Those of you who have participated in Kettering’s annual summer Deliberative Democracy Exchange have probably heard Kettering Foundation president David Mathews tell a story about a small village that faces a recurring flood. It is a fable of sorts. In spite of the villagers’ many efforts to stop the flood, the waters return again and again. So the people in the story had to make a decision: should they move across the river, where another band of people already live? Should they stay in their homeland? Or, should they move to higher ground? And in coming together and making a collective decision, the people create politics.
The story is designed to be universal—one that belongs to all times, all people, all cultures. People in communities everywhere face difficult problems and must weigh the costs and benefits of potential actions and then decide how to act together. The story counters the idea that public deliberation is some kind of new technique to be used on communities and encourages a notion of democracy that is citizen-centered.
A team at the Kettering Foundation collaborated with Momentum, Inc., artist and illustrator Danijel Zezelj, and MainSail Productions to produce a new animated video, The Creation of Politics, which brings to life this archetypal flood story that imagines how politics was first created—and why.