What is "democracy"?

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Trinity Coulter
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Trinity Coulter » Fri Oct 16, 2009 6:14 am

I've gone over about 6 drafts of what I wanted to say next in response here, but I think I'll go with the post that most directly answers what Quite originally asked, taking into account what others have written since.

I'm not sure how democratic the Red Cross is, but I would assume not at all, and I'm not sure if we can make a comparison there anyway. And Tateru, you are right, if Gramma and Afon want to change the way NCI works, that's their choice, but we're not really discussing that, I thought. We're just thinking something through and it seems like it should be ok for Quite to ask it, and ok for us to think it over and give our thoughts on it, after all, she said this topic (Democracy) was one of the top 3 things people were asking about. So it seems reasonable to give it a fair hearing and give our pros and cons.


Answering Lethe and Tateru essentially....
"How does Democracy in NCI bring additional benefits to new SL users?"

Depending on how its applied.....

it might bring a feeling of involvement to more of the membership.

it might lead to more participation.

it might lead to more in-depth discussions of whether a decision is good or bad and bring more points of view into the mix.

it might lead to more people being identified as potential future leaders and volunteers in the organization through their prior involvement in discussions and so on.

it might lead to new ideas and directions that a limited number of people would overlook or potentially not envision

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Now its easy to answer the question with positive outcomes, and its also easy to just be naive about whether it would actually work.

I personally don't mind whether NCI is a democracy or a republic or a dictatorship..... as long as we get a good result from things, but like I think I said in my first response, I think people are more thinking about just wanting to Trust, if they bring up democracy, not that anyone isn't trusted now... but if everyone makes a decision, then we all get the blame for it, ya know

Janet Rossini
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Janet Rossini » Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:03 am

Quite Oh wrote:I like to think deeply about simple things. I find that being very clear on the basics, and taking nothing for granted is an effective way to successfully do most things in life. I've been listening closely to what people have been saying that they wanted from NCI, and the top three things were

Communication
Transparency
Democracy

1) Communication. I think that we're ever increasing the flow of both listening and expressing ideas and values. We now have more ways for NCI to communicate that I can recall in the past.

2) Transparency. By this, my *presumption* is that people want a clear understanding of the important facts on how NCI operates. I think we've achieved this more than ever before as well, and we are continuing to do so.

3) Democracy.

What IS democracy (in relation to NCI)? More specifically: what is it that you think that "democracy" will do for you, or give you, or bring about in a tangible manner? It has been said that democracy is the tyranny of 51% over 49%. Some refer to it as "Lynch mob rules". I don't imagine this is what people mean when they use the word democracy. Democracy is not a "thing". It is a process designed to help people achieve certain results in order to fulfill specific values.

When YOU use the word "democracy", what are these things that you want to bring into existence? What may not yet exist, or that does, but could be better expressed or implemented?

This is an important discussion. Please let me know.
To your points, in order, not just the last:

1. Yes, there are more ways to communicate. This one seems not to be used much, which is a pity. There are some somewhat legitimate concerns around security but it feels to me mostly as if most people don't much care to communicate in this forum. I guess that's OK, and it probably tells us something.

2. Yes, there is more transparency. It used to be that we heard nothing for ages, and then we'd be informed of a decision that sounded like it was based on a specific event but was phrased as a new rule for everyone. What we have is better. It is not, however, all that wonderful, in that most of what we hear sounds like "we are working on that", or "we are working hard on other things and will get to that later". More transparency, if desired, might include more information on what was being worked on and what progress is being made.

3. Regarding democracy. The remarks about "lynch mob rule" and "tyranny of 51 percent over 49 percent" seem unfortunate to me, and rather dismissive of the idea.

But oh well. What would democracy mean to me? To me, as someone who lives in what is supposedly a democratic republic, it would mean these things to me:

It would mean that the top people who make the major decisions for NCI would be elected, and could in principle be de-elected should they somehow screw up horribly. (I do not think anyone is screwing up horribly, but if they did they could in principle be recalled.)

Elections of the board might also confer a sense of legitimacy for those who may be concerned that there has been some kind of coup. I do not share that concern, and the board is perfectly legitimate as far as I am concerned.

Finally, in a republic like the one I live in, the people can produce proposals which can be voted upon, and if they pass they have the force of law. One could imagine some use for that here, though I don't have one in mind.

So, those are the things I see that "democracy" means to me: a republic with elected officials, perhaps a greater sense of legitimacy, and the ability to raise and vote on certain proposals.

It is perhaps also worth noting that in US corporations the board of directors is elected by and serves at the pleasure of the shareholders. I'm sure the details are different but in practice it works much the same way.

For me, I don't mind whether NCI becomes a democracy or not. It has worked mostly well as far as I can tell. I did think Carl was kind of autocratic, but it didn't really affect me negatively in any way. On that front, the current board seems far more participative than that, and far more likely to listen -- and things weren't that bad before.

Anyway: that's what democracy means to me, and I truly don't care whether we become more democratic, in any sense, or not. My own concerns have had to do with how to run projects, and I think the discussion on that has run its course.
I don't work here: I volunteer here. I don't have duties: I have small gifts which I offer.

Janet Rossini
NCI Supporter
http://valkyriejanet.wordpress.com

Tateru Nino
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Tateru Nino » Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:51 am

Janet Rossini wrote:
2. Yes, there is more transparency. It used to be that we heard nothing for ages, and then we'd be informed of a decision that sounded like it was based on a specific event but was phrased as a new rule for everyone.
That was me at work. Each and every staff rule came into being because of a regrettable incident, and in some cases more than one such incident. The actual specifics of who was involved, and what happened were not communicated to our staff. That was my choice. In situations where that information did wind up circulating, the staff member in question was harassed and driven out of NCI by their peers.

I specifically chose to keep such matters as confidential and opaque as possible, because a little over half of NCI's staff would not be a part of NCI now, in my opinion, if I had not. In my personal experience, people often treat each-other poorly rather than being forgiving of errors, and we had enough examples when such information had leaked, that it was obvious that our own staff were no exception to that rule.

On the matter of the rules themselves, it was obvious that the basic watchwords of civility, respect and courtesy were too broad and/or nebulous, otherwise such incidents would not have kept occurring. As they did keep occurring, it became obvious that specific circumstances needed to be spelled out in more detail. My personal preference was the far shorter and more succinct three words, but that was simply impractical.

Things happened, and kept happening until I wrote something specific down. Even then, some of them had to be repeatedly amended.

And yes, NCI has nearly always been an autocracy. Every person that was consulted in a decision roughly doubled the amount of time to reach that decision. ie: Me and Carl both discussing something would take at least twice as long as one of us considering the matter and acting unilaterally. Three people took four times as long. Four people took eight times as long.

Taking input from a dozen or so people could easily take four to six weeks. We worked both unilaterally, bilaterally and multilaterally as we thought necessary. Most decisions involving finances were unilateral or bilateral at best, because the necessary time-frames to reach a decision were simply too short to allow anything broader. (Trivia note: That's why democratic and republican governments don't command during war-time, but only provide a policy framework to an otherwise unilateral command)

Why so long? Timezones, mostly. In a multinational organization, it can take a week just to schedule a telephone meeting among widespread participants -- longer for more people -- and NCI is a multinational with specialized time-constraints (Not everyone is working an 8/5 week on NCI).

Gramma and Afon may choose to take NCI in a different direction of their choosing, and I'm as happy if they do as I would be if they don't.

If so, however, it's going to have to take into account those particular and invariant constraints. NCI operated as an autocracy for a reason: That doing otherwise vastly increased the costs, time, effort and commitment required of others who are, essentially, volunteers, and who (not infrequently) resented it when we did.

Blu Laszlo
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Blu Laszlo » Fri Oct 16, 2009 11:42 am

Tatero hit the nail on the head. We are here to serve the new people and to provide education. That's it. Period. Let's focus on that and place politics in the back seat where it belongs. Newbies have nothing to gain from any of these discussions. I also doubt whether the newbie experience will be enriched by concepts of Democracy and governance. I propose we all do our assigned jobs to the best of our abilities and carry on helping new people.
Blu Laszlo

Trinity Coulter
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Trinity Coulter » Fri Oct 16, 2009 1:40 pm

Its true of course that just making decisions by yourself can be quicker.

And I seem to remember someone doing that recently.

And from the description of the events, it seems the Board of Directors rose up against the decision in protest, nearly ripping NCI's leadership and future to shreds.

Now, that wasn't, at least from the descriptions, a democracy. It was autocracy combined with people who were not willing to just "do our assigned jobs to the best of our abilities and carry on helping new people".

Now its easy to dismiss it as being a 1-time occurence, but isn't it simply asking for the same situation to occur again if we simply follow the ideas that are being put out there to ignore at least some degree of democracy and NOT have a continued autocracy?

People, lets try and think in ways that we can come to a consensus and agree on issues. Most of the replies I am seeing in this thread paint democracy as this thing we have to avoid so strongly, and several are dismissive of even talking about it.

But if it was important to people (as originally stated), and we're here to help people, shouldn't it get a fair consideration? And shouldn't we, to avoid the pitfalls of what just happened when autocracy didn't work, consider some alternatives?

I would love to hear someone say something positive here about the original point that Quite asked, rather than just seeming upset or dismissive.

Tateru Nino
NCI Officer
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Tateru Nino » Fri Oct 16, 2009 4:29 pm

Trinity Coulter wrote:
And from the description of the events, it seems the Board of Directors rose up against the decision in protest, nearly ripping NCI's leadership and future to shreds.
That's an interesting way to put it, but that is not what happened. In fact, you could say that that is technically almost the opposite of what happened. I was there.

Beverly Montgomery
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Beverly Montgomery » Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:05 pm

Trinity Coulter wrote:

And from the description of the events, it seems the Board of Directors rose up against the decision in protest, nearly ripping NCI's leadership and future to shreds.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tateru Nino wrote:
That's an interesting way to put it, but that is not what happened. In fact, you could say that that is technically almost the opposite of what happened. I was there.

=====================================================================

Thank you Tateru, exactly, however Trinity's comment right here, is why all the controversy is still at hand. This is what everyone thinks, this is why attacks keep happening, why so very many are against us. Why can't they just see it for what it is/was, and move on, this is not doing anything at all, toward helping a new person, its, in its way slowing us down, holding us back, keeping us from performing in a more accurate position. No, we are constantly attacked, not very nice things said to and about us, almost daily, blameing us because Carl quit. Wait, who saw Carl last, how did he perform, Carl needed to do this, or he would not have. I saw it, i saw everything actually, heard alot.

There was alot going on, involvd in this, more than anyone could imagine. Why can't we accept what happen, and just move on. Seems some and Im disapointed too, that some can't do it. Even if it was their original intention to do so. I guess it is still and gonna stay, nasty, hey maybe it is ment to keep us on our toes. Well i dont like it. It feels wrong.

Sorry felt i wanted to comment here, just my two cents.

Bev

Quite Oh
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Quite Oh » Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:32 pm

So in the end, it seems, based on the replies that I've recieved that by "democracy" people mean they want more involvement and opportunity to contribute and offer input for new ideas. If that's the case, then good.

So I think that what people have been asking for isL

People want to be more aware of what is going on in NCI
They want the ability to be heard.
They want the ability to offer their skills and talents.

Simple enough. Thanks!

Loris Talon
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Loris Talon » Sat Oct 17, 2009 10:30 pm

Democracy

What is democracy? In a democracy the people govern: that’s the simple etymology of that Greek word.

How the people govern is much more interesting than that simple fundamental principle. Peace's description: “Democracy is putting all the issues to be voted by the people” is, as she points out, a mess. No actual or past democracies applied that method because it would mean complete paralysis. Nonetheless some practical kind of democracy is desirable.

To realize a practical democratic model the only method I know of is called republic. In a republic the concept of delegation is central. Delegation works only if people trust the people to whom they delegate power. It is simple, I, member of a community, can’t or don’t want to worry about managing the “res publica”, so I delegate (or "elect") you, also a member of my community, because I trust you.

How can we choose people we can trust? There are several ways:1) because they are our relatives; 2) because they live in our home town; 3) because they are nice; 4) because they own some TV channels and a lot of other reasons.

But, we should greatly prefer to chose them because we approve their programme, because we like their vision of the society, because we share their ideas, because we feel they are part of that subset of the community that thinks like we do.

Elections are evidently the method to chose delegates. Indeed when democratic countries want to point out the non-democratic nature of other countries (USA vs USSR for example), they argue that those countries don’t have free elections.

NCI Board and Democracy

At present the NCI board was not democratically elected. NCI directors can be communicative, they can be transparent, they can listen to residents, they can be the beast board on Earth. Still, as things stand, NCI is not democratic, even as a republic, because the board were not elected and because there is no way to remove them. This is just a fact: it might be perfectly fine this way, as it has been for years.

But now the question can be asked: should the NCI board be democratically elected? Or more precisely, should NCI act like a republic, with elections and the like?

Directors (and ex-directors), that expressed their opinions in the forum answered more or less directly, but the present answer seems to be a resounding "no". I'm suggesting here that for the good of the board and NCI, the answer should be "yes".

Some directors and others have expressed their concern about poor feelings between some NCI members and the board. If they are right--and I believe they are--this raises a more urgent question: what can we do to win back NCI members' confidence?

During the last meeting, I suggested an election, not to overthrow the board, but to legitimize it by electing exactly the same board we have now, establishing their legitimacy without doubt. Surely no other group of people have any chance to win the elections, even if they wanted what is a very difficult job.

Speaking for myself, I, Loris, certainly don't want more power, though of course I hope to be able to influence and help. My greatest concern is for the survival of NCI as a community, as a place, as an organization, in that order. I want to limit my involvement to occasional suggestions and to focus on my daily work of helping new residents and keeping Kuula a nice place. Having an elected board will, I believe, make all our work easier by reducing unnecessary concerns about the board's standing.

Therefore, I propose that the current board stand for election as soon as possible. A short but reasonable interval might be allowed to permit other nominations, for form's sake, but I do not expect any serious contenders. I propose that the electors be the Land Holdings group members, and the NCI Helpers. Upon the election, any questions about legitimacy will be gone, and one obstacle to smooth and peaceful progress will be removed.

Thank you for your attention. I welcome any questions.

Loris Talon

Quite Oh
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Quite Oh » Sun Oct 18, 2009 4:55 am

Loris Talon wrote:Democracy

What is democracy? In a democracy the people govern: that’s the simple etymology of that Greek word.
Let's be clear that in a democracy what people govern is that which they have a right or legal share of something, a financial involvement with something, or hold legal title to.
Loris Talon wrote:To realize a practical democratic model the only method I know of is called republic. In a republic the concept of delegation is central. Delegation works only if people trust the people to whom they delegate power. It is simple, I, member of a community, can’t or don’t want to worry about managing the “res publica”, so I delegate (or "elect") you, also a member of my community, because I trust you.
Let us look at what a republic is: a group of sovereign individuals (meaning that they hold title to something), and what they delegate is the governance to that which they hold title to. Res means "thing", or "the matter". In this case, the rez is all of NCI's land, agreements, assets, money, titles, intellectual property, intangible values, and duties, obligations and requirements to perform. Publica means public: "belonging to the people".

NCI is not public, it is private. It SERVES the public. Is there someone here who can lay claim to legal title or ownership of NCI so as to delegate it's authority? That's what it boils down to.

NCI is two things: an organisation that provides a service and a community. Brace Coral originally raised donations and put up the money for the land and started the organisation. She then ceded it to Tat and Carl who built on it using their own labour and funds, and it was then passed down onto the board, with full title and rights. I believe the addresses the above question.

As for community, we are currently growing by approximately 1.5 members PER HOUR! Further, I'm seeing old friends returning and I still see us hanging around and enjoying our friendships and having fun. In that respect, I don't really see that much has changed.
Loris Talon wrote:But now the question can be asked: should the NCI board be democratically elected? Or more precisely, should NCI act like a republic, with elections and the like?
"Should" based on what criteria? This would of course entail ceding rights, title and property. This boils down to a giving away of title and rights to assets to whomever the customers like best. Also consider that much of the land that NCI holds is though donation. Is anyone not on the BoD full aware of the details and agreements of said donations and the potential repercussions of said transfer, were it to occur?

Loris Talon wrote:Directors (and ex-directors), that expressed their opinions in the forum answered more or less directly, but the present answer seems to be a resounding "no". I'm suggesting here that for the good of the board and NCI, the answer should be "yes".
Please see my above response. When I hear a number of people suggest that NCI should be more democratic, what I hear is "I want more access to and control of NCI's resources". I figure if it's just to be more involved, there's nothing that stops anyone from dedicating their time to thinking up new ideas, prototyping and sharing, or helping in new and different ways. None of that requires anyone's permission, we're all free. The only thing that *does* require authorization from the board is access to resources. If that's the case, why not ask directly?

Loris Talon wrote:During the last meeting, I suggested an election, not to overthrow the board, but to legitimize it by electing exactly the same board we have now, establishing their legitimacy without doubt. Surely no other group of people have any chance to win the elections, even if they wanted what is a very difficult job.
What, exactly, do you mean by "legitimacy"? Carl and Tat have both explicitly handed over title and rights. Is there another sense in which you mean the word?

Loris Talon wrote:My greatest concern is for the survival of NCI as a community, as a place, as an organization, in that order. I want to limit my involvement to occasional suggestions and to focus on my daily work of helping new residents and keeping Kuula a nice place. Having an elected board will, I believe, make all our work easier by reducing unnecessary concerns about the board's standing.
First, do you claim that you currently cannot make suggestions, focus on helping newbies or keep Kuula a nice place? Second, what are the concerns that you have in regards to the BoD as it relates to your personal involvment?

Loris Talon wrote:I propose that the electors be the Land Holdings group members, and the NCI Helpers. Upon the election, any questions about legitimacy will be gone, and one obstacle to smooth and peaceful progress will be removed.
Well, what again are your concerns and how do you perceive them as being an obstacle to either peace or progress? My thoughts on the matter is that we already have peace and progress. The fact that we are able to discuss these matters openly seem to me to be evidence of both.

Let us not mistake NCI as governors of a populace. We serve newbies, we do not govern them. We serve each other, we do not govern each other. We do have rules of operation to ensure that stability, longevity and well-being of NCI. We call them guidelines and operating procedures. These have not changed them in any significant way since the transfer. The only additional rules I forsee is the rules for the board--policies and procedures.

People volunteer to assist NCI and are free to come and go and determine their own level of involvment. NCI has no authority over people that they do not consent to when they freely join to participate in helping newbies and having fun with friends. NCI has NOT changed in any significant way, other than we are now leaning on a wider base of skills and talents that before. Carl and Tat used to carry the largest part of the load. Now, more people are more involved and thus we are more able to ensure that things do go well.

As we continue to chip away at the stone, we are making progress toward formalizing a system that will allow us to handle even more people being involved and making it so that people can have more and more say. It's nice to have an extra hundred people doing an extra hundred things, but we still need some form of system and communication to make it so that we know who is doing what, and what agreements are being made.

Remember to stop, take a breath and look around and notice just how much more you can currently get involved, if you so choose. Take the time to appreciate what Carl, Tat and all the volunteers have created over four years! If you want to get more involved, help more, you still can--just as you always could, and maybe even more.

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