(links and images still need to prettify’d, but the text is set)
“There is no such thing as a dysfunctional organization, because every organization is perfectly aligned to achieve the results it currently gets.” - Jeff Lawrence
https://www.flickr.com/photos/kennycole/8541063901/in/photostream/ Kenny Cole Is it Deliberate?
Something in name alone is a hollow promise of what the label signifies. The idea that our vote does not count makes sense mathematically. With large enough numbers any one vote will not make a difference, similarly to having one ticket in a lottery making you richer. However, we are as children if we demand that effects be shown immediately and clearly for all our actions. We are also like children when we oversimplify the behavior we are involved in, stressing extrinsic goals and outcomes above all else. The act and privilege of voting go far beyond the deciding impact of any one vote. Though the present election is the focus (it always is) it is hardly the most important point. The crucial element to voting is the ability to do so, legally, physically, and with genuine reassurances that the rights of participants are protected, now and moving forward. One vote may not count but they all matter.
Voters should be choosing their politicians but far too often the reverse is happening. Shortsighted political interests influence the voting boundaries of its citizens, either by packing like-leaning voters together and making all votes above a majority superfluous, or cracking, breaking up the same leaning populous across several districts, hence thinning out their influence and better making their impact negligible to invisible. Our political machinations have disenfranchised its citizens and alienated their representatives from the actual desires of the people.
As voters, citizens, family members, members of a community, we are vested with particular influences and interests. Our motivations vary and are of differing strengths. We interact with the world based on the ideas in our mind and the resources available to us. We each serve as a sensor of the civic and political environment. Our reading of the environment is displayed in our thoughts, speech and actions. To purposefully frustrate these readings by rigging the voting process is to engineer a system that intentionally ignores one of its most important feedback’s for information flow. Gerrymandering is not only politically expedient but dismissive of reality. The transactional reality of partisan Realpolitik casts the everyday citizen into the category of mark but this scenario bakes in a negative blowback for all involved.
Additionally, we are baking in cynical perspectives and beliefs about our representative system. Until, or if, the system breaks down we develop an alienation and unfamiliarity with the democratic process. We become conditioned to expect certain things and dismiss others. We disparage and disgrace those who gave their lives for the right, privilege, and ability to cast their voice as a people. There is a history of limited and limiting suffrage in this country, something we need to be keenly aware of so as not to lull ourselves into believing this is a recent mistake, an accident, but rather the latest version of a legacy of disenfranchisement. In roughly chronological order we can point to the original disenfranchisement of Native Americans, Africans, women, the larger population through the electoral college, the general population when it first came to electing senators, later on the introduction of poll taxes, literacy tests, voter ID laws, and now the most recent incarnations of gerrymandering.
social structures of all kinds are “the result of human action, but not the execution of any human design” -Adam Ferguson (1782)
Systems need not be deliberately designed to foster emergent properties and bounded options. The behavior of thousands of individuals and/or units can display the behavior of coordination without any central planning. This needs to be stressed so as to dismiss any thoughts of conspiracy or masterminded abuse. Of course, there are special interests that work in a variety of visible light spectrums but what we have here, more than anything else, are perverse incentives, outcome obfuscation (intended or otherwise), and lack of accountability. We might as well also throw in a lack of community pride.
The opening quote about organizations getting the exact outcomes they are designed for is a bracing statement that calls for taking design and accountability seriously. If we want better outcomes we are going to need better systems and not rely on wishful thinking or the better angels among the people of influence, which under certain circumstances amounts to the same thing. The ways we have identified where the citizenry are getting played is but the first step. It is a look at symptoms that may shed light on causes, hopefully leading to a more rounded diagnosis and, critically, treatments to help push us in the direction of the outcomes we desire. We want different outcomes. Well, what kind of systems would be required to get those and how may we go about implementing them?
Getting American-Style Played
Many times we believe more information will do the trick, change someone’s mind. We are perplexed and frustrated when this approach does not work as expected.
“How can you be so obtuse… is it deliberate? (https://youtu.be/_IrCgt-Bt1I?t=3m24s) “ Quoting Andy Dufresne is appropriate to directing the accusation in both directions. After all, when you point at someone there are usually three more fingers pointing right back, a fitting image for this context. To set the scene, Andy brings new evidence to the warden that might set Andy free for being falsely imprisoned. This information is brought to the same warden for whom Andy has been doing accounting work, sometimes creative accounting. The warden stonewalls Andy upon hearing the information behind a façade of, shall we use a legal term, bullshit. It is not that the warden is dim, lazy, or uninterested, he is quite the opposite of each of these and recognizes immediately what he stands to lose by seeing Andy’s point of you. The warden definitely gets it. Immediately. Andy however does not, but in time shows himself to be the warden’s equal, if not superior, in dealing with reality and the power plays at hand. Whenever we ask ourselves how those in power “do not get it?” keep this scene in mind. The real dunce might be yourself, it almost certainly is.
We should at least be vigilant enough not to play ourselves. There are already enough people and opportunities available to do that work.