Public transportation improves quality of life for the poorest Americans by providing access to jobs, healthcare, schools, and grocery stores, and reducing dependence on cars and their associated expenses. Yet 45% of Americans have no access to public transportation according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and often the systems we do have fall short of providing the service people deserve.
SEPTA has reported a recent loss in ridership and a slowing of route times. We can hold transit agency officials and local lawmakers including City Council accountable for making improvements to our crumbling system. We can learn from other cities around the country and the world who have designed their transportation systems in ways that work for the people they serve. More concretely, according to recent reports, SEPTA can: eliminate the transfer fee to simplify connections, expedite service, and encourage riders to use the system; redesign routes to increase the speed of bus service overall. The city can: create dedicated bus lanes and redesign traffic patterns along bus lines to expedite service.
“Stranded: How America’s Failing Public Transportation Increases Inequality” by Gillian B. White for The Atlantic
October 4, 2018
Awareness has been raised about sexual abuse in recent years, yet it continues to be a major problem in our society. And sexual abuse is only the most violent expression of a lack of respect for consent among men. People also experience the disregard for consent in other physical ways and even in conversation and just walking down the street. This attitude is ingrained. From an early age, children are taught how to interact with others not only in school but in existing within families, observing how adults and other children act. The education around consent clearly needs to be more intentional, and it needs start early.
Victims of sexual abuse are often blamed for their abuse. To many of us, this seems so clearly wrong. But can we really blame the perpetrators, in a society where boys are taught from a young age that no doesn’t always mean no, that the lack of a response equals a yes, and that they aren’t always accountable for their actions?
“How to Teach Consent to Kids in 5 Simple Steps” by Michelle Dominique Burk
October 4, 2018
Fully one-third of Americans say they do not know their neighbors and according to economist Joe Cortright, only about 20% of us report regularly interacting with them. Rather than getting to know the people who live closest to us, more and more we are choosing social interaction that takes place online and across great distances. This shift in our social interactions leads to less social cohesion, or the benefits that come from trust and cooperation in a community. Only 3 in 10 Americans report having a sense of trust in others, down from 5 in 10 in the 1980s. Rates of reported loneliness have also doubled in that time. Furthermore, online interactions often reinforce our own views of the world, expose us to fake news and conspiracy theories, and make it easy to mistrust and dehumanize one another.
One solution is to demand more from our online communities. We can hold the companies who create them accountable when things go wrong and mistrust builds. We can also support the social fabric of our communities by showing up in person at neighborhood association meetings, community events and social meetups. We can participate in neighborhood cleanups and tree plantings, offer assistance (or even just a quick hello) to neighbors, and vote for elected officials who will support the wellbeing of our communities.
“Why Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” by Linda Poon for City Lab
“The Vanishing Neighbor” by Marc Dunkelman
“Americans Don’t Know Their Neighbors Anymore—and it’s Bad for the Future of Democracy” by Joshua Faust for Quartz
“We Don’t Know our Neighbors Anymore” by Meaghan McDonough for the Boston Globe
October 4, 2018
Both locally and nationally, the desires of people do not become policy unless powerful lobbyists happen to agree. Researchers at Princeton and Northwestern have determined that the U.S. no longer functions as a democracy, but more like an oligarchy. This plays out locally, too, as Philly is one of if not the most corrupt cities in the country, powerful millionaires buy their seats onto city council, and poverty is deeper than in any other large U.S. city.
One solution taken by communities all over the world to enact a more direct democracy hinges around the concept of legislature by lot, a large, rotating decision-making body made up of average people. Chosen at random, this group would have the same demographics as the community (in Philadelphia’s case, this would mean a group that is younger, is mostly of African American decent, and consists of more women and non-binary people than men). A large group like this would make decisions more in line with the wishes of our neighbors in non-coercive situations of deliberation, and would create a more nurturing and caring community for the common good, towards liberation.
“Beyond Electoral Democracy” by Tom Malleson
October 4, 2018
New research contradicts three widely-held views about human civilization. Contrary to cynical belief, we are not innately violent and war is only a recent product of debt and capital, there is no such thing as global scarcity, and competition is not the sole driver of human progress. Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku states that in order for humanity to reach the next stage in evolutionary development will require “a remarkable degree of social cooperation on a planetary scale.”
In order to solve the existential threats we face in the 21st century, like climate change and inequality, we will all have to learn how to cooperate. These are problems we can solve together, not through fighting amongst each other while the world’s most powerful people hoard resources.
“The Disposessed” by Ursula K. Le Guin
“How the Science of Human Cooperation Could Improve the World” by Diane Davoine
“We Don’t Need a ‘War’ on Climate Change, We Need a Revolution” by Eric S. Godoy and Aaron Jaffe
“Eros and Revolution” by George Katsiaficas
October 4, 2018
In 1925, the German anti-fascist Otto Rühle wrote: “What is needed today is the gradual dismantling of authority within people themselves…in the general, daily practice of life in society.… Dismantling it in the theory and tactics of class struggle is more important. But most important of all is dismantling authority in the human soul, because without that it is impossible to abolish authority in either organization or tactics and theory.” As a schoolteacher, Rühle was speaking on his theory of education in the ways of liberatory revolution, but the message here is apt for contemporary American society.
One of the most important keys to ensuring that the future is free from dictatorial, genocidal regimes is to build the self-confidence of individuals within societies. People with confidence and more fully realized selves tend to place more trust in one another and the systems that they build together rather than in political and cultural strongmen who sow fear, promote pseudo-fascist aggression, and merge entertainment with politics. Banding together to create a better world through community and workplace organizing, environmental activism, and coming up with new ideas through creative endeavors help inspire collective determination.
How Might We? is a work of projected public art created by the collective Design Activist Institute. The Institute drafted the phrases and research in How Might We? using consensus-building, systems design, design thinking, principles of social justice, and democratic organizing tactics.
The project originated through the Institute's work on "guides for utopia" based on local and global issues. The collaborative process on these guides led to a series of questions: how might we build a utopia here in Philadelphia? What would utopia look like? What gets built? What's demolished, or abolished? These concepts all coalesced into "how might we" questions, and tactics of public détournement were paired with deep research to intensify the ongoing project.
The Institute invites you to contribute to the project by submitting your own "how might we?" questions and research.
To comment on any of the existing research, send a message to Design Activist Institute
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