“What we have witnessed, especially since the first election of the first black president of the United States, is bitter, divided, polarized, angry, mean-spirited and “win at all costs” Democracy. Since I first came to the USA in 1965, I have never witnessed a time when the political discourse has been more rancorous and vitriolic. The labeling of the opposition with the language that is currently being used is, at times, frightening.
These are the words of George Daranyi, a regular citizen with a vision, concerning the need for change in how we conduct political dialogue. George has designed and developed A Parallel Democracy: A Place Beyond Politics, an experiential event, out of his own desire to change the harmful ways that we have spoken to and behaved with each other concerning our political views, especially during the past national elections.
Last month I attended the “maiden voyage” of this new ‘program’ – a half-day-long gathering of about 100 people to experience the culmination of this idea. With George’s permission I am posting his most recent ‘invitation’ for others to attend, and benefit from, this important experiment.
George describes A Parallel Democracy as “an experiential experiment in political reconciliation. It is not affiliated with any group, organization, political party, movement, philosophy, ideology, belief system or religion. The experiment makes no effort to attempt to change your current beliefs or to make you “wrong” about your political beliefs. A Parallel Democracy will provide ‘an experience’ and ‘a space’ where you can practice being present with another with whom you have opposing political viewpoints and with whom you want to experience closer and more meaningful connection. ”
“I believe in Democracy. Real Democracy. Authentic, transparent, accountable, clean Democracy. I believe most of us believe and want that kind of Democracy. I believe that kind of Democracy, and the longing for that kind of Democracy, lives in a “parallel universe” that is running alongside our current political universe. Hence the name, A Parallel Democracy.
The impact of this kind of present day, two party, Democracy has been significant. Nearly one third of the voters, for example, in Arizona no longer identify as either a Republican or a Democrat. They are Independents. A very significant number of eligible voters have, for years, opted out entirely out of the system. They no longer participate, nor care to participate. And, those who are still active have become disheartened and disillusioned. It is clear, without the need for scientific research, that our current two party system is, at best, severely dysfunctional; and, at worst probably broken and irreparably so. The final blow to our body politic is this: our problems, big and small, continue to go unaddressed. Rather than taking them on directly, our governors are playing a game of making sure “the others” are made wrong; or at least less wrong than “we” are. It is a lose/lose game.
At the same time that the political landscape has worsened, and the tone grown increasingly divisive, something quite amazing is also occurring. For the first time in human history, human beings have access to instant information and near instant communication. The advent of the worldwide internet and its social media has provided a platform which has allowed and given people an opportunity to have a voice outside of the traditional “village square” (the congressional houses in Washington, and the state houses everywhere). Americans have witnessed the near instant democratic uprisings which have occurred over the past several years in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere. The ability, technologically, now to speak and to unite those who speak with one voice across vast regions has called into question the entire idea of whether representative democracy is even required or, dare I say it, relevant any more. What if, instead, we explored the possibility of direct democracy, where our technology is linked to and merged with our continuing deep commitment to real, authentic, responsible, accountable and transparent Democracy? What might be possible then? Well, APD believes that anything is possible politically.
A Parallel Democracy is an experiment in two central ideas: one, that human beings, who hold vastly different views, and who are members of different parties or organizations, or who have opted out of the discourse altogether, can come into a singular space and find a way to connect with each other in a meaningful and transformative way. They can do that without one person insisting that another person change his or her political views or philosophy. in that space, participants engage in the actual experience of political reconciliation, which will free them up to have different and more meaningful relationships with those that they perceive as “the other”. The experiment, if successful, can rebuild trust and can reclaim Democracy in a new, more powerful, and non-party affiliated way. This new way of relating to one another exits in what we call “A Place Beyond Politics.” The experiment has been run successfully once, and will be run again on March 16, 2013 in Tucson, Arizona.
And, second, the idea that human beings, inside of our current technology, can begin to take full responsibility for governing themselves, directly, without the need for a projection of their votes or their power to members of political parties who wonder off to lands far away to cast votes. A Parallel Democracy says that the village square is right here, it is us, and it exists right in front of us. It too exists in A Place Beyond Politics.
Finally, APD is not interested in having debates about political philosophies or particular issues. It has no opinion on these matters, albeit they are important. It is not a party or an entity. It is an experience. APD understands that, like the nuclear atom, which requires all its elements, positive charges, negative charges and neutral ones, to hold itself together, our Democracy must find a way to hold the tension of all of its energies and disagreements. But, unlike the atom, where those particles don’t get to choose how they relate to each other, APD recognizes that each of us does have a choice in how we relate to each other. We can do it. In fact, we must; or, like the atom (and the entire cosmos for that matter) we will disintegrate into chaos.
We invite you to consider the possibility that A Parallel Democracy-A Place Beyond Politics might offer you. Join us for the next experiment in the experience of political reconciliation.
If you are interested in attending, please post a comment about your interest, and I will provide contact information.