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…


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Swiss Far-Right Forces Vote on Minaret Ban

Shortly after they were soundly defeated by the Swiss electorate who rejected their last referendum aimed against the country's immigrant population, the far-right Swiss People's Party is at it again, using Switzerland's direct democracy in an attempt to push their discriminatory agenda against immigrant residents. This editor has little doubt that this referendum will be squashed by the Swiss people as well, again proving that Swiss direct democracy is functioning as it should, providing checks and balances based on the will of the majority, not the whims of politicians with their own radical agendas. - Editor

Swiss far right forces vote on minaret ban

Matthew Weaver and agencies,
Tuesday July 8, 2008 Article history


Far right groups in Switzerland have collected enough signatures to force a nationwide referendum on banning minarets, the distinctive towers of Islamic architecture.

In what is being seen as a sign of growing Islamophobia in Europe, more than 100,000 Swiss citizens signed a petition to halt the construction of minarets.

Under Switzerland's direct democracy rules, that level of support is enough to trigger a referendum. The Swiss interior ministry today confirmed a vote would take place, without setting a date.

The petition was launched by Ulrich Schlüer an MP from the controversial Swiss People's party, which was accused of racist campaigning last year.

In a bid to get immigrants' families deported if their children had been convicted of violent crime, the party ran an advertising campaign showing three white sheep on a Swiss flag kicking out a black sheep with the caption: "For more security."

The president of Switzerland, Pascal Couchepin, said the government would recommend that voters rejected the proposed minaret ban.

The organisers of the petition argue that the minarets, which are used on mosques, are a symbol of political and religious claims to power, not just a religious sign.

Schlüer said last year: "We've got nothing against prayer rooms or mosques for the Muslims. But a minaret is different. It's got nothing to do with religion; it's a symbol of political power."

If Schlüer's camp wins the referendum, the Swiss parliament must pass a law enshrining a minaret construction ban in the constitution.

Opponents say such a ban would violate religious freedom.

More than 310,000 of Switzerland's 7.5 million population are Muslims, according to the federal statistical office.

The UN expert on racism, Doudou Diene, has said the campaign is evidence of an "ever-increasing trend" toward anti-Islamic actions in Europe.

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