by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright December 2016
A definition: Feeling "enfranchised" means feeling two things:
o That the community you are a part of cares about what you think, as in, respects your opinions.
o That the community cares about what you do, as in, admires you for doing good things and censures you for doing bad things. The converse is the community feeling "...Meh.", as in, having no strong opinion and taking no action when you do bad things.
In sum, the community thinks you are a meaningful person and your opinions are to be respected and your actions make a difference.
Having community members feel enfranchised has been important throughout history and it has been a challenge for just as long -- once a community moves beyond living a Stone Age lifestyle it is not instinctively easy to accomplish. The converse, feeling disenfranchised, is the source-thinking for betrayal, supporting gangs, tolerating property-related crimes, and on the really big scale, social revolutions.
In the Total Entitlement State (TES) environment supporting enfranchisement is going to be just as challenging, if not more so, because one of the pillars of enfranchisement -- having a job that a person and the community respect -- is going to diminish in magnitude and pervasiveness. Yelling "Get a job!" isn't going to have the same meaning in a 2050's TES society that it does in 2010's middle-class America. Those who want to criticize slackers are going to have to find something else to yell, or Tweet, or whatever.
Finding ways of building enfranchisement that will harmonize with the various 2050's TES lifestyles is the topic of this essay.
The obvious 2010's examples of communities with strong enfranchisement are the developed nations' communities with high prosperity and low crime rates -- most communities in the US qualify.
Two surprising examples of high enfranchisement are the two outcast Communist countries that have sustained autocratic governments for decades -- Cuba and North Korea. These are communities that have had low crime and violence rates for decades even with their isolation and poverty.
The converse -- communities with weak enfranchisement -- are the Middle East communities between Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia. They show their high levels of disenfranchisement with lots of violence at the neighborhood level and little concern about it -- as in, supporting civil war and terrorism. A place with rapidly weakening enfranchisement is Venezuela. Venezuela is an example of a failed populist government, and its failing is raising the disenfranchisement feelings.
What will people be doing in the 2050's that builds their feelings of enfranchisement?
The ambitious classes in 2050 will be able to do so in ways that are familiar to those living 2010's middle class lifestyles. They will be able to take pride in their work and be able to take pride in what they spend their luxury money on.
But those who are living in the "paradise of TES" won't have those pillars. They won't have jobs that are contributing to the community's material prosperity and they will be spending necessity money, not luxury money. What pillars can replace the middle-class pride-in-work bastions?
Here are some possibilities:
o Nationalism/patriotism -- pride of country has been a common source of enfranchisement ever since countries were invented. The challenge is going to be doing this pride-building without having it lead to destructive wars of various sorts. In the 2010's China is going through these kinds of pride-building military antics in the South China Sea. Other competitive activities, such as sports contests and styles of cosplay, may be the alternative forms of conflict that are supported. Another alternative is supporting a Big Vision -- something comparable to the Space Race in America in the 1960's.
o High School style Pep Club activities -- In the 2010's these are designed to build school spirit, which is a form of enfranchisement. In the 2050's transform these into neighborhood activities and for people of all ages, or distinct versions for people of various ages and interests. Get people pepped up about their community, and feeling like they are contributing to it, and feeling like "it is a good place".
o Community service -- TES people can engage in "helping the poor" and social justice warrioring just as much as ambitious people can, but with different styles because this will be mostly a matter of spending time at an activity, not money. Finding people to be designated as poor people who need help shouldn't be difficult. These will be "nomads" (my term) -- the 2050's equivalents of 2010's people who stand on street corners holding signs, and are engaging in other begging activities.
o Pride in artisanal and dilettante activities -- These are activities participants and spectators take seriously. Make sure that part of that seriousness involves building community pride. The self-pride side should take care of itself. These will include sports and entertainment activities.
o Pride in gaming -- Building enfranchisement promoting activities into computer gaming of all sorts. This is much like adding propaganda, but with a different goal.
What these have in common is being activities that stroke instinctive thinking. Instinctive thinking will be at the core of most thinking styles engaged in by those living TES lifestyles. This is one of the big differences between ambitious lifestyles and TES lifestyles. Those living TES lifestyles won't need to use analytic thinking styles, so unless it helps in a dilettante activity they enjoy, they won't bother with the rigor of acquiring analytic thinking styles, or using them.
Building the community's members feelings of enfranchisement has been a challenge ever since mankind left the Stone Age. The challenge changes with changes in lifestyles and circumstances. One of the hallmarks of an enduring governing system is that it is effective at keeping enfranchisement high among its community members.
This enfranchisement challenge is going to be just as big in the 2050's as it has been throughout the ages. What will be different, yet again, are the lifestyles and circumstances. In particular, the TES lifestyles are going to face big challenges because the "I have a meaningful job." pillar is going to be greatly diminished. Whoever is doing the governing in the TES communities of the 2050's is going to have to come up with effective alternatives to that pillar.