Our democracy is a train wreck. Our elections feel hollow, our legislatures toxic. Fierce partisanship, centralized power, distorted election results and rigged systems all contribute to our growing cynicism. Voters are increasingly turning towards the angriest candidates, or simply tuning out completely and staying at home.
Teardown is not an aggregation of complaints—it’s a collection of solutions aimed at bringing our democratic ecosystem to life, not only in our legislatures but also in our daily lives. It’s a call for a revolution against our own cynicism and against a spiritually carcinogenic system that has crushed our voice. Dave Meslin's TED talk offered a thorough diagnosis. Teardown offers the remedies.
The book begins by exploring the basics: our broken voting system, the role of lobbyists, the influence of big money, the hollowness of our political parties and all the ways that our democratic spaces are designed to be alienating and hostile. But we dig deeper than that, because democracy is about so much more than ballots and legislatures. We crack open our schools, revealing not only a broken civics curriculum but also a top-down environment that rewards both obedience and conformity, forcing kids to slowly unlearn their own leadership skills. We explore the harm caused by the polarization of ideas and the adversarial battlegrounds that preclude constructive dialogue. We deconstruct the non-profit sector and the ways that political advocacy is financially suffocated, and we uncover how we’ve drowned out community voices in our public spaces by commodifying the visual landscape. Most importantly, we look at all the ways we’re taught to lie low, to be politically cautious, quiet and disengaged, and we’ll examine why, centuries after absolute monarchy was overthrown, we still cling desperately to the fantasy of a single saviour— a great hero who will lead us and fix our problems.
Teardown reminds us that the future of our species doesn’t need to look like an impending disaster. That we’re capable of so much more. It’s time to raise our expectations: of the system, of each other and of ourselves. Only then can we re-imagine a new democracy, unrecognizable from today’s political mess. This book is a recipe for change. A cure for cynicism. A war on apathy.
In a time of looming environmental tragedy and increasing economic inequity, is it possible for us to tap into our collective creativity to build a more sustainable, healthy and inclusive society? Of course we can. This is no time for tinkering. This is a teardown.