Unless you’ve been living on a deserted island with your head in the sand these past two weeks, you’ve seen the grainy cell-phone images and heard the muffled voices of the Iranian people calling out to the world as they struggle to endure the heavy-handed crackdown by the Iranian regime to enforce the outcome of their country’s recent “legitimate” elections. Just how hard-hitting a crackdown has it become?
“Saeed Mortazavi, the Iranian prosecutor implicated in the torture and killing of Montreal-based photographer Zahra Kazemi, has been assigned to oversee the cases of jailed Iranian democracy protesters in Tehran.” – The Globe & Mail
The Iranian regime is not kidding around. But then, this is nothing new. Democracy as we know it has been (and clearly still is) frought by an underlying design flaw: it promotes, supports, and even encourages the relentless pursuit of power. The structural dynamics of democratic governance (namely, that the hands-on involvement by the people is called on intermittently every few years) makes for a perverse system where politicians and political parties switch between being your best friend to being at best, indifferent. It’s all in the name of power; and not “power to the people” as many of us have so naively been led to believe.
And if we in the West think we are immune to the kind of tyranny now being faced by the Iranians, think again. Since September 11th 2001, sweeping new powers have been given to police, intelligence, and military arms of many Western democracies, all in the name of “homeland security” and “anti-terror measures.” Even now, massive razorwire internment camps are being constructed in the desert outside of Las Vegas. Just like Iran, Western governments have their own “supreme arbitors” (well call them the courts) to ultimately decide whether or not election results stand (remember Bush v. Gore and the State of Florida?)
All this is beside the point. Democracy as we know it (and as we see it unfolding in all its perverse forms worldwide) is obsolete. Putting an “X” on a ballot and dropping it in a sealed box every four years is not a true democracy, where the will of the people is exacted over the governance of their nation, it is a democratic way of selecting a regime that largely pursues its own agendas, and the agendas of its benefactors. In the past, given the levels of human technology, communication, education, literacy, etc., this kind of democracy-by-proxy might have indeed been the best solution we had at the time. But now, in the 21st Century, literacy, education, and technology allow for a much fuller, deeper, and complete form of democracy…
As already discussed, what we know as democracy first came to dominate the West when access to education and communication technologies meant people had little choice but to elect educated, articulate individuals who would speak for them, argue on their behalf, and install their vote by proxy. After much argument, debate, and official vote, these elected officials would produce some form of proclamation that became the law of the land to which all citizens were henceforth beholden. The opportunity presented by wiki technology is to put an end to this pattern of democratic displacement and power by proxy. With Wikipolicy, the people have direct input into the legislative process. Individuals exercise a more active form of “SEEtizenship”(Society Engaged Electronic Citizenship) by being hands-on in the decision making process that determines the policies of their nation and its course for the future. The limitations of education and communication that produced the versions of democracy to date are solved by Wikipolicy—the multimedia technology it runs on is inherently interactive, informational, and connected to the internet at large.
Wikipedia has demonstrated the ability of individuals to collaborate at a global level on a resource for use and benefit by all others. But when we talk about a wiki-based resource for governmental direction—Wikipolicy—we don’t have to talk on a global scale. In other words, although Wikipolicy could theoretically provide a global platform for governance, more than a few established states will want to preserve their sovereignty and autonomy. This is a reflection of the fact that, despite having national assemblies and federal governments, most nations also have multiple additional governments overseeing regional and local jurisdictions (i.e., state, provincial, and municipal). Given any geographically and culturally diverse society, there is a practical limit to the number and nature of decisions that can be made centrally. That said, just as representative democracy is the preferred model worldwide for governance at every level, so too Wikipolicy can serve as the technology infrastructure that supports governance at all levels. Instead of one massive Wikipolicy for everything, multiple Wikipolicies would oversee specific towns, regions, nations, etc. As an example, even Wikipedia consists of multiple wikis written in different languages, each operating more or less independently of the others (this accounts for the variance in number and type of articles by language). Finally, using Wikipolicy to support existing democratic systems and structures does not preclude applying it to the bigger picture and larger questions of humanity and our planet as a whole. In terms of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other such “humanity-in-totality” applications, Wikipolicy can facilitate empowering human beings to play an active role on the world stage.
Future SEEtizens will not only be extremely comfortable working with the Wikipolicy platform—local, regional, national, and global—they will demand it. An entire generation has been raised with a world of information and unprecedented communication technologies available to them at their fingertips, a trend that has quickly spread worldwide. It is this on-demand aspect of technology that is fundamentally empowering and will continue to produce more empowered and conscious individuals who will want to control their own destiny. Like any do-it-yourself oriented person, SEEtizens will reach for the tools and technologies with which they are familiar to get the job done.
Would it work in Iran? The news you see coming out of that country today is thanks to technology and people’s access to it, education, and literacy. Instead of using it to tell the world of their struggles, imagine they could use it to govern themselves day in and day out in true freedom. Now SEE yourself doing the same.
To SEE even more, visit The Attlas Project online.