Democracy. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, and almost always in a context that doesn’t live up to the name. You may even already be so completely disillusioned with the idea of democracy, to the extent where I’ve lost your interest a mere two sentences deep!
But don’t click that “X” on your browser just yet, friend! First, please indulge me as I explain to you the tremendously exciting opportunity that we have right now to fundamentally transform our society into something we can all actually be proud of. We have real potential here to systematically address each and every one of the staggeringly high number of critical issues that our communities are facing right now, and it all starts with you.
The very first step toward action on virtually any cause is to decide what to do as a group. If you’ve ever tried to pick a restaurant with friends, you know that making a group decision can be downright infuriating at times. And that’s just for something inconsequential. Imagine our difficulty in agreeing on questions of morality, justice, or world issues…
In that respect, our modern “democratic” institutions are actually somewhat of a miracle in their own right. But they are also massively outdated, non-representative of the actual will of the people, and clearly unable to deal with many dire problems that we currently face.
Above all else, I’m going to assert that establishing a true direct democracy is the most essential of all causes. It is the primary issue we need to get sorted out between ourselves before we can really accomplish what our generation needs to do in order to keep the human race running strong into the future.*
Here’s the bottom line: without an adequate system to address our collective grievances, we’re stuck on this one-way track to self-destruction. The greatest thing about Cascadia is its populous of caring people who are well-informed on the many challenges we need to face together (not to mention the stunning natural wonders everywhere). A shared frustration between each of us is the way our system is currently run.
As of the end of last year, only 18% of people have any trust in the US government to do what is right. At this historic low point, it certainly doesn’t seem like they have the “consent of the governed” necessary to derive their just powers. They say we live in a democracy, but if that’s true, then why don’t you feel empowered to vote on everything that really matters to you? If a democracy is supposed to be a rule of the people, then why aren’t we actually ruling anything?
Simply put, direct democracy doesn’t really exist today. If it did, people would be able to decide on how to address community issues in a fully horizontal fashion. Sure, there are some examples of direct democratic elements in places like Switzerland or Rojava but even they are still a ways off from giving each citizen truly equal power.
So what exactly makes direct democracy the central cause of Cascadia? Isn’t bioregionalism the primary ideological force driving this movement? How does that revolve around democracy? According to Peter Berg, bioregionalism is focused on 3 main goals: to “1) restore and maintain local natural systems; 2) practice sustainable ways to satisfy basic human needs such as food, water, energy, housing, and materials; and 3) support the work of reinhabitation… There are a surprisingly large number of opportunities to address everyday living conditions for the benefit of local sustainability; as wide-ranging as resident-based reforestation projects in rural areas and community gardens in cities.” With a proper direct democratic system in place, we could actually begin to organize and facilitate such goals on a large and measurable scale.
Said another way, “bioregionalism is simply political localism with an ecological foundation.” Direct democracy is the de facto operating system that nature fundamentally relies upon, in a sense. Not just in beehives, packs of wild dogs, and slime molds, but literally everywhere. The free agency of animals and humans to make decisions and react on a moment-by-moment basis is, in a way, the most radically free system of collective decision making possible. No matter if you use your agency to get politically engaged, go out and play basketball, or sit on your bum and do nothing, you are making choices constantly that change the world in small ways, and effectively voting for what sort of hyper-local effect you want to have on it.
Therein lies the problem. Through our collective decisions to actively or tacitly “vote” for what we have now, we’ve been barreling down a path of self-absorption that inherently prioritizes unsustainable profit growth over sane resource management and basic human decency, year over year. Not to mention all of the other nasty societal habits we have picked up along the way, which have really wrecked up this joint something fierce.
To be fair, the crap system that we use today was handed down to us by previous generations, with the tremendous momentum of centuries worth of established tradition. It legitimately used to be the best we could possibly do, and it wasn’t always so deeply entrenched in the interests of large corporations and ludicrously wealthy folks that can essentially write and buy their own legislation.
Now though, in the grand scheme of things, individual people don’t really have that much of a say in how things are run. It’s easy to see why voter apathy is so sickeningly high. The only decisions we’re even asked to make is usually to vote for a bunch of people we don’t know very well to fill jobs they will likely fail at, deciding on issues they don’t fully understand. Our other options basically amount to 1) Protesting 2) Calling our reps, and 3) Limited voting on referendums that must go through a rigorous petition process first, none of which exercise a whole lot of effective individual power. The corruption in the government sector is so bad that people are completely used to it, and even expect it at this point.
Let’s talk reality here. As it stands now, you have representatives who make decisions on your behalf. Do you even really know who they are, or what they think most of the time? Do you even care, for the most part? Be honest. Either way, I hate to break it to you, but no matter who you voted for, it’s almost mathematically impossible that they will vote fully in your interests. That’s just the way things are. Take Richard Wolff’s example from In Defense of Anarchism, where he breaks down the math behind representative democracy. If you have “n” amount of issues, and simplify each to 2 potential yes/no choices, then every rep has a 1/2n chance that their votes will perfectly match your views. So in a scenario with a paltry 10 issues, that’s a 1/1024 chance. In the real world with thousands of issues and millions of constituents per rep, that’s… well…. yeah…. Pretty infinitesimally small odds.
We’re not even scratching the surface of everything that’s wrong with our political system. People are often elected into office on the basis their personalities, appearance, race, gender, or some other shallow non-sequitur. As a result of this, a majority of the time and donations collected by candidates goes toward their ceaseless campaigns for reelection, or PR to preserve their personal images. Even voting along party lines doesn’t amount to a whole lot of reassurance that you get what’s advertised. I’m telling you, it’s all a bunch of superficial nonsense. We’re wasting money and time, letting important decisions get pushed back and mismanaged by a bunch of bickering blowhards (of which there are a few rare exceptions, of course).
Worst of all, power corrupts. We all know this. And yet, we keep falling into the same old trap of electing a small handful of people to make all of our decisions for us, and then whining about it when they wind up getting wrapped up in some scandal or another. Even the best among them are inextricably woven into the fabric of a system where lobbying is a routine practice. You’d think that after several lifetimes of normalized corruption, we’d have figured out that it’s not the fault of the politicians so much as it is the system they are involved in.
So you know what would be really nice? What if it we could make a government where brazenly transparent corruption like this isn’t possible? One where everyone has an equal vote on every issue the way they want, and having a lot of money doesn’t give someone huge political advantages. What do you think the world would be like running under a sophisticated direct democracy?
It’s certainly possible to have something like this, with modern technology. It honestly wouldn’t even be very difficult to create, compared to the many other software marvels of today. How could we make it corruption-proof? Very simply, by circumventing the need for a representative, we eliminate the targets for bribery. It’s a lot harder to bribe several million people, especially in a transparent system.
Here’s the thing though… Any sort of large-scale change isn’t going to come from the top-down any time soon. It just won’t. The people in the ruling class are quite content to stay where they are at, and even increase their power. Our legislative system is all jammed up, filled with barrels of pork, and just generally in disarray. We can try our hardest to fight for our fair say, but it’s next to impossible to get any leverage on that. It’s as if our whole world desperately needs to get to the moon in the next decade, but insists on using only the original Wright brothers’ airplane design. It’s just not gonna happen, no matter how many tweaks we make to it. We need a fundamentally different machine if we’re going to rocket our way up there in time.
So then, what options are we left with? We can’t rely on the powers that be to change things fast enough. Even if they did, how could we trust them to make things fair for us this time around? Again, we can’t. Historically in times like this, people have resorted to starting revolutions in order to tip the scales back in their favor. Unfortunately, this typically results in lots of bloodshed, instability, and ultimately replacing the old regime with another equally inadequate one. Also not an option.
In order to try and start a peaceful revolution from the ground-up, we have to play nice with the powers that be. The only choice we’re left with is to build a new system from within the belly of the beast that can out-compete it morally and logically with more effective solutions.
Fortunately, we’re poised in the most amazing time in human history, technologically speaking. We live in an age where an 11-year old kid can program an app that can disrupt entire industries. Nowadays, technological marvels are being created on almost a daily basis, and it’s inevitable that our lives will only become more deeply intertwined with this newer and better software as the years go by. The solution is simple. We hack our way to a revolution.
There are already plenty of examples of attempts to do exactly this. From CommonGood, to PlaNet, to various LETS systems around the world. People everywhere have been experimenting with new forms of self-governance for years, to some success. Presently, there is a resurgence of the cooperative movement, fueled by actual democracy, which has already allowed for people to organize trade more sustainably. All of these initiatives, and thousands of similar ones, are wonderful in the sense of bringing together communities at the grassroots level.
So where’s the cooperative commonwealth of Cascadia? As a movement that’s been growing for almost 40 years, you know that the people are out there who are just itching to make cooperative democratic bioregionalism a thing.
Enter YourCascadia. The first attempt to make our own system to logically discuss and vote on anything and everything that you can imagine, without all the BS. Unlike many of the other cooperative platforms that are out there, YC features a user interface designed to actually be fun and simple enough for the least technically inclined among us. It aims to make voting streamlined, sensible, and powerful. It will give you the ability to enact real changes in your community, create jobs that we actually need, and trade goods and services with unprecedented convenience and the peace of mind that you aren’t contributing to some horrific environmental or human rights disaster somewhere up the supply chain.
So how will YourCascadia accomplish all this? Several ways. With atomized wiki-debates that are logically moderated to highlight fallacious and biased arguments. Everything will be neatly organized in categories of issues, their potential solutions, and the premises and sources behind them. It’s collectively optimized for conciseness, simplicity, and readability. No more dredging through thickets of legislative obfuscation, no more earmarks that pass under the radar on unrelated regulations. No more childish personal attacks, which somehow have been dominating political “debates” and misdirecting attention from the issues themselves. We’re better than this, people. We can do better than this.
Perhaps you are wise enough know the limitations to your own knowledge and interests. No one could possibly expect you to vote on every single issue! That’s just crazy!! Don’t worry, pal. That’s where proxy voting comes into play. If you don’t care about something, but know someone who does, and trust their judgment, you can assign them to carry your vote on an issue or category of issues. If the person is an expert in a specific science that’s related to the issue, they may become natural leaders, carrying hundreds or thousands of other peoples’ votes.
And if they betray your trust, or go against your moral code, you can easily dump them and assign your vote to someone else (like yourself). No waiting for 2 years, 4 years, or the remainder of some old white dude’s lifespan to change your representative.
So let’s drink that in real quick. It’s as democratic as it can get, seeing as how it maximizes individual voting power. AND it’s as republican as it can get because you have maximum ability to assign representatives to your liking. Don’t freak out. We’re not talking about so-called “platform issues” here, which have become all-too-divisive. We’re talking about the raw essence of these terms in and of themselves. You wouldn’t have to pick a party and agree with most things on their platform. You are your own platform.
And you know what? This new system won’t be perfect either. It never will be, much like everything else that exists. But that’s part of the point. We need to approach decision making with the same rigor and methods that we use in science. There’s countless ways we can modify each of our own communities, and work together with other communities to monitor success. Science isn’t based on a cult following that blindly follows imperfect people, it’s based on trying to disprove theories and ideas. If a certain aspect doesn’t work out so well, we need to have the ability to quickly adapt and adopt better methods. We need to have a system that is designed to improve itself as the years go by, and not just get more complicated and broken.
For the love of everything, we need this badly, and quickly. Our world is sucking big time right now, and this is literally the only thing I can think of that has any chance of effectively turning the tide. Perhaps you are jaded like most adults, and feel trapped and powerless in a rapidly changing world that doesn’t seem to care about your opinions. Maybe you need a little wake up call? Maybe you are forgetting that you are an entirely unique perspective on the world, and you have the natural right to have a voice on anything you want. We need you to join us and express yourself. Otherwise, how can we truly call it YourCascadia?
~~Update:12/24/18~~ *Disclaimer: This post was written by Elliott, who is spearheading this project. The views are his, and do not necessarily represent those of YourCascadia as a whole. YourCascadia is just a tool, and has no views. It will be controlled entirely by its members via a direct democracy once it is built and running. Want to write a post here? Let us know!
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