This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Active Digital Citizens Seeking New Community Paradigms pt. 1

As I had mentioned before starting the Case Against the Case Against Democracy, I have now spent the last several weeks engaged in another online course, The Active Citizen in a Digital Age. As has been stated before, this is not a substitute for the course, merely a way to solidify and expand upon what was learned. The course is on how to be an active citizen in a democracy in the digital age. The form of democracy considered being a conglomeration of our own imperfect form in the US, strivings to develop from around the world, and as an ideal aspiration.  The focus starts off looking at democracy and the various means of interaction as an active citizen. 

According to the first week of the course, there are three sectors of a democracy, the political process of voting and its related components, elections, campaigns, petitions, etc., then the marketplace, the economic and financial processes involving businesses, their suppliers, employees and customers and finally and most importantly civil society, the space for private actions within the public space, Boy Scouts, Salvation Army, and religious affiliations as well as actions such as protests.

In the market space, one purchases products as a private person through a private exchange. With a government to which I am paying taxes for running that government, it is a public action for a public purpose within a public space for a public benefit. 

Each sector presents different opportunities for involvement based on their differences in how they connect and how they use those connections to bring about change. So one could choose to boycott a product, write congress to have it banned or protest in front of a company. 

In civil society, one maintains one’s own private choices even if and when in disagreement with others. The course sees civil society being able to hold in abeyance all the disagreement inherent within a community by providing safe space, making it private action but with the intention of bringing others together to create something that benefits other people generating private resources for public benefit. 

“It is the place where our private actions to do things with other people with a public face comes into play.”

An essential difference is whether the action is more individualistic or solitary as opposed to being more group or collective and therefore assumedly having a greater impact. The course sees the market sector being more individualistic and the political and civil society being collective.  The latter two likely requires mobilizing other people. 

The second week switched to how we engage or what actions we can take within these three spheres cited above, political life, marketplace and civil society with more emphasis on the types of organizations and funding mechanisms making up each. 

The political sphere involves direct engagement with our governing systems, “The political bodies that surround them,” particularly those responsible for lawmaking functions and the apparatus to support elections of officials, such as political parties, funding organizations, and campaigns. We can support and vote for candidates for office, donate or help raise campaign funds, register people to vote, gather signatures on petitions,  and voice one’s opinion about laws directly at the local, regional or federal level of government. With the exception of voting, all of these actions have a public face based on the principle that, “(If) the government is intended to represent the views of the people then the people have the right to know who is influencing the government.” 

In some societies, political participation can be mandated, often as window dressing to legitimize a dictatorship but in most, it is seen more as a civil society duty, a civic duty, as “the basic obligation of democratic systems”.  Another aspect of participation in public life can include service in the military, mandatory in some democracies, voluntary in others. Finally, there is what the course claims as the never voluntary obligation of paying taxes. 

The marketplace in which we buy the necessities and the desires of life, sometimes even choosing to invest in these enterprises provides an opportunity to interact either as consumers or investors. We can choose how we align our actions in the marketplace with our social and political principles of the other two spheres. This occurs without the same degree of public scrutiny unless we choose to do so differently. 

Civil society includes nonprofit organizations, religious organizations, neighborhood associations, sports clubs, protest and advocacy organizations, and other forms of community, trade or professional associations, commonly thought of as the voluntary sector a participation is based solely on your own choice. These means one could donate money or time to organizations doing direct environment work or research to those advocating for environmental causes calling for action on climate policies through political action or protests. Participation is encouraged in many societies, and especially by most religious traditions with many privileging anonymous actions removing any obligations between giver and recipients. Again, creating a safe space. Therefore civil society actions such as charitable donations or associational choices are not considered public information.

All of the choices or actions above can involve a digital component in their realization, using online platforms to find information, give to charities or shop with cell phones, using social media to tell everyone else what we are doing so as to influence or persuade others to join us. Digital tools can give us numerous means of participation thereby changing the ways in which our participation is recorded for posterity. 

We then, having already submitted our own participation histories, looked at what others throughout the course for the many different ways other had taken in these arenas. The culminating task for the week was to come up with a mission statement to which everyone on the team could agree.
Our team's mission statement was:

“Our team wants to reduce the economic inequality of low-income people by providing access to affordable healthcare, education with job training, and housing.” 

Accompanied by a protest photo advocating for these principles held by a marcher apparently with National Nurses United. 

With this course, I again took a more subordinated role joining a team of six and following the lead of others though still putting forward my ideas. Though I pointed out that our mission statement was more general than those submitted by others in the course, I was comfortable enough to proceed if everybody else was.

Part 2

No comments:

Post a Comment

Past Posts