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Umairology 601

When I joined Medium last April, one of the first articles the Medium algorithm fed to me was from Umair Haque. It was a nice read. I had to agree with a lot of what he was saying. I “followed” him and got more of his articles. 

After my sixth Umair article, I came to the conclusion that Umair is writing about the same thing over and over again: the inevitable collapse of the United States of America. I am amazed at how he finds new angles to this topic, cleverly using current headlines to return to his main theme. I still enjoy reading his articles. 

Umair sort of reminds me of the person who is shouting: “Come and watch the boat sink.” His followers are now peering over his shoulder: “You are right, Umair. The boat is indeed sinking. Thank you for telling us.” This conversation would be fine and dandy if Umair and his followers were on the shore. But they are not: they are on the boat. 

I have not read much “Here’s how we stop the boat from sinking” talk from Umair’s articles. Should we save our Saturdays for peaceful protest? Should we get in our elected representative’s faces, trying to bend their will? Should we shout longer and louder than the other side, which is obviously so wrong? Should we put time into convincing the 50% of Americans who normally don’t vote to come out to vote in 2020? Should we run for public office ourselves? Should we post Umair articles on our Facebook wall and Twitter feed? Umair is silent for the most part. 

Umair seems to have some preference for Elizabeth Warren as the Democrat presidential candidate for 2020, but I think he knows such support is only putting a small tin sheet over a really big hole. Let me put this in another way: Umair’s articles offer no solution to the mess the USA is in. 

To be fair, Umair has created his own Medium publication called Eudaimonics. If you read the articles in this publication, you can find Umair’s solutions. They involve a more organic and holistic behavior for Americans and the rest of the world. I recommend reading the articles under this publication. But I do have two concerns with Eudainomics: (1) how do we move from HERE to THERE, and (2) Umair’s followers much prefer his doom-and-gloom articles than his omega/theta/lamba approach for creating a better world. 

I have a different solution than Umair. But you are not going to like it. You are not going to like because it will require you to get out of your comfort zone and invest some of your spare time to make this solution work. No, no, no, no, there is no easy path. There is no sitting back in your reclining chair listening to talking heads on how to fix democracy, then getting out of your chair to vote once every couple of years to vote D or R, whoever seems to be the wiser. There is no attending the political rally of your preferred candidate when the circus comes to your home town, toss him or her $100 check, and say “Hey I just participated in democracy.” There is no more reading and promoting of more Umair articles hoping that Umair’s message will eventually sift to the average Trump supporters to convince them of the errors of their ways. There is no more shaking your index finger and say “tsk, tsk, America. Shame on you” and hope America is somehow going to transform itself as you are tsk-tsking this collapsing nation. 

Let me put this another way: you are going to have to off your butt and make things happen—if you want to bring about real change. 

As a young idealistic Canadian, I joined a political party to serve my country. Somehow, I thought my presence in this forum would help bring about a wiser political culture. Lots of my spare time and a little of my spare money went into this life mission.

As I rose to lower-middle management, I began to see the internal flaws within political parties. Briefly stated, parties are about formal and informal contests for ambitious party members to compete against each other for status, influence, and power. This dysfunction then spills into governance and into society in general. It really should be no wonder why we are where we are when we look inside the psychology of any political party. After six years, I quit politics as my contribution to save the world. 

But all that experience got me pondering. We know so little about the people who are on the ballot. For example, have you ever worked with just one of the political candidates on your ballot in a workplace or community board? If not, how do you know how well they participate in a meeting? Do they have the knowledge, experience, and wisdom to participate effectively? Are they good listeners and open to new ideas? Or are they just using their position to thrust their version of how the world should work? Are they hiding corrupt inclinations or a serious lack of talent and skill under a party banner? These assessments are kind of hard to determine from any election campaign. 

So how do we set up elections such we citizens are voting for someone of good character and capacity for governance? I suggest that we reduce the size of electoral districts to about 200 people. 

With neighborhoods as electoral districts, it will be hard for neighbors to elect a representative who really shouldn’t be there. For example, if many neighbors know a neighbor has a more than a little problem with alcohol or has an eagle eye for teenage girls, I think such a person would not receive many votes from his fellow neighbors. In fact, no political messaging (even from the Russians) will convince your neighbors to vote for someone in your neighborhood who really shouldn’t be in government. 

Let me say this in another way. The usual partisan ways of proffering candidates for election will not work at the neighborhood level. Political parties are not necessary when neighbors are voting for their fellow neighbors. If the parties are not necessary, neither will be the big money or errant ideologies behind the parties. In fact, this new culture should shun any attempts at partisanship and electioneering. Let the past deeds and demeanor of the more capable community leaders speak for themselves as to which of them deserve votes in the neighborhood elections. 

Let me say this in a simpler way: annual neighborhood elections are much better at vetting potential representatives for government than political parties! 

Let’s then build the next tier. About four to 12 neighborhoods are gathered together to form a district. The elected neighborhood representatives will meet on a regular basis to discuss affairs in their district. Because they are working together, they will get to know each other reasonably well. By again using the principles of good character and capacity for governance as criteria to cast a vote, they will elect one from themselves to serve as district representative. And this district representative will represent the five to 12 neighborhoods in the next highest tier of government. 

And remember that the four to 12 candidates for the job of district representative were already vetted by their neighbors. They are probably good people to move higher. 

Please note that average citizen does not vote directly for the district representative. The average citizen gives that responsibility to his or her neighborhood representative.

I can hear you saying “Hold on there, Dave. I like voting for the top dog. I don’t want to give up that right.” Let me explain why you should give up this right for two reasons. 

First, you know so little about those ambitious people aspiring to be top dog in our current elections because you likely have never worked directly with any of them on anything. In case you have worked with one name on the ballot, most of your neighbors have not. They have no idea who really deserves the promotion. Whatever information you or your neighbors have about these people is extremely faulty, tainted, and biased to put these people in such a positive and negative light that the truth can no longer shine. 

Second, the Founding Fathers figured out the superiority of indirect elections in 1787. Did you know that Senators used to be indirectly elected? Did you know that the electoral college used to be a two-stage indirect election to find a president for the USA? Only the House of Representatives was designed to be a direct election. Two out of three federal legislative bodies were indirectly elected in 1787. Isn’t that interesting? Now all three institutions are directly elected. And what kind of condition is the USA in today? Ask Umair! 

So you don’t want to vote for the district representative in my system because you don’t know enough about who is better for the higher positions. You assign that right to your neighborhood representative, who knows more about the credible (and not-as-credible) candidates for the district representative than you do. You are not smarter than your neighborhood representative in this regard. You are not working with the potential candidates, so you cannot vote wisely. Capisci? (That’s Italian for “do you understand?”).

If you want to hear more, may I direct you to another Medium article I recently published: Tiered Democratic Governance (TDG). It is a 4500-word summary on the new system of governance I had invented circa 1992. Unfortunately, this shortened version of my work is missing a few too many connections to show how well all the pieces fit together. But I hope the Medium article inspires you to read my book, which is freely available on my website. 

It will take you about three hours to read my book. After that read, you can make a reasonable judgement on whether my ideas have any merit or not. 

If you like my TDG, then here’s what you should do:

Tell everyone in your social and internet circles that a fellow from Canada has some interesting ideas on reforming American democracy that make sense—and nobody else is talking about ideas like this! Spreading the word is the easy part! 

And here’s the hard part. You need to talk to your neighbors about setting up your local TDG. If only a few neighbors are agreeable, you people can start writing up your own local TDG constitution, just like the Founding Fathers. 

Writing local TDG constitutions is how America is going to be rebuilt: neighborhood-by-neighborhood; rich neighborhoods, middle-class neighborhoods, and poor neighborhoods; young, middle-aged, and elderly; Christians, Jews, Muslims, and those of little faith; Caucasian, African-American, First Nations, Asian, and those of mixed descent; men and women—and those in-between; preachers, teachers, astronauts, single moms, and ex-cons, and those in small business; service workers, factory workers, farmers, tradespeople, professionals, and those on social assistance; ex-Democrats, ex-Republicans, and those who never voted before. 

Get your neighbors together to build a kinder, gentler America—an America that will show the world a new way to govern. The neighborhoods are the foundation stones. The TDG requires effort and sacrifice from average citizens. The TDG cannot be built in any other way.

There is no political messiah to fix America—except yourself! 

Umair is calling you to open your eyes. I am calling you to get to work. 

Published on Medium 2019

The TDG Essay

Building a Kinder, Wiser Democracy