All Aboard The Owner-ship « Designing Dublin: Learning to Learn

All Aboard The Owner-ship

Each of us is taking one of the ‘lacks’ as a basis for prototyping in our area. Mine is:

In a way this is the key lack, not just in the Markets area, but in Ireland in general. Possibly even throughout Western society. The heading is split into smaller issues;

1. “Lack of understanding of civil rights.”

In theory the council/political system is there to ensure the best care for the citizens of Dublin, but whether or not services and schemes are utilised by citizens depends on their understanding of what is available to them and how to go about availing of them. For many people, knowledge of the system is simply absent. Do you know who your local councilor is? Can you name all you TDs?

2. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease – selfish use of civic voice.”

Conversely, some people are very au fait with where the political system touches their lives and how they can influence it, but a minority can have a very negative influence on local issues, selfishly pushing their own agenda rather than looking at the greater good – classic NIMBYism.

3. “Tacit permissions”

This point relates back to an unspoken – almost subconscious – understanding of what you are/are not allowed to do in a public space. In general, the presumption is to automatically err on the side of actions in public being overly restricted. Possibly stemming from a societal structure riddled with ‘don’ts’ (No parking, no loitering, no ball games, post no bills, etc.) the implication stretches even to the presumed prohibition of positive interventions in public space.  A good example of this is the fact that even planting flowers in a public place is a borderline radical act . There is no easy solution to rectifying this deep-set mindset, but it is obvious that unspoken permission must be given for people to feel that they can take ownership of their local environment.

4. “Learned helplessness”

Low internal locus of control, enabled passivity, there are a few ways of framing this particular mindset. In any case, it is closely related to the above point, but is more pernicious. It is clearly visible in social groups who have been subjected to a certain amount of nannyism.  If a person is not offered control or responsibility for their own well-being, eventually the lines of what they are or are not permitted to do become blurred.  For example, if you are someone who rents a house, you are not generally allowed to make permanent (or semi-permanent) changes to that house. If the landlord won’t let you paint a room or put up a shelf, then that denial of responsibility and control filters through to other elements of your relationship with your rented home. If your tap was leaking or your gutter was broken and it was your own house, you would no doubt fix the problem, if it was within your capacity to do so. In a rented house, the tendency would be to complain to the landlord to fix it.

5. “Me & Mine – responsibility ends at the door”

Again, a similar point, but on a slightly different scale. A person may be extremely house-proud, but this pride in their surroundings ends at the front door. Their sense of who they have responsibility for extends to their families but not to the community beyond. This is another extremely difficult problem to address, but the co-operation of neighbours and the building of tight communities is a step towards solution.  In some ways, people must worry about what their communities think about them. If the individuals in a given society are fragmented or do not communicate, then why should one care what the neighbours think? A community need not be extremely local or small. A good example of this collective responsibility/judgment can be seen in New York, where if you had the audacity to let your dog poo on a public street, there’s a good chance you will be verbally assaulted by passersby. In contrast, Irish people so rarely pull each other up on their inappropriate behaviours that this man’s actions were unusual enough to warrant being posted on youtube;

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6. “Collective Good”

When we don’t know our neighbours, we don’t really care about them. Hence we think about what’s good for us as individuals, not what’s good for us collectively. We need to collective;y think about the bigger picture and realise that our dealings with others can be a non-zero-sum game; we can all win.

7. “Power/Responsibility – You won’t take responsibility if you’re offered no power”

The core fundamental point. Governments an councils may be frustrated that their citizens won’t get up and do things for themselves, but where’s the payoff for them? Power and responsibility are two sides of the same coin and nobody will take one without the other. Of course, citizens in Ireland actually do have a lot of power, but may not understand how to wield it or even realise that they have it – see point 1.

8. “Individualism vs Collectivism”

It’s important to hit a balance with this one. It’s not all or nothing, ideally we want a society with the best of both; citizens who can stand up for themselves and take a can-do DIY attitude, but still understand their place within a collective society, can band together and look out for the collective good.

9. Autonomy

Fundamental to anyone’s satisfaction within society. Self-control and self-governence – independence. Even if only within a limited, personal sphere.

10. Wizard of Oz

Ah, the Wizard of Oz. Sort of a metaphor for the whole mess. DCC is like the Wizard; he might make you jump through hoops, but if you’re lucky, he’ll help you learn that you had the power all along. Click those ruby heels together!

11. “Improved conditions vs stability”

Just a small side note on the problems of no having control over your surroundings. If a public housing scheme needs renovation, then the tenants are temporarily or permanently re-housed elsewhere. While renovation may be necessary, the trauma of a forced move should not be underestimated. After all, it may be unscientific and subjective, but moving house is consistently listed in the top ten most stressful life events.

12. “More Power Than You Think”

Self-explanatory point here. You really do have more power than you think.

I realise that some may view these points as contentious. Feel free to retaliate in the comments section.

One Response to “All Aboard The Owner-ship”

  1. , says:

    hello all, First time poster and glad to be a part of the group.