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Direct Democracy …I’ll talk to anybody…everybody.

swiss direct democracy photo swissdirectdemocracy.jpg

Last night, while doing my laundry, I noticed that there was a new exhibition being set up – I live in an artists’ loft in Boston. I took a peek because it looked like they had charcoal sketches..and I love charcoals. The <presumed> artist was still in there getting ready for the exhibit the following day. She sees me, I wave.  The artist- later I find out she’s called Bridget – walked over to unlock the door and let me in to the gallery.

While we were talking, I noticed she had an accent and asked if she was Dutch (which is what I thought I was detecting) She wasn’t, she was Swiss..and we ended up talking politics somehow. Probably my fault..I don’t remember.

She expressed her shock and disappointment with who we all came to find out Obama really is. A sense of MASSIVE SHAME came over me..I knew what was coming next.

The drone conversation is a National and International scandal..I don’t think you ever really find out how much of a mark of shame it really is until you speak to someone from somewhere else. Even though she has been living here now for 35 years, she still believed America would never be capable of such things. Me neither neither.

We talked about how she always believed the American people had more of a voice. She is finding out that is NOT the case. It’s an illusion – this “democracy”. Even if we somehow manage to get enough people away from their Malls, and their Lawns, and their “Dancing with the Stars”…we still don’t have much of a voice. Look at what happened to poor Occupy. Thousands of concerned citizens from all over the country arrested – like criminals… while the REAL criminals dine at the White House.  Encampments destroyed with bulldozers, 1000s of books from our free libraries thrown into the garbage, PILES of donated clothes, coats, shoes that we were distributing to people who need help – trashed. It was all trashed. Trashed to send a message. Shut Up and Sit Down. Go back to watching TV. Your lawn is beginning to look unkempt. Get a job. Doing ANYTHING else – just Stop seeing and Shut Up.

The conversation went from there onto systems of governance. Did you know – because I didn’t – that Switzerland is a Direct Democracy? Just like the Direct Democracy we were trying to establish at Occupy. It is!! Every SINGLE decision in Switzerland is made by a National Referendum..and I asked her..well, who gets to decide what the referendums are? I mean, you could argue that whomever has control of the questions (referendums) has control of policy and direction, right? Well she tells me anyone could add a referendum with 10-20,000 signatures..she wasn’t sure what the number was now but it couldn’t be much higher than that.  I thought: WoW. Imagine THAT kind of participatory voice? We wouldn’t have needed to sleep in the the cold…for weeks on end..JUST to have our concerns addressed!!

She also tells me that while Americans think Switzerland is a rich sophisticated society – and it is – that small wealthy class is VERY MUCH the minority and that the VAST farmer/worker class dominates the political direction of the country. And they won’t come to town to vote on anything – unless the proposed policy changes are very clear. “They won’t leave the farm, unless they know there’s going to be potatoes.” (I love when I hear expressions like that from other places – they strike me as funny…I’m sure ours do too)

Joining the EU was one of those occasions, when the Swiss wealthy elite all wanted to join, but the workers and farmers made their presence and opinion known. They DIDN’T and Switzerland is NOT part if the EU. Given what is happening now…I’m sure that the moneyed class just ran down to the farms and factories to thank the working class – NOT. They should have, but they didn’t. In this case, Direct Democracy saved the country from the ruin that has befallen the entire Euro Zone. People who work for a living tend to know what works and what is just greedy, financial pie- in- the sky nonsense.

I could have continued to talk to Bridget all night – it was fascinating, but unfortunately at that point, the guard came over to let her know her car alarm was going off in the parking lot. She apologized for ending the conversation so abruptly and rushed out to tend to the alarm.

Seemed almost symbolic: O, alarms are going off all over the place for sure…and the guards are trying to tells us that they are. How many are listening?

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