Democracy mashups after the cataclysm

June 9, 2008

When you’re rebuilding society after the cataclysm, you can sample from many different types of democracy. Listen here to get started, or click here to read tip #19 Vote for the democracy of your choice.

Right click here to download the mp3, or listen to the podcast on

[Kefaya Song from Ahmad Sherif]


#19 Vote for the democracy of your choice

June 7, 2008

If your only relationship with small-d democracy is showing up to the polls a few times each year, you’re in for a surprise.

If the closest you come to voting is picking out shampoo at the store, you’ve really got your work cut out for you to prepare for the cataclysm.

Turns out, there are many, many different types of democracy out there, from the practical to the theoretical. Yeah, you’ve got your liberal democracy and your representative democracy, but have you heard of deliberative democracy or Athenian democracy, or even messianic democracy?

I think I votedAs I’ve written here before, you’ll need to be on the lookout for sociopaths and other icky people trying to grab power after the cataclysm. They might call their ideas “democracy,” but which kind do they mean? Is it right for you and your community?

As you and your neighbors rebuild both infrastructure and society after the cataclysm, you’ll make better decisions if you’re knowledgeable about all the possible political systems out there. At the very least, you need to know about different types of democracy. In addition to the ones listed above, here’s a few more you might want to check out:

consensus democracy, republican democracy, anticipatory democracy, soviet democracy, demarchy, non-partisan democracy, grassroots democracy, illiberal democracy, christian democracy, totalitarian democracy, participatory democracy, social democracy, direct democracy

Maybe you’ll even come up with a version of your own.

Get reading now, and get involved. Democracy is about much more than voting. After the cataclysm, you’ll be responsible for keeping it alive.

Voting sticker mashup:

Don’t get fooled again

May 29, 2008

After the cataclysm, as the economic, social and political order around you crumbles, you’re going to be forced to make decisions without the old familiar governing infrastructure in place. Listen here to find out how to prepare yourself to build a better political system – and avoid being hoodwinked by the wackos. (Or click here to read tip #17: Unpack your politics.)

Trouble with the embedded media player? Right click here to download the mp3, or click here to listen at

[Ja Sha Taan by Fun-da-mental]

#17 Unpack your politics

May 27, 2008

Whoever you are, whatever country you grew up in, you were probably brought up to believe your nation’s political system is the best one on offer. Whether you grew up believing in liberal democracy or pancasila, you recited certain oaths and creeds, learned a mythology of your founding fathers (and mothers, if anyone bothered to mention them), and sang songs praising your nation. In the most extreme cases, you might even believe all other political systems than your own are illegitimate.

In fact, if you were to try to explain your nation separate from your political system, you’d probably have trouble doing it.

Wasp resting on poison hemlockAfter the cataclysm, as the economic, social and political order around you crumbles, you’re going to be forced to make decisions without the old familiar governing infrastructure in place. At the same time, you can expect individuals to rise up and try to grab power. Their ideas of what the new political system should look like may be very different from yours.

If up to now your entire engagement with your country’s political system has been that of passive bystander, you’ll be ripe for being hoodwinked into supporting a system that isn’t good for you in the long run. That’s happened often enough in the pre-cataclysm era. You might not even recognize bad ideas for what they are, until it’s too late.

But this also presents an opportunity. What if there are better ideas out there than your current political system? Now’s your chance to identify them and put them in action.

Here’s how you can prepare: Study all the different options out there. Democracy, anarchism, republic, oligarchy, theocracy, socialism, monarchy, dictatorship, feudalism, etc. Learn how each system works, and which seems like the best way to manage the society you live in. When the cataclysm arises, maybe you’ll come up with some unique hybrid that combines the best of a couple of these ideas. At the least, maybe you won’t get fooled again.

Photo of a wasp resting on poison hemlock by Ferran Jorda.

Happy conservatives rationalize the cataclysm

May 7, 2008

Couple of years ago a study by the Pew Research Center found that conservatives are happier than liberals. Now we know why.

scary happy conservativesThey don’t care about you and me.

New research by two psychology profs at New York University (surely the American capital of unhappiness) find that conservatives easily rationalize poverty, inequality and unfairness. If your country is sinking beneath the rising tides created by melting icebergs and climate change, well, that’s what you get for being Bangladeshi.

Liberals, on the other hand, care deeply. And the unfairness makes us very unhappy.

This will matter even more after the climate change cataclysm. While your smiling conservative neighbors are rowing through the streets in their SUVs, shooting anything they can find for food, and shoving aside anyone who gets in their way, liberals will furrow their brows and purse their lips as they try to develop systems where each person gets a fare share of whatever’s left so we can all survive together.

It might be more fun to go out drinking with a happy conservative, but when there’s only one beer left, it’s a liberal who’ll share it with you.

US Dept of Energy warns kids against solar power

April 15, 2008

In doing some research for my previous post about wind-up gadgets, I ran across the Energy Kids Page created by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The page shows an adorable blue ant playing energy games and taking energy quizzes, and it offers classroom activities for teachers! And how about this fun fact: Did you know that ink and crayons are made from fossil fuels?

Hey, DOE, did you know that some aren’t?

But here’s what really got me steamed. On the first page, where they explain How Electricity Is Generated, DOE writes that

Solar power is derived from the energy of the sun. However, the sun’s energy is not available full-time and it is widely scattered.

Widely scattered? So is petroleum. So is coal, America’s #1 source of electricity. But DOE doesn’t mention that. Solar is the only energy source that DOE describes for kids as having any problems at all.

more dangerous and unreliable than coal? DOE – as well as children and their parents – may be interested to know that the sun exists in more places on Earth than either oil or coal. The only reason coal and oil don’t appear to be “widely scattered” is because we’ve developed complex delivery systems for them. If we’d spent the last five years investing in collection and delivery systems for solar power rather than on an expeditionary army that’s consuming more than 3 million gallons of oil a day in Iraq, maybe solar power wouldn’t seem so scary to the Dept of Energy.

Hey, kids. Don’t be fooled.

Solar array photo.

Kenyan environmentalist won’t touch the torch after all

April 11, 2008

This ain\'t what democracy looks like Environmentalist and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai has announced she is withdrawing from the Olympic torch relay. As an activist, Maathai connects the dots between environmental devastation, democracy and peace. The L.A. Times reports that Maathai

urged China to use its economic influence to halt the destruction of African forests, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) and Tanzania, as it buys up natural resources around the world.

In her statement (you can read it here at the website for the Green Belt Movement she founded), Maathai wrote,

With respect to the upcoming Beijing Olympics, I have been aware of the environmental challenges China has faced as a fast growing economy that is largely dependent on fossil fuels. Some of the environmental initiatives taken by China to comply with the spirit of a “green Olympics” such as planting trees and controlling pollution have been commendable.

Nevertheless, I have grappled with the contentious issues surrounding the Olympics and which are being raised daily by human rights and environmental activists. I am sensitive on the need to demonstrate our commitment to the issues of human rights and the environment. Here in Africa we have benefited greatly from the solidarity of the international community when we most needed it. Without such solidarity at the international level our own political crisis would likely have degenerated into unmanageable levels.

Maathai joins a growing group of Olympic boycotters, including Japanese shot put maker Masahisa Tsujitani, Indian football (aka soccer) captain Bhaichung Bhutia and Thai environmentalist Narisa Chakrabongse.