: novice; specialist; coordinator. Coordinators regularly rotate in operational positions to stay in touch with the reality. Use of advanced technology in highly efficient operation. Decent pay and full benefits. All profit, after taxes, shared between the owners (not Google-style "owners" with microscopic shares but actual owners with share determined only by the time with the company). Part of profit invested into a recreational facility for the owners. Opened to public, run more efficiently than private competition and with better value for the patrons. Expand, open whole new branch, attract more associates and workers and so on. Invest more in the owners well-being and pay more taxes.
      Taxes aren't thrown to pay for oversized and lazy bureaucracy but open, lean and efficient public service with real and measurable value to the owners, the citizens. No multi-million... , you get it. Same flat, lean and agile organization. Focus on openness, quality and value to the public. Full transparency. Taxes from private and cooperative economies finance free, dynamic and efficient continuous education for all citizens.
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      A different kind of democracy, certainly. Any chance? ... just dreaming.
    • By myata
      Right off the news (CBC): officials around a retirement home in Ontario reported to have jumped the queue in vaccine distribution. Board members, the director and the family etc were ostensibly given the "leftover vaccines" to avoid it being wasted.
      Here, our humble public servants yet again in all their caring glory. If this is not the third world, and not somewhere on a remote reserve but right here in the nation's capitals, then what is?
      In early December Health Canada approved the first vaccine for use in the country. As early as October national and provincial task forces were assembled and started training in vaccine distribution. Some were shown on TV under serious fanfare. What does it mean? Does it mean that now, February (months on), there is no standard procedure for effective and fair use of remainders, if any? And we have to thank our luck that board members, directors and family only by sheer chance all happened to be in the right place at the right time so that precious elixir was saved?
      Iacobelli claims the leftover vaccine with a limited shelf life "would go to waste" and thus "a decision to prevent this from happening was made."
      Not funny. Hardly entertaining. Simply disgusting. Looks like Lebanon, or Nicaragua. But who can say, entirely unexpected and not logical and natural evolution, of an entitled democracy?
      P.S. It's hard to say this, but maybe in some ways at least we should be grateful for this experience. It revealed so much about ourselves, as we as a society really are in this mirror, not as we want to paint us to ourselves, that wouldn't be easy to find out otherwise - even if we cared to.
    • By myata
      Continuing previously raised topics, consider old and well-known parable-paradox of the turtle. See, the turtle can never reach the other end of the pond; when it gets to the midpoint, it would need to cover the half of the remaining distance that would require some time (and public $$$); by the time it gets there the other half still remains and so on, ad infinitum. The unavoidable conclusion: crossing the pond, from shore to shore would require infinite time, and public funds.
      Take randomly one of the high or even critical importance goals set out by many a public administrations in the recent and not so recent, decades. Elimination of child poverty? climate change? cleanup of industrial pollution? water quality in the remote communities? waiting times in the public healthcare? purchase of replacement helicopters? Please name one, in many a decade, that has been finished and completed, completely, done, fixed and checkmarked? I'm not aware of one, but paradoxically, it does not prevent the bureaucracy running these programs, or the society that procures them, that is, tries to, from feeling fulfilled and satisfied. An achievement is only an illusion, the eternal movement is the thing, of course.
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      Even the high ideals, equality and fraternity are transformed and refracted through the ivory prism. The pandemics? One in a century calamity? Sure, and we know exactly what to do; first we will freeze all permanent employment surely to save cherished public funds; then create a bunch of handouts for those who didn't make it - students, $5000 max; resident support worker, minimal wage, no job security, benefits did you mention, pension plan? And we will check if you qualified for the handout, and you'll pay us for checking, complete with benefits and pension plans. Is it really so hard to see? But no, it's not sinking in because it falls beyond the vision field. Need to pay more six digit golden parachutes to "public" CEO and governors-general because this is real and done and was done forever and that, just words and visions that never come true. Never?
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