We as citizens of the United States observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. We may endeavor to follow the news accounts of our nation's politics as they unfold, and of the consequences those political actions yield, but we have little power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. Perhaps we write an occasional letter to our senator or representative, but we almost inevitably receive a vague and impersonal response explaining why they will vote in our opposition.

Over the decades, our representative democracy has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. The system that the founding fathers painstakingly devised in order to best serve the interests and the will of the people has been corrupted and the systems of checks and balances on power that they instituted have been stripped away. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change, without any hope of instituting a new system of governance that would instead take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and would empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the places in the world where people are successfully bringing about that type of change in the face of similar odds, where an alternate form of democracy, which is called participatory or direct democracy, is taking root. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

Our system of representative democracy does not admit the voice of the people into congressional halls, the high courts, or the oval office where our rights and our liberties are being sold out from underneath us. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

In places like Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, India, and the Phillipines, new experiments in grass roots community based governance are taking place. There is much to be learned from these and other examples of participatory democracy from around the world when we try to examine how this grass-roots based governance could begin to take root here in our own country in order to alter our political system so that it might better serve the American people.

In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Citizen Empowerment in Indian Politics

The following article from the Washington Post uses surprisingly strong language to describe the trends toward participatory democracy taking root in new Delhi, India. "Citizen revolution" and "people power" are direct quotes that demonstrate the depth of commitment people feel for the reformed system which allows their participation. Bhagidari, the Hindu word for partnership, is a popular New Delhi City government initiative that empowers constituents to demand answers from officials they view as corrupt. The article gives more detail, click the following headline.

Indian Cities Eye New Delhi's Quiet 'Citizen Revolution'

Promoting Bhagidari is not a brand-new thing. Even back in 2000 Sheila Dixit was hard at work getting it started. This next article comes straight from New Delhi. Click on the headline:

Bhagidari a Voluntary Movement, Says CM

Promoting cooperation between the government and the people has been a great step in the right direction, but Bhagidari could be undone by the government that follows in the next elections. This threat should be confronted by the citizens who are participating through demands for candidates who will uphold the policy and continue to foster citizen participation. One example of citizen participation in demanding government reform comes from the Indian struggle to maintain the Right to Information movement. The following interview with one leader describes the process of struggle and unity:

RTI: An Enormous Power With the People

- Editor

No comments: