Citizen Power. That's what this webzine is all about. But is that any different from "people power," "community power," or any of a number of other political movements from the past and present? We think so. And that's why we think this webzine is a departure from tradition--in message+medium--something needed, something that could only emerge via the communications evolution called the Internet. We believe that "Citizen Power"--as we help define, describe and synergize such a change in democratic politics via the Internet-- will truly TRANSFORM democracies into the next phase of their evolution. 


People power (masses in the streets) and the attempt to revive geographical communities are important, but they lead to REVOLUTION and REFORM. The former is not necessary in a modern democracy and the latter is not enough.

In our view, a transformation is the most preferable form of change. For one thing, it is evolutionary, not revolutionary. This means that it does not try to tear down what came before it, to degrade its foundations, but instead builds upon the experience, value and structure of the past and changes it into something novel. . . a new and improved model.
 



Let's look at it another way. A true "revolution" is a 360 degree turn. In other words, you go back to where you started. Think about political revolutions. They quickly replace one power elite with another.

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 appeared.



Even the U.S. Constitution really substituted one central elite (The American) for another (the British). The first U.S. citizens were exclusively white men who owned property and their government leaders were selected exclusively from the most wealthy and powerful among them. The evolution towards truer and/or purer democracy in America has been slow, but sure, with the inclusion of blacks and women into the ranks of the citizenry and the political leadership taking approximately two centuries.



Let's look at this from a more personal perspective. Successful marriages are based upon the ability of each partner to transform themselves into a new person over time. If one tries to change oneself entirely all at once, it really won't work.

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.



Citizen Power, however, is where the citizen is directly empowered to listen, think, talk, argue, question, act and vote on their own and at their convenience with the aid of electronic information and communication technology.

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 .

For a true evolution in the amount and quality of Citizen Power is an evolution in the degree and quality of democracy. And an evolution in democracy is a transformation of democracy. And that is what CITIZEN POWER is all about.

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