Monday, November 21, 2016

Virtual Community

Two alternative methods of forming a democracy are Proportional Representation and First-Past-The-Post. The advantage of Proportional Representation is that it protects minorities. Groups that don't bunch up geographically, can still be represented. The advantage of FPTP constituencies is accountability. There is someone responsible to a specific electorate. That electorate is local, and so the concerns can relate to that community.

Globalisation creates a physical disconnect between the people we live with and the community we share our head space with. I live in London, but I still spend a lot of my 'head space' in South Africa. Online, I try mostly be polite, and I keep my oozing to a whatsapp group with some friends... all scattered around the globe. Distance is one of the biggest barriers to the Utopia I dream of. I can't pop in to visit friends.

Before globalisation... we would have invested far more energy in our local community. Ken Robinson said 7/8 of his great-grandparents lived in the same neighbourhood. Mobility does make it more difficult to build things that are going to stand up to time. 

I have moved several times. I was born in Johannesburg. When I was two years old, my family moved to Durban. Age 18, I pressed the pause button while my brothers finished university and headed on a work-travel visa to Chichester, England. Then Cape Town for my studies, and a couple of years of work (6 years total), before going back to Johannesburg for two years. I moved to London in 2008. First Putney, then Crystal Palace. I am about to move again.

Leaving SA for the first time (12 April 1998)

I was lucky, work took me back to South Africa regularly. I probably saw more of some people because I didn't live there. When time is limited to trips, people make an effort.

I still have very shallow physical roots. I believe in being a Global Citizen, but this does mean I spread myself very thin. Being far from people I love is difficult. It is a difficulty I have to accept because there isn't one place I could even choose to go where they would all still be. Even if I go there, it doesn't mean they will stay. Jobs move. Homes move. Time moves.

More than that, despite London actually being very good at having people with very different circumstances living in close proximity, I don't spend enough time in the community to build roots. I get to know the people in the local businesses superficially. I haven't been around long enough for that to extend further.

Social Media does mean I feel like I have a constant community. I feel far more connected than during those two years in Chichester when the internet was just kicking off. (I would still have to arrange time in the computer room of the school I worked at to send emails. Back when emails resembled letters.) But, I am not as physically connected to that community.

I can see why Globalisation can make democracy challenging. The idea of constituencies is that there is someone who can engage with and get to know the community. If those communities are virtual, that can be difficult.

Genghis Khan was one of the most powerful people to have ever lived. His life very much resembled that of the rest of his community though. The food he ate wasn't distinctly different. His tent was a little fancier, but it was still a tent. The issues he faced became grander, but they were still tied to his community. Genghis was nomadic too, with shallow roots and interest in one of the biggest empires to ever exist. A big difference was they moved as and with a community.

As much new connections in the world are forming, older connections are being strained. We need to figure out how a balance between a local world and a global world.

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