Imagine for a moment, if Facebook had been created as a democratic cooperative. The membership (billions of people now) would collectively decide how to run the platform—most likely in the interests of the majority. Of course we can only hope that such a majority would collectively develop an ethical responsibility to not abuse the minority but, that is a chance we have to take to have democracy at all.
Imagine now, that this cooperative version of Facebook, a democratically organized group of a few billion ethically responsible people, might suggest better ways to run the planet. This organization could pressure governments around the world to stop using fossil fuels, stop destroying habitats, stop building weapons of mass destruction, and demand equality and justice for all. Imagine if this democratically organized group of people grew to include everyone on the planet. We would then have a truly democratic system, representing all of humanity, acting in the interests of people, rather than profits for corporations.
But Facebook is not a cooperative. Instead, the decisions are taken by Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook shareholders—in their own interests. Usually to maximize profits at any cost. And the costs are adding up: being used to facilitate genocide in Myanmar; manipulate elections in the U.S., U.K. and other countries; spread misinformation and further polarize society…and what else is yet to come?
Facebook is not going to become democratic, but there is no reason we can’t begin to build a democratic social media platform now, to accomplish the same end—a democratic system to govern the world. It would have to be designed with certain principles in mind to keep it truly democratic:
1. Elected representatives must not benefit personally from the position, and should be immediately recallable by those who elected them. Otherwise, there are opportunities for corruption.
2. The decision making system must be transparent and accessible to all. Otherwise people won’t trust their elected officials, as is often the case now.
Similar democratic systems have been built in the past by humans, but never to govern the whole planet. In 1871, the people of Paris created a democratic system to manage the Paris Commune until it was destroyed by the combined effort of the French and Prussian states. Russian workers and soldiers created a democratic council (soviet) system during the revolution of 1917. This brief experiment was destroyed by the Bolshevik party's seizure of control and authoritarian rule. Indigenous peoples around the world have also created democratic systems, such as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy whose lands were stolen by European colonialism.
Each of these systems was created by communities to govern themselves. For democracy to work, it must be based on community in order to include everyone. Since we can’t be sure of anyone’s identity on the internet, membership on the platform must require membership in a real community organization where we know each other (our workplace, school, religious or cultural group, neighbourhood…). In this way we can gradually build a democratic network linking our communities together in the ‘real world’.
OUR GOAL HERE IS TO ORGANIZE EVERYBODY... YEAH, EVERYBODY.
It has to start somewhere. Might as well be here...
The ability to act collectively has made humans more successful than other species. Collective action requires organization. One way to organize people is based on a common ideology or belief, as religions, nation states and political movements do. Unfortunately, groups organized on ideological grounds often find themselves in conflict with each other, and sometimes at war. It is extremely unlikely to ever be able to organize everyone in the world based on a common belief.
The other way that we can organize people is to participate in a cooperative activity based on an agreed-upon set of rules - such as a game or a constitution. We can build a democratic system for the world this way.
Humanity faces many existential threats (pandemic, climate, nuclear, biological, or technological) with no functional way to solve problems on a global scale. States are in competition with each other which makes the kind of trust and cooperation we need, on a global scale, almost impossible.
International initiatives and treaties are essentially unenforceable. The United Nations can only impose decisions that the five permanent members of the security council agree upon (which is rare) and has no real power otherwise. Democracy is tragically flawed because it was not designed to include everyone, being based on a model created hundreds of years ago for property owners to manage their collective interests. Despite the introduction of universal suffrage, politics remains dominated by powerful economic interests. Politicians with the most funding tend to be the ones elected. Many people don't bother to vote at all, seeing the system as corrupt. The internet has de-stabilized the political climate with people moving further into filter bubbles and populism rising around the world. More than ever, humanity needs a truly democratic system in which all people can participate on an equal basis. Hoping for unity will not make that happen. We need a mechanism to bring it about.
With a democratically controlled, non-profit, platform-cooperative providing services which people currently obtain from profit driven websites, we can organize grassroots communities together into a worldwide network despite their different ideologies.
Individual membership will require real names and involvement in a local community organization thus avoiding anti-social behaviours which are rampant on the internet due to anonymity and fake accounts. We are all members of some community: our workplace; school; religious, cultural or political group; social or sports club; neighbourhood and many other options. As individuals join this platform we will be linking our communities together. Each community will elect representatives to a local decision making body.
This network will provide the basis for democracy from below. Each local democratic group will send representatives to a higher decision making body. This process will continue until we reach national levels and an international decision making body for the world. Many union federations already function democratically this way.
The internet is a useful tool to organize ourselves but isn't dependable because it can go down periodically, be hijacked or destroyed. But we can use it to begin building a democratic system in the real world for everyone to cooperate on an equal basis.
One website can unite humanity democratically. And if we don't do it ourselves, Facebook, Google, Amazon or Apple will do it to us - undemocratically.
Only a united humanity will be able to solve the problems we are facing. Please join us!
contact [at] liberigi [dot]net
Democracy From Below
We are all members of communities. Usually many. Our family; our neighbourhood; our workplace or school; religious or cultural community; sports, social or book club...even a regular potluck dinner between friends.
We participate in communities which we choose to be part of, and feel comfortable in, where we can discuss politics and practice democracy together with people we can trust.
That's where Democracy From Below starts.
It must be designed with certain principles in mind to keep it truly democratic:
Elected representatives must not benefit personally from the position, and they should be immediately recallable by those who elected them. Otherwise, there are opportunities for corruption.
The decision making system must be transparent and accessible to all. Otherwise people won’t trust their elected officials, as is often the case now.
Our political voice counts in any community organization that we are a part of on a regular basis. In our community we can feel free to voice our opinion, participate in debate, and vote on the issues that matter to us. Together with our community, we'll choose representatives to a local Council. Everywhere around the world these truly democratic local governments will elect regional councils representing all the people of the world. This mechanism will allow all of humanity to function as one community. Many union federations function democratically this way already.
We will create a World Council similar to the United Nations but democratically controlled by all of humanity together.
As we grow this democratic community, we will gradually have influence over, and eventually be able to replace the current political systems (democratic or not) all around the world.
As individuals, we can participate democratically in any or several of these types of communities and elect representatives to a Local Council.
Each Local Council will send representatives to a Regional Council:
Each Regional Council will send representatives to a World Council:
So, how do we build it?
We begin by building a democratic web platform cooperative together. A digital community centre for the world. We have to use our real names - as we're known in our communities. This is how we can avoid any fake accounts and anti-social behaviours that are common on other social media platforms where people can remain anonymous, and don't have to answer to their community for their actions.
We will have to decide together what the standards of behaviour will be and make those expectations clear to all members. This project will require volunteers for every imaginable task: designing, programming, translating, fundraising...and so much more.