Drops on the Windowpane

Each of us is a raindrop on the windowpane, pure but with a heart of soot, full of potential to join with others. As we run into each other on the way to the bottom of our life of pane, we merge and gain power. Is the force we gain the force of the original drop or is it a collective force which only appears to be the original, grown large? When a third drop is absorbed into the first two, themselves just joined, is its shimmer diminished by the larger gleam?

The River

Barnes had once visited the headwaters of the Mississippi in Minnesota. He was fascinated by the creek coming out of Lake Itasca. A few yards downstream, it met another trickle, smaller than the trickle next to the Mississippi River Source monument, and the combined trickles together were called the Mississippi. So it continued as each slightly smaller tributary added to the stream’s volume. After major acquisitions at the confluence with the Ohio and the Missouri, the trickle was a serious piece of business.

Barnes considered the Mississippi monument a shrine of major importance, for it symbolized his entire career. Barnes was nothing if not ever alert. All of his alertness was to insure that he never started a conversation whose outcome he did not know in advance, with someone not quite so powerful. Everyone he spoke with needed him worse than he needed them, and so he accumulated assets and cash flows relentlessly as he tumbled downstream. “That’s what’s wrong with these Ivy Leaguers,” he thought, “they’ve never visited the source of the Mississippi. If they had, they might understand business.
                       —”Alpha,” a work in progress

The Question

Mitch is beating the leadership conundrum again. He points out that leaders may not set out to be, but become leaders by doing something they simply can’t not do. The issue last week was connectedness and the possibility of 10,000 MLKs, RFKs and Ghandis. Last week Dr. Weinberger suggested that perhaps only a strong individual can rescue progressivism from the trash heap of current politics.

There’s a lot of despair among so-called progressive liberals, who seem to have been blind-sided by the power grab the conservatives spent 20 years engineering, accomplished with blow-job politics and anointment of the runner-up by the high priests of our judiciary.

The over-arching conservative agenda, as Doc’s friend George Lakoff teaches us, is Patriarchy—a strong parent model for society. Patriarchy is the sponsor of fundamentalism, which makes a lot of us rightfully crazy and which directly sponsors blowing people up as needed.

The controlling liberal agenda is what Lakoff calls the nurturant-parent model, but I think of it as node-parity—every node in a system has equal value, must be respected and nourished, and the links among the nodes are more important than the brilliance or dysfunction of any single node, or all of them. This makes the patriarchists crazy.

I suggest we don’t have time for a single leader because the culture lacks the traditional handles such a leader might pull, so no “charismat” is likely to appear.

Those who seek a systems-based rather than ideology-based culture (who sound like but are not exclusively liberal) need to realize that new tools have been accumulating to do so, invisibly. These tools have been quietly put in place even while fundamentalists were using the old tools to load the PTAs, city councils, courts and Republican apparatus, equally invisibly.

Collectively, the new tools of power are called the Internet. But we who seem to most believe in it are still not using it as we might. I’m convinced it’s because the real uses of the Internet are not yet clear to us.

We’d like some short cuts to universal rationality, but there are none. If we believe in the network, use the network. If not, we should go to work for a political party.

Anybody Can Improve It. But How?

Some say that, despite initial expectations, the Internet is not leading us toward populism. How might it? We need to become expert in creating virulent populist data tools—web applications—that make it worthwhile for thousands, then millions of people to express their political preferences in ways that overwhelm traditional means of organizing opinion and resources. Imagine a distributed web application that elicits and aggregates political values so effectively and broadly that representatives feel compelled to consult it to understand their mandate specifically:Vote the People’s Will or Die.

  1. Compelling. Expressing your opinion must feel so urgent that anyone who sees the web site will chime in. At first, this may be driven by novelty and the early adopters. It must be reinforced by the concern of the many that, if they stay out of the accumulating data, something they have or want will be denied them.
  2. Easy. No one uses a web site that isn’t easy.
  3. Public. The results of the accumulating preferences must be available to the most casual observer and the most exhaustive researcher. Cast it so it’s the authoritative source for pollsters, commentators and pundits.
  4. Scalable. A central site might not hack it, and the public dialogue is too important to be hostage to the shifting fortunes of an initially enthusiastic ISP. Some day we’ll have a way to manage data using grid computing or a napster-like structure. If not now, when?
  5. Engaging. Get people to make personal (not astroturfing) remarks to develop their sense of voice and power.
  6. Threadable. Tag remarks and portions thereof so like minds have a reason to stay connected and maybe, just maybe, listen to unlike minds. So might begin a slide into reasonableness and open thinking. Let’s discover how alike we are.
  7. Hopeful. Demonstrate that we can lock arms and build, again, a government of, by and for the people.
  8. Presentable. Individual opinions must be aggregated and depicted graphically so the weight of accumulated conviction is sliced and diced multiple ways: visible and obvious. A Kartoo-like depiction of issues and preferences seems useful.
  9. Committed and Promising. People who express their opinions need a way to parse those opinions into immediate, effective commitment. Let users link opinions to legislation as it moves through congress and to legislators.
    If you vote for x amendment, I promise to vote against you.”
  10. Forward-looking. Most public debate is hand
    -wringing over what’s done or too late to change. Create contracts among people, linking future votes and donations to impending legislative actions.
  11. Collaborable. Mitch and Dave came at the leadership issue from different ends, but collaborated nicely without losing their viewpoints. Bloggers do that.
  12. Value-Neutral. The purpose must be to expose private opinion to public scrutiny. All remarks should be archived and then, once exposed, watch reason creep into the blogalogue.
  13. Opportunistic. Bribe people shamelessly: let those who make remarks vote on each other’s remarks. Let people reward those who make the best remarks. Find someone to spend $1,000 a day for 1,000 days. Juice is power.
  14. Meme-Based. Only a powerful central idea will get attention and infect other minds. Today, safety has infected our populace, so we’re acting out of cowardice, not strength. When we return to acting from strength, we need to discuss the difference between strength of character and military power. Maybe the meme is,
    See My Vote! It matters. I’m more interested in being involved than I am in a secret ballot. Secret ballots are for wimps.

I’m a design guy. If there’s a known problem, I like to imagine a specific solution and wonder about implementation. The above is obviously the talking points for the Electoral Collage notion I floated last fall and repeated last week. Who knows if it’s possible? Does it matter?

Last week I reserved electoralcollege.com and invited anybody to use it. On reflection, the name seems too cute and vague to be memetic. The core concept in this web application is that, when the electorate feels so powerful and confident that it gives up its right to a secret ballot and goes on record to such an extent, the vote is a formality. I like the idea of See My Vote!

If you’d like to do something with seemyvote.com, let me know. I’ll trade it for an action plan. I’m pretty busy with the microeconomy meme.

5:00:03 PM    

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