This has been the case with many modern people power movements in recent years. Whether we are talking about Iran (the Shah), the Philippines (Marcos), the Soviet Bloc (Stalinism), or South Africa (Apartheid) --- a repressive regime was overthrown quickly and with a little bloodshed by a massive, mostly passive surge of people into the streets. So-called strongmen gave in, not with a bang, but a whimper. The people prevailed, and a new republican elite took over.
We're not saying that they were not preferable to the
authoritarian elite that was vanquished. We are saying that once again the people are
relatively powerless and that the radical changeover was not nearly so radical as it first
It's much like a "crash diet." It might work for a short time, but sooner or later the old "fatso" will return. What needs to be done is to change one's lifestyle bit by bit-- blending the new with the old--until the proper weight is reached and then the new lifestyle will sustain the person at that weight. Same with a marriage. Ask the successful couple.
So what about reform? Well, think about the word. First of
all, it attempts to reach a state of being that may or is thought to have existed in the
past. RE means to go back to... to make something like it was (or is thought to have
been). That's REgress, not PROgress.
Actually, reformers are trying to maintain the system pretty much as it is. Their ideas about political change are the equivalent of new patches on a worn out tire. They might keep it running for a while longer, but they can't keep it from running down.
Good examples of reformism in modern America include changes of the system like "term limits," "balanced budget amendments," "line-item veto power for the president," "a third party," and the like. None of these changes in process empower citizens. All of them keep the same elites in power and will continue to keep the masses at bay.
Perhaps the most progressive branch of the modern democracy-reform movement is that which advocates the reinvigoration of communities and community power. As a reform, it tries to remedy the sense of helplessness, alienation, apathy, and cynicism that is so pervasive among average Americans, particularly concerning their governments -- whether at the national, state or local levels.
What they are saying and doing is that in order for the average citizen to gain (or regain) power over their governments, they must come back together in their localities to discuss and/or organize for their own mutual interests. Then, through the power of their community organizations and leaders, they will be better able to understand and influence the direction and policies of their governments.
It's another way of saying: "united we stand, divided we fall." It's a way of REviving the geographic communities of yesteryear. Thus, over the past several years, there has been a multiplication of neighborhood organizations, community groups, local town halls, and the like... all banding together to expedite various changes in policies and administration around the country.
These groups have been somewhat successful in binding some citizens together to combat government bureaucracies, corporate avarice, and other special interests. And the movement continues to grow. But is this enough? Is this transformational, evolutionary growth? Not Really.
One reason for this is that most citizens still do not participate in such local and community organizations... and for a wide variety of personal reasons. These include: too busy, too tired, no money for babysitters, rather chill out and watch TV, and the like.
Another major reason, in our view, is that most citizens don't come to community meetings or meetings of organizations. And why is that? Well, they feel intimidated by or disgusted with the usual run of aggressive, wordy types who dominate those very same meetings, discussion groups, and organizations.
In other words, to most citizens, the community or
organizational politician types are no better for them or to them than the professional
pols in the city councils, state legislatures or congress. They are, albeit in a community
or organizational setting, the very same political class. So why bother? Even if the group
favors what they favor, they don't feel very empowered.
Furthermore, the citizen is empowered to choose from -- or form -- a wide variety of communities of mutual interest with which to interact. And he or she is not limited to communities determined mainly -- if not exclusively -- by what street or lane they happen to live on.
But will this lure Mr. Average Citizen into the political process? Will Joe Blow and Jane Doe participate in this kind of "electronic meeting," "electronic deliberation," "electronic conversations," "electronic organizational meeting," "electronic initiatives" and "referenda?" The evidence thus far overwhelmingly says "YES!"
This does not mean that face-to-face meetings, deliberations, organizations, etc. are passť or unimportant, they are. But they desperately need to be supplemented by this new system of citizen empowerment, otherwise the present system will continue to block a whole new quality and quantity of citizen input, feedback, and support.
All modern representative democracies have their major arteries clogged. What is needed is quadruple bypass surgery. This is a long and difficult procedure. There will be a lengthy healing process. And a major lifestyle change will be necessary to sustain its positive benefits.
So, whatever new methods, techniques, etc., are conceived, planned or implemented that are sincerely intended to directly increase the personal political power of each and every citizen... they are steps toward real Citizen Power and will be covered, analyzed and rated by this webzine... in its features, interNETviews, book reviews, multimedia, and news .