A LITTLE aside before we get into the weekly ramble – take a look at that opening sequence first. Notice the use of the word “weekly.”
That’s right, we have been upgraded to weekly status. It was always the original “aspiration” – my inspiration (that is also an impossible standard or goal to reach) for this column was to do a commentary on a piece of relevant news from the week a la Last Week Tonight (in name anyway, any regular viewer of said masterpiece of a show will know that the times they discuss a matter from exactly the same week is far exceeded by the not cases) if you replaced the hard-hitting journalism and scripted comedy with stream of consciousness.
Anyway, now that we are officially a weekly thing (unfortunate for those who prefer the issues where I am not present), let us have our little shallow step into the theme of tonight’s last week (tonight), which is – choice.
It is vague and arcane put that way, but I am referring to a little thing that the city is trying to do to inform its decisions moving forward. Traditionally, organizations will have an official “vision” – essentially an ideological aspiration that the organization pledges to live up to, or at least attempt to do so. These are typically generic, positive aspirations promising to uphold a few virtues, and are typically a non-issue and sit in the white paper of an agency waiting to be noticed.
But the city, in a bit of – would it be fair to describe it as dramatic flair? – has decided to come up with a more “modern,” updated vision for the city to theme itself around and direct its plans for the next two decades. And in the process, they came up with more visions than a drug-addled warlord high on opioid fentanyl (some sort of less controversial recreational drug abuse joke here) and after months of deliberation narrowed it down to two options. WIth two full visions, the city has decided to take to the Internet (the best place for Structured and Logical Discussions™) and conduct an online poll for the general public’s input on which one to take.
I bring this up because I think both sides of the coin here are relevant to look at – the good and the – I hesitate to call it bad as I don’t think it is either unworkable or malicious – other side that it reveals.
The good is the obvious. We, as the general populace, are given the chance to have a direct input in the direction and progression of this city that we all share and endure. This is a key part of the conduct of any democratic government. You see, the democracy term is often thought to simply mean that we can vote for our leaders. This is not quite what it is – an actual political scientist would be able to better explain it, but the gist of it is that a representative democracy is a form of government where the power is inherently in the people, and our elected officials are simply people who are beholden to us and tasked to make decisions on our behalf because as a collective hive mind of 113.9 million with various cultural, sociopolitical, economic and academic backgrounds, making any individual decision would be paralyzing at best.
We collectively know what is best for ourselves (in theory) and put people in power so that they may use their individual expertise and knowledge to further our interests in the legal political systems.
This is the cornerstone of a representative democracy. And in the end, what it should be is effectively implementing the will of the people in the government that they choose to rule them. The power is in the people. People ought not be afraid of their governments. Governments ought to be afraid of their people. Power is vested in them by us, and in a (theoretically correct or perfect) democratic system, we have the ability to take that power away at any time.
So yes, I agree that this move, as many questions as I have about it that would take up a full other column, is a Good Move™. We should be doing more in this manner.
But I question the efficacy of this sort of process. There is an extremely delicate balancing act between public participation and government discretion, for one – as I mentioned, a hive mind of 114 give or take millions is rather hard to wrangle in any one direction, and the individual expertise in law, civics, urban development, or any single field of this hive mind’s individual constituent fragments is statistically unlikely to be good. So full control by the hive mind is not always the best answer.
I must also of course raise the question of whether this is the most correct way to get public participation. An Internet poll, of course, would be no doubt the widest-reaching and fastest method to get results in a short period of time. But you have to keep in mind that typically, on the Internet, information and decisions flow fast. You can put in as much context or information as you desire in an Internet piece, and the sheer brain-rot it inflicts on the attention span ensures that only a small fraction of your audience will do anything other than read the first line before making a snap decision and moving on.
To say nothing of inclusivity – what of those who cannot access the Internet? What of those who aren’t tech-savvy enough to know their way around a Facebook page? What if na-Feeder 13 si mare pag oras na?
I bring these up because they’re interesting to think about. It is never going to be possible to solve a complex political policy decision by simply contemplating upon it individually, but… consider that the past few paragraphs have focused quite a bit on the importance of the collective will in a democracy…
You’ll figure it out. I trust you.