WARD PROGRAM, Cure Urban Alienation - Let's Prehend
Let's Prehend
A Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design

WARD PROGRAM, Cure Urban Alienation

The inner city is often a horror to behold, an offense to greater community, a breeding ground for crime and disease, a terrifying and degrading place to live, and an uncomfortable area for policemen. Gentrification or special economic zones are inadequate solutions to inner city problems. More money may be helpful, but not without a broader and deeper approach. One culture design solution is the `urban village', the ward.

The Ward Program is an exercise in culture design. It originated as a remedy for economic depression and social breakdown, to stimulate the economy by transferring money to the people as the most economically stimulating multiplier. Money transferred to the poor stimulates the economy more than sops to the rich, simply because it is more likely to be spent, thereby adding to the circulation. But the deeper goal is to promote the reconstruction of organic social life, ROSL. Organic communities can be promoted, even in urban settings.

An Urban Government Committee divides each community into wards as a first step. These wards are quasi-tribal groups, sized at the number of people who can recognize each other, perhaps a hundred or two. The next task is to promote activities which develop this neighborhood ward into a community, an urban village.

The supervising urban committee distributes money to each ward, perhaps $2 per week per citizen. In order to receive the money, the ward must have enough of an organization to open a bank account, and the bank must make this decision, as it would with any other account. The transfer of money takes place only if the ward's weekly meeting has a very high attendance, perhaps 90%.

Oversight control is limited to a simple grievance procedure: at any complaint of mismanagement or corruption, the money distribution stops until the conflict is resolved - and this may take a long time. Thus, each ward is encouraged to solve its own problems rather than push them up the line of organization. This grievance procedure secures the system, but more importantly it diffuses responsibility down the government hierarchy to the lowest level.y[Note principle of subsidiarity] Call it "Grievance Democracy, GD". Keep in mind that the prevailing city governments are not directly involved.

Imagine what is apt to happen: The poorer neighborhoods will probably form wards sooner than the wealthy, since the poor already have more interaction, while the wealthy are unimpressed by such a small sum of money and probably prefer the privacy of their ghostly lives. Neighborhoods that have some remnants of quasi-tribal life, such as children playing on the street or a neighborhood watch, may have an easier time getting started.

Let's begin with a block party to initiate and name the ward. If the number of people is limited so that people learn to recognize each other, the PROBLEM OF THE STRANGER (p. 73) is alleviated. As people get to know each other, the tasks at hand will help displace the orneriness that always lurks in the human heart. Growth of a neighborhood culture will alleviate the `tertiary emotions', those feelings people cultivate to reject and oppress each other. Imagine the variety of activities, such as gardening, sports and celebrations, that will arise in this reconstruction of quasi-tribal life. A newly created culture will emerge from the rich subconscious roots of cultures long forgotten.

The media will be arrive. TV will show the fun that folks in the new wards are having. Sensationalism may occasionally raise its ugly head; media and bureaucratic sabotage may require some attention. But media will spread the images, vigor, diversity, and complexity of this new socio-political organism.

Once the wards get started, they will evolve into urban ecovillages. At first the wards will inconspicuously assist the usual city government functions. As more serious problems of the neighborhoods occur, they will be handled mostly within the ward. Gradually city government functions will recede to a low level necessary for security and backup. The wards may even handle some police and traffic problems, child care and education, eventually health and welfare, even productive activities, and other aspects of a growing culture. The ward government will have new vigor, the city government will shrink toward an inter-ward council and a ceremonial skeleton.

Inter-ward activities will flourish, perhaps starting with sports and markets, then progressing to more highly developed and broader relationships. Wards will differentiate and specialize, as is the way of organic cultures. The grievance staff may also encourage inter-ward organization, eventually growing into a structure of representative management, though conscious attention to the primacy of the tribal group will probably be necessary. With and emphasis on inconspicuous management and consensus, political process will be efficient and fast, rather than be adversarial and boring.

Notice that as the management of human affairs becomes more humanistic and organic, only a minimum of government and law is necessary. This democratizes the culture by moving power down the i scale of the D chart into a more vigorous and complex citizenry. As the ward system and its managerial democracy grows, a vigorous and versatile culture develops. The state withers away.

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