Daniel Franklin

When is Democracy the right choice?

I both agree and disagree with the belief that Democracy is better than any of the alternatives. On one hand, I believe that all governments should, in an ideal society, be democratic. I also object to the many cases of people justifying terrible dictators with, "But it was necessary for our country," such as in the case of the Soviet Union. The terrible killing and imprisonment by Stalin was not necessary, nor were many other actions taken by him, or taken by the other leaders of the U.S.S.R.. However, I do believe that in some cases rebelling for Democracy is not the right choice. Take Egypt, a country that participated in the "Arab Spring." After many deaths and much hardship, they are now back where they started, under a dictatorship. Or Syria, another "Arab Spring" country, which is undergoing a bloody civil war with little hope of becoming a democracy if the war ends. Both of these countries were under dictators, and both of them are now worse off than when they started. This does not mean that I support Totalitarianism. I may be called a hypocrite for believing that Democracy is not right for some countries, and that it is right for the United States of America. However, if you look at the U.S.A., you will find that it is currently a Democracy and not in a civil war. I believe that in the U.S.A, Democracy was started under incredibly good circumstances, in a culture that had been getting more Democratic (e.g. the Parliament in England). Democracy in the United States of America built upon many foundations, and can not be replicated in another country without that country first passing through prior stages. On this subject Robert D. Kaplan says:

... A functioning democracy is not a product that can be easily exported, in other words, but an expression of culture and historical development that must be constantly nursed and maintained. Britain's democracy did not come from civil society programs taught by human rights workers; it was the offshoot of bloody dynastic politics and uprisings in the medieval and early modern eras. The United States also has a democracy that is the envy of the world. But as the late Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington notes, that is because America was born with "political institutions and practices imported from seventeenth-century England." That, too, in one way or another, has been the case with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the other countries of the Anglosphere that also, not coincidentally, have enviable democracies. To say that democracy and the Anglo-Saxon tradition are not inherently related is to deny the record of history; it is also to say that culture, merely because it cannot be quantified and otherwise measured on an academic's chart, does not matter.
In the U.S.A's democracy was created following many European events, and those events must happen in other countries before democracy occurs. As such, I believe that Totalitarianism is sometimes the only viable, but not the right, choice.

The Plantagenet Effect by Robert D. Kaplan

Ebola's Orphans

By the time the ambulance arrived at the clinic in Liberia's capital city on September 15, her mother had slipped into silence, then death. Berlinda, dressed in a pink plaid shirt and ruffled shorts, emerged from the ambulance wide eyed and scared. There was no one there to receive her, just a phalanx of faceless health care workers covered head-to-toe in white biohazard suits. She too was a potential Ebola patient, so no one could risk picking her up for a comforting hug. Instead she was escorted into the center, given a bed and left for observation. A day later her Ebola test came out negative, but there was no one to celebrate, no one to take her home. Her father unknown and her mother dead; she had nowhere to go.
-Time Magazine

More Than Me started out as a girls education charity. However, at this point there is no schooling going on so they have refocused on helping those affected by Ebola.

Donate at morethanme.org

Fixing My School's 3Doodler

Ever since we got it a year ago, we have been fighting with our 3Doodler, a glue-gun like pen that allows you to "draw" in 3D by extruding plastic like a 3D printer does. To be fair, most of our problems stem from our use of a cheaper filament instead of buying it from WobbleWorks, the makers of the 3Doodler.  We are a maker club though. What do they expect? After all, our unofficial motto is "It still works..." (said in an indignant tone of voice).

Going back to the original point, we tried many tricks to try to fix our 3Doodler. They ranged from shoving a poke-thing up it, to holding it upside down and saying an incantation (it did improve the situation) and were affectionately termed juju-magic.

Then, while in desperation at the East Bay Mini Maker Fair I tried switching to using positive reinforcement while talking to the 3Doodler, I learned that earlier my friend had taken it apart as a project to try and fix it.  He told me that when our filament, curved from the spools it comes on, was shoved in our 3Doodler (it wasn't my fault...) it over time bent the internal tubing.

Because of this our filament was catching as it went in, frequently jamming. We had the idea of bending the filament to straighten it, thus decreasing the chance of it catching on the bent inside of the tube. With this small modification, and despite the bent inside of the tube, our 3Doodler runs perfectly.

Now the moral of this is either just pay the money and it will work, take apart your expensive stuff, communication is key, or always tweak. I personally prefer the last one and I know many of my fellow BPC makers prefer the second, but for some reason a few of my fellow students prefer the third.

What Intentional Community Would I Like to Live In?

After researching different intentional communities, I asked myself which one I would like to live in. I like to process new information by imagining myself in the world described, so I thought about what daily life in each of the communities would look like. The Village, a community in a remote section of Canada, describe their community as follows:

If you would like to live off the grid and be part of a community that is cut off from the rest of the world, then this is the place for you. NO modern day belongings are allowed so be prepared to liquidate. You must past [sic] rigorous security/police/child safety checks. Your new life in a safe, happy, and friendly community where all are truly equal is closer then you think.
In my mind, The Village is a log cabin in the woods surrounded by trees. I see people getting up early and working hard, but enjoying it. Next comes lunch with people laughing and talking in a large rustic dining room. So far this seems good. Then I meet an unnamed child. This child and I hate each other on first sight and quickly start to drive each other, along with the people unlucky enough to sit near us, insane. Well, at least when lunch is over I can get away from himherit thinks my brain. But this is The Village, a place where all are happy together. In my experience as a child, when it comes to adult-led groups "everyone is happy together" translates to "you are stuck with us". Images of end-of-year activities forced on us by teachers swim forward in my mind. Clearly this is not for me. I need something with more independence to stay sane. Next comes Abbey of the Genesee. Already from the name this is looking bad as I am an atheist, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt. About themselves they say:
We are a Roman Catholic community of monks wholly ordered to contemplation, belonging to the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, more commonly known as Trappists. The monks are dedicated to the worship of God in a hidden life within the monastery following the Rule of St. Benedict. They lead a life of solitude and silence, prayer and penance, in a joyful spirit of faith.
Definitely not for me. As a person who thinks by talking and sharing ideas, the idea of limiting my speech seems anything but joyful. I find it hard to even imagine anything like this place, but I will do my best. I see a group of buildings. As a bell chimes mournfully men in robes shuffle silently between buildings. As a child, I crave more action then this. Many stare at me, a child among a group comprised entirely of men, but they say nothing following the agreement for silence whenever possible. I don't imagine this group welcoming me, a child, but I guess that if I were dedicated to their beliefs they would accept me. Why would I want to do that though? Why would anyone want this? I suppose these people must be incapable of boredom. I understand how this could be nice for some people in small doses to relax and unwind, but their description ends with "and remain with the community for the rest of their life." You want me to speak as little as possible for the rest of my life? Not happening. Thankfully, the next one, Dancing Rabbit, isn't so bad. Their description reads:
In 1997 the DR Land Trust purchased 280 acres in the rolling hills of north-eastern Missouri. We are now deep into pioneering, constructing buildings while developing community structure. People's social and economic needs are met primarily on-site and locally, though a few do web work or off-site consulting. There is an ever-increasing emphasis on internal economy, including a lot of barter and a well-used internal currency. Eventually, we see 500 to 1,000 people living in our village, with businesses and homes around a village green.
So much better. I see a vibrant and diverse community. As I walk down paths among the houses in this small village I see people who, instead of pretending that socialism will work, accept that the human being will act like the human being does. They, while keeping with their idea of a close-knit community, invite individuality. I can go online and chat with friends or learn about the outside world, but I will also bump into new people on the way to get groceries. As I walk along I meet interesting people, but when it all gets too much I can retreat into my home and relax by myself. Dancing Rabbit seems like the best blend of village and modern city I have seen yet, as they incorporate new technology while still keeping the closeness that comes from small size.