On 11 February, Vienna is starting a game called “Direct Democracy”. It is a very cute game. Really! It is designed and promoted for 6-10 year olds. The only confusing thing is that to play, you have to be at least 18 (or did it drop to 16?). The game has been advertised for past weeks in various media including newspapers and TV, with those lovely people smiling in the camera and saying stuff like “We should all have a bicycle”. Yes, and a lollipop! The intention of the game is very nice: It’s an “instant feel good game”. It should give you a feeling that you have the power to determine the circumstances you live in. Like in Huxley’s Brave New World, where kids get conditioning lessons played directly into their ears while they are sleeping, so we in Vienna listen for past weeks about “direct democracy”. Few weeks ago, we all (that includes Austrian citizens with permanent residence in Vienna) received a bunch of pre-printed envelopes, letters and a ballot. I love my ballot! I am actually considering framing it with a scripture “Direct Democracy” and hanging in on my wall. It has a touch of Warhol with its pastel pink and baby blue and vanilla yellow and those big round JA and NEIN buttons all around it. It looks like something that would come with your new Barbie doll. And then you read the text. And you really feel like 6. The questions are completely suggestive: “Vienna always wanted to be a metropolis and is still suffering because it hasn’t achieved that status. And London and New York have metros operating whole night long (we have night-buses and they work fine but we want what NYC has!!!). So shouldn’t we have the same thing?” Or things that are too generalised to make any decisions: “Should the owners of attack dogs have a licence for the dog?” (Exactly which dog is an attack dog? And how does the licence really help against dogs killing babies?) and questions that are just so clear, they shouldn’t even be asked: “Should Vienna offer the possibility of day-long schools?” (in Vienna, schools finish at 13h so if both parents are working, the kid is…. well…on the street? Home playing World of Warcraft or watching porn on the Internet? No clue.) And questions we really don't give a damn about: "Should we re-introduce janitors?"
No, don’t get me wrong, the game is really cute! It should be - it costs €6,7 millions. But it makes me sad. Because I want to play the same game of “Direct Democracy” with questions that really matter - when it is decided if another country should be bombed in my name or not; if my billions should be given to bail out banks who brought the whole global financial system to collapse; if managers should really get millions of bonuses for messing up the world; and if financial transactions should be taxed or not.
But in that case I guess this cute design should be changed a bit. Pink wouldn’t really fit…..