Local Autonomy

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Claude Desmoulins
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Post by Claude Desmoulins »

I misunderstood. I very much agree with you that power comes ultimately from the individual citizens. They vote every six months and can vote with their feet if they don't like what the government is doing. When you said local government, I, in error, understood you to mean formal local governance structures.

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Post by Beathan »

Claude said, [quote:72gbx51k]I misunderstood. I very much agree with you that power comes ultimately from the individual citizens. They vote every six months and can vote with their feet if they don't like what the government is doing. When you said local government, I, in error, understood you to mean formal local governance structures.[/quote:72gbx51k]

You correctly understood me -- or at least correctly understood half of what I was saying. I am talking about the creation of local government structures. (Their formality is another question -- I might be persuaded to advocate formal local structures, but I am not there yet.) To me, such structures could enhance, not reduce, the focus and effectiveness of federal government -- and do in RL.

On the other hand, even with two sims, we are a small community. It is both possible and desirable for everyone in our community to know everyone else. Given this intimacy, there might be no need to multiply structures -- as the central, federal system is already local. In such case, I would no longer strictly advocate creation of a new layer of government, but I would still advocate some institutionalized local autonomy and local representation to foster emergent cultural distinctions. I think, given our size, we can have all the autonomy, representation and local respect we need through the political process itself.

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Post by Diderot Mirabeau »

I think it is very early days to be talking about developing distinctive local cultures based around one's preference for walking around in a toga and lying on divans as opposed to drinking beer and dancing in the castle. The communities have not even been formed yet and furthermore several people are or have been residents of both sims.

The CDS project already embodies a huge variety of distinctive local cultures - however these are the local cultures that we bring with us to the table as RL persons situated in different RL geographies and cultures. As citizens of CDS we have learnt or are constantly trying to learn to deal with the cultural differences among ourselves. There has not so far been a faction of citizens with American backgrounds wanting specific representation of their distinctive, cultural interests for example so making the case that living in a sim that emphasises a Roman architecture in the ordering of its prims rather than living in one emphasising Germanic architecture seems to require some pretty substantial arguments, which can only really be assessed after an extensive period of acquiring experience with these alleged differences. As I see it we need to get an active cultural life before we start talking about the political implications of having two distinct cultures in our society.

Thank you Claude and Beathan for your taking the time to try and understand and explain what I meant in my previous post on this topic. As one whose first language is not English I find that I sometimes express myself either too crudely, imprecisely or lengthily in relation to the points I want to make. I guess if I had a similar degree of patience with regard to interpreting the cultural "idiosyncracies" of other forum posters in here I would be a better debater.

What I meant on the issue of CN residents needing to justify the case for increased autonomy in light of the massive investment by citizens of the old sim was probably leaning more towards Claude's interpretation. I do not by any circumstance mean to imply that CN residents should show any kind of gratitude or feel like second grade citizens. What I wanted to express was what Aliasi has subsequently stated that sim borders are arbitrary borders and that my opinion on the issue of increased autonomy to me would therefore be more directed by the fear of losing a substantial financial investment if some new citizens of CN decided to cut all ties with CDS and turn the CN sim into a casino utilising institutions put in place under the pre-text of improving local autonomy.

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Post by Beathan »

Diderot wrote [quote:2p5ps8mj]I think it is very early days to be talking about developing distinctive local cultures based around one's preference for walking around in a toga and lying on divans as opposed to drinking beer and dancing in the castle. The communities have not even been formed yet and furthermore several people are or have been residents of both sims.
[/quote:2p5ps8mj]

Perhaps. I will step back and wait to see what happens. I agree, it might be that nothing interesting happens -- but I think that it is useful to have an eye out for cultural formation just in case. Maybe that is just the disappointed ethnologist in me.

[quote:2p5ps8mj]The CDS project already embodies a huge variety of distinctive local cultures - however these are the local cultures that we bring with us to the table as RL persons situated in different RL geographies and cultures. As citizens of CDS we have learnt or are constantly trying to learn to deal with the cultural differences among ourselves. There has not so far been a faction of citizens with American backgrounds wanting specific representation of their distinctive, cultural interests for example [/quote:2p5ps8mj]

This interplay of RL cultural and political differences with SL political processes is very interesting. I have been fascinated by it reading through these forums. However, I express my sincere hope that American political arrogance, which has caused both the United States and the world so much trouble of late, does not spill over here. So far, it seems not to have.

[quote:2p5ps8mj]so making the case that living in a sim that emphasises a Roman architecture in the ordering of its prims rather than living in one emphasising Germanic architecture seems to require some pretty substantial arguments, which can only really be assessed after an extensive period of acquiring experience with these alleged differences. As I see it we need to get an active cultural life before we start talking about the political implications of having two distinct cultures in our society.
[/quote:2p5ps8mj]

I agree that the hypothesis that theme distinctions will produce cultural distinctions that require and deserve a political response (I would say a political accommodation) is not yet supported by good evidence. The experiment is new -- even not yet started. Therefore, I agree with Chicago that the substantial discussion here is premature. However, again, I think it is useful to lay a conceptual foundation just in case the hypothesis is truth-tested and shown to be sound based on what happens.

[quote:2p5ps8mj]Thank you Claude and Beathan for your taking the time to try and understand and explain what I meant in my previous post on this topic. As one whose first language is not English I find that I sometimes express myself either too crudely, imprecisely or lengthily in relation to the points I want to make. I guess if I had a similar degree of patience with regard to interpreting the cultural "idiosyncracies" of other forum posters in here I would be a better debater.

What I meant on the issue of CN residents needing to justify the case for increased autonomy in light of the massive investment by citizens of the old sim was probably leaning more towards Claude's interpretation. I do not by any circumstance mean to imply that CN residents should show any kind of gratitude or feel like second grade citizens. What I wanted to express was what Aliasi has subsequently stated that sim borders are arbitrary borders and that my opinion on the issue of increased autonomy to me would therefore be more directed by the fear of losing a substantial financial investment if some new citizens of CN decided to cut all ties with CDS and turn the CN sim into a casino utilising institutions put in place under the pre-text of improving local autonomy.
[/quote:2p5ps8mj]

I did not find your discussion crude or unnuanced. I also did not mean to suggest that I thought that you were relegating me and CN citizens to second-class status. However, I was concerned with the trajectory your concern might take -- probably because I, as a deeply-rooted American, have a highly tuned ear to the language of Colonial rights, duties, entitlements and obligations.

I think your concerns about RL investment are well-taken, and such investments need to be respected, protected and repaid. We do need to have some institutional guarantees to ensure respect and repayment of the debt. We also need to have some institutional guarantees to preserve the CDS project from the greater SL cultural forces -- which generally involves goreans and gambling. However, I still think that we have plenty of room to allow the sims to each go separate ways together without losing the coherence of the CDS project or surrendering to external forces and practices. At least, I hope so.

Beathan

Ranma Tardis

Post by Ranma Tardis »

Well I am upset that because of the schedule of the RA meetings, those that are in opposition are not able to attend the meetings. Claude is making a personnel choice not to be available later. They hold the meetings in the early morning for the convenience of ONE citizen. This is disenfranchising a substantial portion of the population.
It is pointless for me and a few friends to get tougher in a "Town Meeting". Claude and the RA will ignore it and do what they wish not even bothering to respond.
I asked that CN be able to develop the Convents without the interference of non-residents of CN. The residents of Neufreistadt will have the same right. This is not a step toward independence. It is an attempt to have a sim that the residents desire.
Claude is refusing to discuss this with me in the forums but sends me private mail instead. This prevents me from discussing them since it was a private communication
I want an open discussion of this matter in the sprit and history of democracy!

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Post by Claude Desmoulins »

My point was that there is no such thing as an official town meeting. Every town meeting we have ever had here has been strictly advisory, and there is no mention of town meetings in the constitution or laws.

As to the meeting schedule, I pose this question. I have to work one evening a week IRL. If my city council chooses that night for its regular meetings, am I disenfranchised?

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Post by Beathan »

Claude writes [quote:1thb87a3]As to the meeting schedule, I pose this question. I have to work one evening a week IRL. If my city council chooses that night for its regular meetings, am I disenfranchised?[/quote:1thb87a3]

No, you aren't. On the other hand, you might be inclined to vote against any city councilman who is unwilling to modify the schedule or location such that you could attend some meetings. In a city of 50, alienating a single person is a bad idea.

My state is divided by mountains. The folks living to the east of the mountains often feel disenfranchised. In response, the parties have wisely chosen to alternate the location of party functions to make sure that no one is systematically disenfranchised. Under such a policy, even if not everyone can attend every meeting, everyone can attend some meeting.

Surely, even with our busy lives, we need not be committed to a regular an unvarying schedule.

Beathan

Ranma Tardis

Post by Ranma Tardis »

[quote="Claude Desmoulins":3on2boc2]My point was that there is no such thing as an official town meeting. Every town meeting we have ever had here has been strictly advisory, and there is no mention of town meetings in the constitution or laws.

As to the meeting schedule, I pose this question. I have to work one evening a week IRL. If my city council chooses that night for its regular meetings, am I disenfranchised?[/quote:3on2boc2]

Claude, you set the schedule how can you disenfranchised yourself? There is no reason for the RA meetings to be set at 2am Hawaii time! There is no debate, no disussion possible on things important to the citizens of the CDS. This forum is not a subsitute to live disussion.
I am still puzzled to why you want all power to come from the RA. The enpowerment of the goverment comes from the consent of its citizens and not from the consent of the goverment.
Perhaps something is very wrong in a "democracy" when the goverment refuses to lisen to it citizens and creates procedures to silence them.

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Post by Claude Desmoulins »

You seem to be under the impression that the scheduling of RA meetings was a unilateral decision on my part. Email went back and forth for three or four days among all members of the current RA discussing possible meeting times. Jon actually headed up the process.

As to Beathan's suggestion of other meeting times, I hope other members of the RA might indicate their sense of the proposal.

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Post by Patroklus Murakami »

I don't think that Ranma is being very reasonable in this debate. RA meetings need to be set at a time that is convenient for RA members to attend. If they can be set so that most of the community can also attend if they wish to then all to the good. But there's always going to be at least one member of our community for whom the meeting is at 2am (or 3am or 4am, Hawaii-time, Japan-time, China-time or Pakistan-time). This is not disenfranchisement, it's just the consquence of having a community that comes from all around the world. There are plenty of options available to Ranma and others to seek to influence the political process. We have regular CSDF General Meetings at which all are welcome to discuss ideas with our two RA members. These forums are also part of the process. Claiming that holding RA meetings at a convenient time [i:q7fa20yp]for its own members [/i:q7fa20yp]is an attempt to silence people is ridiculous hyperbole.

What is annoying is that we now have a proposal for a Praetor for Colonia Nova put forward elsewhere on these forums and under discussion at this week's RA meeting when no one has tackled a single one of the arguments I put forward several posts back in this thread for not taking these proposals forward.

Ranma Tardis

Post by Ranma Tardis »

Pat it makes me very sad to read your message.
When citizens have to "influence" the political process instead of being a part of the process something is very wrong.
Deep sigh...............

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Post by Justice Soothsayer »

[quote="Ranma Tardis":25ufsmgg]Pat it makes me very sad to read your message.
When citizens have to "influence" the political process instead of being a part of the process something is very wrong.
Deep sigh...............[/quote:25ufsmgg]

Ranma, I have great sympathy for your position about RA meetings. I for one am getting tired of waking up very early nearly every Saturday AM, and it has caused some difficulties when travelling where I may not have the bandwidth to access SL. But all 5 of us committed to that schedule at the begining of the session, as it really was the only time that all 5 could be present, and we've been dealing with some matters that ideally require all to be present.

I'm saddened that some of us seem to spend more time on the forums than in world with each other. The streets of our town are too empty.

In the next RA (whether I am in it or not), it would be helpful to have a rotating schedule of meeting times. It might also be useful to schedule some times for open town meetings (again, with rotating times) where folks can discuss whatever they want.

Clearly, we also need a Taverna in CN, but all are welcome to share a cup of wine at my new place.

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Taverna in CN

Post by Beathan »

Justice write [quote:237vy9v3]Clearly, we also need a Taverna in CN, but all are welcome to share a cup of wine at my new place.[/quote:237vy9v3]

I propose we name the Taverna "The Kurd and the Koala."

Beathan

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On different "cultures" requiring different "governments"

Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

Like Beathan on another thread, I closed my browser before I forgot that there was a "pending post" on one of the tabs, so I do apologise for only chiming in so late... but perhaps like Beathan, the argumentation on this second attempt at posting this might provide you with some thoughts on the subject.

Some very few of you remember when the City of Neufreistadt was indeed just the bit inside the walls — about 1/3 of the sim Anzere. We then expanded to a whole sim, mostly by adding a few roads and parcelling the area outside the walls.

It was quite clear from the beginning that the "outskirts" would be very different from the "inner city". For starters, there was a different, less-restricted covenant. Commercial activity was forbidden — to encourage shops to stay in the "inner city". And there would be no "public" buildings outside the city walls (although for a year or so there was a semi-public area for hosting special events, like the Oktoberfest or the Ice Rink).

Not surprisingly, over time, as this area was settled, one could observe that a distinct culture has emerged there. Citizens living in the cramped conditions inside the city walls tend to truly "live" on the streets and on the public spaces — they meet on the esplanade of the Marktplatz, or sometimes at the Church or the public buildings like the Biergarten. It's only natural for them to do so; their houses are tiny, they allow just for a handful of prims inside them, and it's hard to get a good group inside those tiny 10x10 m Fachwerks :) So, if a meeting is impromptu and unscheduled, it is held more often than not "in the middle of the Marktplatz"; if it is scheduled, people will gravitate towards one of the public buildings (Biergarten, Church, sometimes the Rathaus) depending on their personal tastes and set the event there.

In contrast, outside the city walls, the houses are large, and people meet their friends inside the houses. They jump from house to house, from a group of friends to the next group of friends, and don't need to go to any "public" place to meet — they host their events at their own homes (Aliasi's old Pictionary games, Rudy Ruml's seminars, Pat/Jon's CSDF meetings). Impromptu meetings, of course, are held at people's gardens or homes, when friends come to visit them.

There is another difference here. The ones living inside the city walls tend to like the medieval Bavarian theme — they're so used to it. The ones outside the city walls smile upon the cuteness and Disneyesque look of the "inner city", but most of their homes will simply be modern (or post-modern) architecture, having the cute Bavarian town as a backdrop. "Not in my backyard!" — the city is better admired at the distance, not a place to live in. Of course there are a few exceptions here and there, but the freedom of having a less restricted covenant will also shape people's minds to drop the medieval Bavarian look and build what they like. In contrast, people living inside the city walls, will be used to the Bavarian look — although sometimes they will change the interiors dramatically (one good example being Rubaiyat's "Trotsky's").

Although we barely noticed this "difference", any anthropologist/ethnographist/sociologist would immediately spot it after just a few days of observing how we "live" in Neufreistadt. We never think twice about it — after all, "in-walls" dwellers will quite willingly go to events held outside the city in an "out-walls" dwellers' home; and these, in turn, will not think twice before coming to the Biergarten or the Rathaus for an event. "Out-wallies" will often teleport to the Marktplatz first, exchange some conversation there with the "in-wallies" and only then proceed to the comfort of their homes (more often than not, dragging some of the "in-wallies" with them!).

If I did a poll before posting this, asking people how their daily routine in Neufreistadt is, and then correlate to the plots people have, I'm quite sure people would be amazed to see how distinct these two communities are! Actually, it's more than "culture" — it's a mentality. For instance, many "in-wallies" might have plots outside the city walls — but they use them as "prim lots" for their cramped space inside the city (I'm the first to accuse myself... but I'm not the only one!). They have trouble to deal with the notion that they should build something there — but they prefer to get the prims and decorate their Fachwerks inside the city walls.

So we have here clearly two distinct "cultures". "In-wallies" and "out-wallies" think differently. They have different expectations as to how the public land should be used and preserved, for instance. In-wallies might like a monument or landmark to stay, because it's a pretext to meet there and use it; out-wallies will want it to stay because it is something nice and emblematic, although they won't meet there or use it for any purpose. In-wallies might be troubled by substantial remodellation of a quarter of the inner city; out-wallies will be constantly tinkering with their own homes anyway and welcome a constant change (although they appreciate how certain things remain pretty much the same). These group dynamics shape mentalities, and people will truly adopt different styles, concepts, relationships, etc. based on where they live.

But surely nobody ever proposed that these two cultures/mentalities/groups get their own, separate government! Although I ask then — why not? It's quite clear that out-wallies have different needs and expectations than in-wallies. Since this question has been overlooked so far, it means that both communities have been discriminated at the RA level — they have no local voice (on either side of the city walls!) to represent their own particular views and needs at the Government level.

We find this concept hilarious. "But they all live in the same sim!" would be the argument. Oh yes, that's true. But they have different mentalities nevertheless — living "in the same sim" does not mean that there are local asymmetries in their thoughts and needs. It just means that for the purpose of simplifying things, although the two communities are so different, they have a single form of government, and elect their representatives "globally" and not locally — no matter how "unfair" that might seem.

Let's move now to Colonia Nova. To make things more confusing, Colonia Nova has a plethora of Covenants. Still, three large areas can be defined — inside city walls, outside city walls but "in theme", and the "theme-less" area on the south side of the river Rhenus. It's quite likely that, over a year or so, these will exhibit very similar differences in mentality, culture, relationship (between people and to the city) as we can see today in Neufreistadt. They might be less pronounced (the "themed" area outside the city walls is near to the Theatre, which gives the "out-wallies" in Colonia Nova a difference — they have "their own public building") or perhaps more dramatic (only the people on the other side of the river have the privilege to build "theme-less" houses — in contrast to Neufreistadt, where the theme-less builds are not visible from inside the city walls, in Colonia Nova these will be very visible by anyone on the waterfront on the northern side of the river!). So, yes, we'll see a difference there, sooner or later, although there is a different kind of urban planning in Colonia Nova which might make things more subtle.

But why should we restrict ourselves to large areas? A few days ago — Colonia Nova being still in the "closed" sales model, ie. not truly open to the public for selling plots — a friend IMed me telling that he would be buying a plot "near yours and our friends'". In a sense, he wanted to be "on our block". So suddenly the NW corner of the Forum is now a "block" — where people with similar ideas and some ties of friendship get together. And what a block that is! We have members of the SC, members of parties, historians, and people willing to host events. It'll be natural for us to "be together" and "do things together". We'll become a powerful lobby inside the tiny city of Colonia Nova. We will elect our own members to the RA. Beware of the "NW Forum Corner Block" — they will be a source of power and strength shaping the future of Colonia Nova!

So why shouldn't we elect our own local representative as well? Wouldn't a city-block-based representative democracy be a much fairer way to give every citizen the opportunity to participate in the overall government? After all, the "NW Forum Corner Block" will have very different ideas on how their bit of the city should be "ruled" as opposed, to, say, the "SW Forum Corner Block" group (which are utterly disorganised and chaotic and have not yet started thinking of politics yet — hah! We scorn them! :) ).

Before you think that this is completely ridiculous — "4 people do not make a community!" — think carefully. Once upon a time, Neufreistadt had, indeed, just 4 people for a while (after a long decline from 60 members to just 4... and then back to 50+ like we have today!). It thrived from then on, of course, but why shouldn't a "community of four" have their own representation in Government — or their own Government, for all that matters? Insisting on the argument that "they are only four!" is being short-sighted — four today, but 40 tomorrow, 400 next year. You can't simply predict those things, they can happen, and what seems ridiculous today might not be so ridiculous tomorrow...

So, once we postulate that a community can, indeed, be "just four people living together", and that they are indeed worthy of having their local government, even if it's a very simplified one... the question that begs asking is naturally "why stop at four?" Can two people be a community as well? Can just one person be a "community of one"?

You know where this leads to — direct democracy, the insane utopia of the "community of one", where everybody is directly involved in government. Without representatives or intermediaries. Once we start splitting communities more and more, making them tinier and tinier, the end of this process will always be the "community of one".

I pause here to let you do your own reflection.

In real life, an area of 256 x 256 m can have a wildly different population. In rural areas, these areas might have just one citizen (or a family at most). On densely packed highly populated cities, they can have 10,000 or more citizens, all living on top of each other (literally). I don't know what the "average" population density is on Earth (and a bit tired to do the require math), but it's quite clear that in the first case — the huge farmland, say, in Australia, the US, or Brazil, or Africa... — will not be a "community with local representativity". While eventually on a densely packed city a block of 10,000 citizens might, indeed, have some local authorities — at the very least, there will be a co-op or an organisation dealing with the building maintenance, for instance, where all residents are indeed represented.

The point here is that there is no clear rule of thumb — it's not the size of the population that determines the need for local government (although it certainly is a good indicator), nor the different culture that prevails in an area (although that is usually another good indicator). In Second Life, however, outside of the mainland, we have (due to technical reasons) the notion that a sim is an administrative unit — because for all purposes, Linden Lab sells sims in blocks of 256 x 256m. The mainland, for instance, is quite more fluid — you have communities there far overlapping the "technical" limitations of the 256 x 256m "boundaries", as well as several communities sharing the same sim. The mainland, in that regard, is more similar to what we experience in real life: a community is a group of people that calls itself a community, because they share similar thoughts, goals, wishes and desires, and through these, a similar culture.

Private (disconnected) islands create artificial boundaries. Let's consider the original plan of expansion. Under that model, Neufreistadt would not change theme — it would still remain Medieval Bavarian — and simply add more plots. The new island would be connected to the current one, and it would simply be called "Neufreistadt 2" or "Neufreistadt North" or something like that. It would be quite clear for everybody that the second island, paid for by the Government of the City of Neufreistadt (before even there was a "CDS") and built by it, would simply be "more place for more citizens to live in".

As these areas would grow, the same principle would apply. At some point in time, perhaps nearing 10,000 citizens or so, for pure management issues, we might consider to create two administrative areas, "Neufreistadt 001-250" and "Neufreistadt 251-500" to deal with those citizens in manageable blocks. They might, indeed, have different "local authorities" — but these would be more worried with local enforcement than with anything else.

RL small villages or towns with populations of 10,000 will manage quite well with a single government of 50-100 people (at most). Even cities of 100,000 people will not require more than 1% working "for the city". They will have administrative areas, of course, and probably a lot of citizen's associations to make sure that every block of the city gets some saying in what the city is planning to do. But a city of 100,000 is still managed as a "single entity". Even a city of 11 million (New York!) can be managed that way!

If we need to look for examples in Second Life, we can always look at Anshe Chung. She has around 400-500 sims (according to the Herald, which is not always the best reference...) and perhaps a growing population of 12-15,000 people. She manages it through a group of 30 people. It's not a "democracy", for sure, but people living there still participate in some democratic institutions — they have local referenda and Town Hall meetings, for example. They're certainly far more "democratic" than, say, Linden Lab — and SL has 12,000 people when I joined in SL — and naturally enough, Anshe is a company as well, not an "elected government".

The point here is that arguing for "local community representation" for tiny groups of a handful of people was never intended, it was deemed to be so absurd that it was not even considered in the past, and there is no real example — either in SL or RL — to support that concept. Perhaps with the single exception of Switzerland, where a "block" of a dozen or two families do indeed have local authority to set their own rules and their own referenda, for instance. But Switzerland is always the sole exception on all those things :) and the closest example of a "direct democracy" that we have in RL. It's also the only example.

I fear that in all these discussions about what the minimum size of a community should be we have been mostly missing the point. Splitting communities further and further until we get to the point of having "a community of one" — direct democracy — is not "more democratic" or "more fair". Instead, guaranteeing every citizen's right of fair participation in the democratic institutions is far more important. We get often clouded with the illusion that just because Colonia Nova is not physically connected to Neufreistadt, and has a different theme, it suddenly becomes "a different community". While it's true that physical boundaries shape mentalities — the example of in-wallies vs. out-wallies in Neufreistadt comes to mind — these mentalities are so little relevant to the overall process that nobody has even noticed them. Sure, people in Colonia Nova will wear togas more often than lederhosen — but the difference will stop there. Citizens of both sims will very likely come to the Saturnalia in Colonia Nova and the Winter Holidays in Neufreistadt, no matter where they actually live in. In cultural aspects — unless one goes to the point of saying "every individual has their own culture" — there will be less perceptible differences between both groups. They will be as slight, as irrelevant, and as unnoticed as the difference between in-wallies and out-wallies — and there will be so many exceptions in either case that one won't even be able to pinpoint where the differences are (some might argue that these differences will not be statistically significant).

Colonia Nova, as a disconnected island with a different theme, is an "accident", not a deliberately planned "separate community". When we decided to expand, a contest was started for the urban planning of the new sim. A group of four people (it seems to be always a group of four!) just came up with the idea of doing the next theme differently themed, since many were a bit tired of looking at Fachwerks everywhere and every day. Sadly, there were no other contestants. The idea could have still been rejected then by the RA. We could simply have just placed a second sim next to Neufreistadt, extend the city a bit, add another area for unthemed houses, and kept it that way. But this was not what was decided back then. People wanted to have a different theme for many personal reasons, and a few commercial ones — for instance, attracting potential citizens interested in democratic participation but that dislike Fachwerks in perpetual fog.

Any "reading between the lines" of what was intended or not is, at this point, irrelevant. One thing is quite certain — there was always a drive to expand the concept of Neufreistadt's democratic institutions elsewhere, as well as encouraging others to do the same. We utterly failed in the latter — nobody is even remotely interested in establishing their own "democratically governed sims", no matter how much we promote that concept on other groups/communities. Instead, the very few ever interested in democratic institutions flock to us instead. On the expansion bit, however, we managed it to do the "old" way: raising funds, increasing our "national debt", buying a sim, splitting it up, terraforming it, building it, parcelling it, and selling the parcels. This is, for now, the only successful model of "expansion" that we best know — although we're experimenting with other models, which might — or not — be as successful as this one.

While talking to some citizens over this, I have found an intriguing idea that some of them have been spreading around. Somehow, it seems to be "our duty" to buy land for other communities to experiment with their own democratic institutions. This, I'm afraid, is not the purpose of our current government — although there are indeed party programmes hinting at something similar: not buying islands for others to have fun with them, but transferring know-how to them and encouraging them to buy their own islands and do their own democratically governed communities.

So let's state this loud and clear for once. It is not the purpose of the current government, under the current constitution and laws, to provide "free sims" for external communities to have their fun at our expense. In case that the ones promoting these ideas have forgotten, the CDS does not have "external funding" — all it gets comes from tier fees and occasional loans for a specific purpose. There is no venture capitalist or business angel or university or foundation that sponsors us and allows us to pay our bills while "role-playing democracy". It is not our duty to spend the citizen's money in establishing projects for others to have fun — and for us to pay. Organising the whole structure that binds us together is neither cheap nor always "fun" — it takes dozens or hundreds of hours, almost all volunteer work (or heavily underpaid work) just to get things operational. There are a lot of invisible costs that we bear as a burden because we believe that this is the best way of dealing with a shared environment that will most certainly outlive us all. And we struggle to keep ourselves "in the black" so that we can grow, expand, and do more fantastic things, repay our debts and loans (with interest!), and keep this going for ever and ever.

If at some point in time our financials are so extremely positive (which is rather unlikely — we have cheap rates and no other sources of income!) that we can send financial aid to other groups to start their own governments, well, then, I would naturally love to see that happen. We know that we are "on our own" — nobody cares about the CDS but the citizens living there. But I find it reasonable that future legislation is passed to have a "reserve fund for democratic incentives" to sponsor other people's projects to create their own systems. This would be something fantastic to have — imagine being able to launch a SL-wide contest for people to bring in their ideas for a democratic government and apply for a fund to us. It would radically change the way people in SL think about us!

But, alas, it's way too early for that. Colonia Nova represented a major investment and lots of hours of work, just to add a second sim to our (now) expanding "nation". It was a huge effort that most people don't readily appreciate. Just the building, if it were outsourced to a private company, is worth something like US$2,000-5,000 (more if we had contacted the lieks of the Electric Sheep Company or MillionsOfUs, who very likely would have asked for 20 times that figure). It's not something we can easily forfeit and simply let "others" have fun with it — it has costed us our "blood and skin" so to speak. We're still a struggling community, have no doubts about it. We can't afford yet to simple "give away" all that for other to play.

However, if we reach, say, 50-sims or so, even at our low rates, all the US$ earned from the tier will indeed allow us to be bolder, and instead of funding the CDS' expansion, we'll be certainly able to "give away" a sim or two for others to play with. They might — or not — adopt our Constitution and body of laws. They might even be more successful with their own experiments. They might even pay us back our investment in their project! But all this is in the very distant and cloudy future. Right now, all we have are two sims, and a lot of loans to repay.

This should not be seen as a plea "against" a different model of government. The citizens who have been with us for six months have seen how different our current government is right now, compared to just 2, 3, or 6 months ago — and more changes will come very quickly, even before this term is over. Changing the government to better reflect the community that lives under that government is good and I'm definitely not advocating a conservative attitude of "no change"!

Instead, I'm asking you for rational argumentation for splitting the citizenship in two blocks. They will not be "two different communities", like the in-wallies and the out-wallies of Neufreistadt are two communities under a single government. Technical, artificial boundaries are not really an argument for "independence and secession" — nor are "different themes" (again, the out-wallies have a different covenant and theme than the in-wallies, and they haven't seceded because of that). Citizens in Colonia Nova will not be "under-represented" — they will have the same vote and the same right to elect their representatives as citizens living in Neufreistadt. The right to free association to lobby for individual (or group) rights is not "suspended" for any reason. The right for a group of citizens living in Colonia Nova to start a new party — say the "Toga Party" — to overthrow the current government and have it focused only on one sim is perfectly allowed, and naturally people are encouraged to do that, if that's their wish. In essence, just because some people will leave on an island or the other does not mean that they have "less rights".

One can always argue for "discrimination" — I can give you a recent example. While hosting a rather large event on Colonia Nova yesterday, with 30+ people attending, I noticed how little lag that created on the sim. People from the building group were busy elsewhere finishing some buildings and they only noticed minor nuisances while building (most of them related to the grid overall, anyway). All this just because the Colonia Nova sim has a much faster server, but more important than that, it has a much better planning in terms of texture use, and people cannot understand how important that is until they experiment it. This means that citizens hosting events in Colonia Nova will have an incredible advantage on citizens living in Neufreistadt, since they'll be able to do much more satisfying events. "Discrimination"? Not at all! Any citizen in Neufreistadt can present a bill at the RA and demand that the issue of the huge laggy textures in Neufreistadt be solved quickly, lest all event hosters pack their bags and move to lag-free Colonia Nova :) There is no "discrimination" if you have equal rights to participate in the democratic institutions of your government — it's up to the citizens to give voice to their demands! And not even the argument that the RA members will listen to people of Neufreistadt more than people of Colonia Nova is a strong one — all members of the RA have plots in both sims!

Taking that into account, I would really appreciate if all discussions related to the "independence of Colonia Nova from the tyrannical overlords of Neufreistadt" were really based on fundamented, rational arguments, and not really on emotional ones. Accept it for what it is — a mere extension of land with different covenants, paid for the citizens of the CDS. Don't read too much into the technical and aesthetical aspects that require CN to be on "a different sim". Rhetorics as well as role-playing factors are nice to an extent to argue for a specific agenda, but naturally enough, when we put our feet on solid Earth, there is nothing to support those claims — not sociologically, ethnographically, or culturally — but just technical details: a sim is a sim, it's a physical entity for Linden Lab, and we can't do much about it, even if we wished very hard for it to be possible otherwise.

"I'm not building a game. I'm building a new country."
  -- Philip "Linden" Rosedale, interview to Wired, 2004-05-08

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Patroklus Murakami
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Post by Patroklus Murakami »

Hurrah for Gwyn!

Thank you for expressing, more eloquently and with better examples that I could have put together, some of the fundamental problems with notions of 'local democracy' for a group of 40 (soon to be 80) people.

Your example of the cultural differences between the 'in-wallies' v the 'out-wallies' in Neufreistadt is inspired. As an in-wallie who became an out-wallie (and who maintains a shop on the Marketplatz) I recognise the behaviours you describe in myself, and in others.

Well done for getting to the heart of the matter.

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