City User Manual
So we have instructions for everything nowadays. What used to be intuitive and user friendly now comes with an instruction manual that could choke a horse. On-line, off-line, bureaucracy, insurance forms, regulations, new rules, banking, local national Government forms, passwords, sign-ups and the continuous shrinking of human interventions in most of the things we do.

Well if we need an instruction manual to figure out how our digitalised washing machine works, why not one for our city. A City User Manual?

Looking to answer questions like. So what is a city? How does it work? Who designed it, or is designing it? On what terms? Who is being served? Who makes the decisions? Who is in charge of the money? Who decides what to get, where to get it, or, if we need it?

Obviously it would not be as straight forward as a washing machine manual, although they themselves can get complex. But a least the user will get some kind of direction of where to start in programming the temperature and wash for a load of colours. And we all have some idea what happens when we get that wrong.

Well, understanding much of what happens in a city is as trivial as setting up a program to do a wash. Ordinary citizens have ample and extraordinary experiences through what they do in their day job, or in bringing up families; or in dealing with the day to day economic and hurdles of daily life to understand what is being or needs to be done in their name and for their benefit. And importantly with their own money.

The problem is the people in charge don’t want you to understand. Which is why they make complex things look easy, and easy things look complex and wrap all up in jargon and language that they themselves don’t even understand. Nobody is saying that we don’t need experts now and again, but most of city management is trivia and easily understood by ordinary citizens. And if we do need experts we need first to find them in the local community before importing into our communities those who know little about our particular problems.

Imagine somebody coming in and running your household for you. Well, imagine your city as your household and you start to get the picture. Imagine your city, town, neighbourhood, environment as part of your children’s future. Imagine how the family needs to pull together to get things done. The only way we can do that is to understand their needs, priorities then figure what we need to do first.

The city (town village) is an extension of our household. Our responsibilities to our kids our families, friends and neighbours, does not stop at our front door. Our children need to go out and find a place in the world and it will be the world we have made them. And the beauty is there are enough of us to make that, or keep that world a beautiful place. But we need to step over the threshold from private life to public life to make it happen. And with our shared experiences and determination who knows what could happen. But one thing is for certain as history will remind us. Nothing great has happened for ordinary people without they themselves being at the heart of it.

We live in a country that once had a generalist education system that attempted to opened the world to students, not close it by specialisation. There is no reason that world can not be opened again. In fact it is an imperative that it does given the complexities of the present situation and the need for internationalism in resolving them. But we could start by looking at our city as a microcosm of a whole new world in starting to learn how to shape it.