We The PeopleThis painting is interactive. A viewer may walk up to it, lift one of the images off the background canvas, turn the module around to see a painting on the back, and replace it anywhere else on the canvas background. In this way, it becomes the viewer’s painting, a co-creation. It soon expresses the viewer as it is changed from day to day and becomes a living, ever-changing work of art. It is also an expression of the kind of democracy upgrade we need.

When the needs of the people, and the course of action or non-action taken by those who politically represent us, grow increasingly different from one another, the question arises, “Is there a better way to run a democracy?” Or, more accurately, “Is there a way to move to the next level in our relationship with democracy?” If the phrase “Of the People, By the People and For the People” means anything at all, then I say, indeed, there is.

As it stands, a candidate claims to represent our values, receives funding from mega-corporations, and we elect that individual into government office. The problem is, as an individual, he or she may be corrupted by industrial big money and corporate pressure once in office. Since campaigning as it stands is so costly, corporate money is welcomed even at the onset of a campaign. This means that, once in office, a candidate who is elected is beholden to his or her benefactors, the mega-corporations who gave them the financial support needed to get into office. This leaves mega-corporations in charge of what used to be our democracy. That is to say, since this has become a pretend democracy, with corporations and capital interests using the illusion of democracy to feed their private interests, we really have nothing to lose by at least entertaining the idea that democracy can be upgraded to suit our needs better as the people.

My solution to this is simple, and even more fun and interactive, like the above painting, than democracy is now. We may create a system where any individual may go on-line, or to a local school, and study the requirements for becoming any specific member of government, from District Counselor, Mayor, Governor, Senator, Congressperson, all the way up to President of the United States. Once the duties of their chosen office are studied and learned, they may take an exam. If they pass that exam, they automatically become a candidate for Co-Governor, or Co-Senator, or Co-President or whatever it is that they studied to become. They may previously have chosen which party they wish to represent.

The co-candidate, for example, having passed the exam, may then become an official, registered co-Governor candidate in the State of California. A Democratic , a Republican , Independent, or Green Co-Governor Candidate would be created. More clearly, a non-existent candidate would be fabricated as a collective figure head. This “person” exists in name only. That Candidate is simply the sum of the voting power of all co-officials who have registered as co-governors under that chosen name in that particular party. That fictitious candidate would be given a name. Let’s call this fictitious Co-Governor candidate Amy Green. Amy Green is running on the Democratic ticket as Governor of California. Amy Green is made up of all California Co-Governors. She has no other existence or human needs, such as the need for large sums of money, and she cannot be threatened in any way or coerced by status quo powers. She is made of the people. Her number of participants who can join her personage closes from the moment that she declares herself an official candidate for that office, and she must have gathered a minimum number of co-candidates, such as 1,000, before that membership can be closed.

Whenever issues are presented by popular vote on-line at an official problems and solutions website, e-mails are then sent to all of the co-candidates who comprise Amy Green, and they vote on those issues. This secretarial work is collectively paid for by the co-candidates themselves. It would require one or two secretaries, and in no way requires the staggering funds needed by individual candidates, as the platform for each candidate is simple. It is posted on Amy Green’s website under how she would vote on each issue. That is the campaign – actual, clear, definitive answers on each issue. Not promises, not posturing, but answers to questions on each issue posed by people on a blog and publicly displayed as factual records of her values. Whichever way each issue is voted upon by the co-candidates becomes the way Amy Green votes on that issue, and these are published daily on-line. Of course, there would be more than one Co-Candidate such as Amy Green running on the Democratic ticket, and voters could choose which one best represented their values.

If elected as Governor, Amy Green continues to vote via collective voting by all of the, let us say, Democratic co-governors of California who function under the name Amy Green. Her daily issues are each co-governors daily issues. Co-Governors vote at their computers, iPads, iPhones or whatever state of the art devices allow. Instead of one individual receiving a governor’s pay, the co-governors receive a small wage, along with a card that gives them a 75% discount on all purchases related to governing, and expenses that are essential to living. That is, this card grants them discounts on all things necessary for their living needs, but not on  houses, second cars, boats, travel out of state, etc. The State of California pays for 75% of those expenses up to a limit which is pre-established and final, or a simple flat fee, such as $100 per vote on any given issue that is rated as critical to the needs of the whole. The most effective approach might well be that they are paid only for each vote they give on each issue.

In Co-Democracy we have a nation where anyone who is interested in any aspect of governing has an opportunity to become, say, a Co-Governor. This system means that if an elected Co-Governor does not follow through with values that the people who elected “him or her” hold, anyone who cares to re-formulate the attitude of that Democratic Co-Governor can study, take the test for, and become a candidate for the next Democratic Co-Governor of California. This continually empowers us, as opposed to making us feel less and less in control. There is never any need for taking to the streets in protest. Simply join the governing body and shift the actions in the direction that you value. Make the changes needed to correct the course of action in America.

Once any official is elected, from that moment a new candidate may be created for the following election. A new co-candidate may then become that newly created office candidate – let us call this next figurehead Byron Harris – and shift the values and interests of the new candidate for Governor in a direction that expresses the new candidate’s values. In the next gubernatorial election, Byron Harris will run for office on the revised specific platform.

We may see that it would no longer be the difficult, if not impossible task of hoping someone will run for office who represents your values, but quite the opposite. The figurehead would always be crafting itself to perfectly express the values of the people. It is tailor-made to be the perfect candidate. Also, a side effect is that our governing officers would comprise increasing numbers of citizens, until we truly become self-governing, direct participants in an actual interactive governing democracy that does not simply represent the people, but is literally made of the people.

We may also notice that political racism, sexism and other prejudicial issues dissolve instantly by this system upgrade. The elected Co-Governor of California is not African-American, Christian, Conservative, Social Activist, Lesbian, White, Gay, Latino, Jewish, Middle Eastern, Italian, Female or Male. The Co-Governor of California is all of the above and then some. In one figurehead, such as Amy Green, the potential for many diverse beliefs and ethnicities, religions and political leanings exist simultaneously. All of the values of any one party may be represented in their self-created one figurehead. A co-office holder of any government office – Governor or Senator, for example – is made up of all who pass the test of the responsibilities of that office.

Co-operative Democracy is increasingly Democratic, and is also far less corruptible. Corporate status quo pressure, for example, to suppress inventions that would threaten their industrial dominance cannot be easily addressed under current political structure because corporations are so powerful. Under Co-Democracy, however, a corporation would have a hard time rewarding or threatening 25,789 co-governors. Compound a co-Governor in relationship to a Co- President of the United States, both of whom may actually be 450,000 diverse individuals who vote on issues daily or weekly and you have a cyber-animal that moves too fast for industry to keep up with, similar to the dinosaurs trying to stop the spread of warm-blooded animals as their competitors.

The newly elected Co-President, for example, could present a bill requiring that all patent rights be turned over to public domain if these patent rights are kept by a patent-right holder (a corporation that is hoarding patent rights to break competition) for more than three years without being manufactured and offered that product at a reasonable price to the general public. Try promoting that bill as an individual officeholder in the existing political arena and see how far you get. This would end patent hoarding and would immediately restore the American economy to leadership in the world of innovation, as countless patents that would save our environment are being hoarded by corporations that do not want the competition that these patents would create.

Many such powerful laws could be passed without corporations being able to suppress these new laws by pressuring individual officeholders, as is too often the practice today through lobbying and covert pressures. China, for example, has a government that works to benefit new industries, such as a new battery they developed that is very thin and produces large amounts of electricity to run buses. The Chinese government has subsidized the sale of these batteries in China in order to encourage electric vehicles flooding the market as a way of curbing air pollution. In America,  corporate-run democracy is doing its best to pretend that electric vehicles are barely possible, even though they existed perfectly side by side with the invention of the automobile. Co-Democracy can end this greed and restore us to a leading position in the world of electric vehicles.

I once had a conversation with a researcher in the medical industry. He admitted to me that not only had he been made to sign an oath never to discuss this matter, but that he himself had seen cures for serious illnesses such as cancer that were deliberately buried because they would not make large sums of money for the corporation he worked for. Deadlocks such as this, crimes against humanity, would be much easier to break by a co-democratic system, rather than by vulnerable individual politicians whose lives and families may be threatened and who, on the other hand,  may be rewarded for going along with company policy. Who would not succumb to such a condition?

Such a system of truer democracy would allow for and teach us to govern ourselves. Rather than continue our disastrous belief in a Big Daddy who will protect us and assure that our needs will be met, we will have grown into the position where we take upon ourselves the job of caring for ourselves. Protests mean “They are in charge and we don’t like it.” Co-Democracy means “Thank you very much, we’ll take control and we will handle these matters from now on.You are dismissed.” This is maturity, and it takes courage to take control of the steering wheel of our own democracy.

I am a member of a housing co-operative. This means that we have meetings, discuss issues, resolve them as best we can, share chores, look after the property as a whole, and have a cookout once a week in warm weather just to have pleasant social connections with no business talked about. Is this worth the effort, to pay a relatively low  monthly fee for maintenance of our own property? The answer is yes! The same answer applies to running our own country, with all of its marvelous differences of opinions. Yes, these differences get resolved and motions passed. Yes, to the work of voting every week if we are a co-candidate or co-office holder. It is worth the effort to restore America to democracy, yes!

I call this system Cooperative Democracy, or Co-Democracy. All things would remain the same with government. This is not a revolution. It is a democratic upgrade, Democracy 2.0, to allow anyone to look up their local Co-President of the United States, or Co-Governor of Wisconsin, and get to actually have lunch with her or him. People would be able to go to that person’s house, meet one of thousands of elected Co-Presidents of the United States of America for coffee at a local café, and discuss an idea that that person wants them to vote for.

Laws we all made would limit corporation-employee power. No more than two people from any one corporation, for example,  could run for the same office, to curb corporate enlisting of employees into governing positions and dominating that political office.

Above all, a real democracy should be increasingly interactive, not an increasingly passive audience to big-money performances of self-interest, with the only hope for change being taking to the streets and demanding that the powers that created the problems repent and change their ways. Street protesting is good in itself as a way of drawing attention to the problem, but still can lead to authorities’ intolerance and violence when the authorities with the guns grow tired of being “inconvenienced.” The problem remains that we have passed the stage where any one individual can handle the massive complexity of modern problems. Demanding that the creators of the problem solve the problems they have created is a dead end. Einstein is also known for saying that the minds that created a problem are not the minds that can solve those problems. We must become the governing force ourselves and take this power away from corporate structures, which have by definition no choice but to care for nothing but profit. Many mega-corporations have human status, stupidly enough, but no human values. If any of us had dinner with a human being who had only profit alone as his values, we would leave the dinner table after listening to his maniacal obsession with money after only for five minutes.

When any co-candidate is elected, that ends the creation of the specific co-candidate and begins the creation of a new co-candidate, at which time new participants may join that co-officer’s assembly. This new co-candidate would be developing its values for the next election. Since this being is fictitious, no government position would last longer than four years before a re-election occurred. Consciousness and problem solving would actually adapt and evolve to meet the ever-changing problems of the times.

A Cooperative Democracy would also bring closure to the illusion that there is any individual, regardless of his or her abilities, who is capable of solving so many problems. Individual Presidents, for example, are forced to prioritize, simply because no person can handle all of these problems at once or in one or two terms. With hundreds of critical problems, we can’t afford to only work on the top three most popular problems. We are facing hundreds of critical conditions that need immediate resolution, in environment, climatic conditions, the national natural disasters of floods and hurricanes related to global warming, economic disaster, global economy disaster, severe need for employment, criminal banking practices, criminal political behavior, to name a very few of the issues, each of which threatens the existence of the whole. It will take all of us to solve these problems, not some individual who tells us that he or she can handle it, no matter how competent he or she is as a human being. Only a collective entity made of many people  focused on their particular special interests such as economics, employment, environment, and all working simultaneously, running their groups, can solve this multitude of problems.

Organizations could be created of volunteers who would gladly make these problems end, because they suffer from the problem. For example, a law could be proposed and voted on and passed that would give anyone who has earned a degree in a specific field to teach their specialized aspect of that field, and their students could pass an exam that would give them credentials in that highly specific aspect of a given field. In other words, credentials would no longer only be given by credentialed schools, but rather, issued subject by subject, as subject modules,  by free lance teachers. One could earn many specific credentials for each aspect of a field. This would turn millions of people into credentialed freelance teachers and encourage people to study in small groups and receive modular degrees. Teaching would not be limited to institutions, which are few. People would not need to pay outlandish fees to universities, because those people who would be allowed to teach only through a university to offer a credential, would then be able to teach privately and issue their own credential in that field of study.

A collection of such degrees for specific aspects of a field would be honored by people who worked in that specific field, such as a specific branch of biology. This would open the education system to the free market and students could go to the best teachers in that area, not hope to get into the best university and spend the rest of their lives paying for it. While existing powers would certainly block this innovation, a Co-operative Democratic system could quickly propose, vote on and pass such an effective way to end university dominance over the cost of higher education and instantly stimulate the economy by making hundreds of thousands of new jobs as teachers and their students who would  become employable individuals. It would also bring the arts and humanities back into the American education system, which corporate values have eliminated as useless activities. Each employer could post online what education they required to work for them, and individuals could take those specific classes from different individual teachers, even on-line. Each subject would carry its own credential.

Co-Democracy would initiate an era where we begin to take responsibility for self-governing, and computers allow for this to happen. A Co-Democracy is the next step in moving toward a truer democratic society that is corruption resistant. It is also the transformation from a teenage society to an adult society. We will no longer be waiting for “parents” to save us, provide for us, make our decisions for us. We will be adults and on our own, possibly for the first time in human history. While this may seem frightening, what adults would still rather be living under the roof, provided by their parents, and their parents’ house rules, after tasting the freedom to create a life for themselves? We are at the dawn of democracy and the astounding freedom that a truer Co-Democracy would bring, freer from corruption, and able to, at long last, directly express human values, of the people, by the people and for the people.

In closing, I feel a need to say that a Co-Democracy will certainly never be brought into being by existing official members of the government. Trying to get a governing official to like this idea is not going to work. It must be presented as an idea by people, to people. Websites are the only way to establish a parallel government that duplicates existing democracy. People may then create on-line or physical teaching stations to educate people to the duties of each office. A parallel Co-Government could always be useful if compared to existing actions of government and used as a measure to evaluate how near or far political actions conflict with people’s actual needs. That, at least, would be a second opinion on the way America is heading.

I suggest starting this as a kind of fascinating social game that people can play on-line. Take courses, pass tests, and develop the ideas in dry-dock, so to speak. When many of the problems are solved, there will be a parallel democratic structure to compare to the existing structure. If it is a non-profit organization, as soon as it works well and people see that it is a good idea, they will begin donating tax-deductible money to bid on solving problems. That will be a way of shifting over to a new and powerful form of democracy in a natural manner that solves problems quickly, efficiently, and by our own hands. The age of heroes is over, if it ever really existed. If corporations can be considered to be people, then so can this collective figure head. It is time for us  to learn how to govern ourselves.  All that it would take to introduce this system is to have a collective official such as Amy Green run for office and be elected. This could be organized entirely on-line with a few good websites that educate, test candidates and show “her” voting records, as well as with a problems and proposed solutions website to allow people to site issues and propose solutions. This is possible and within our ability as people to create. After that, simply vote our own Amy Green into office. America would be back in the hands of the people. Democracy is ours, and learning to govern ourselves is its destiny.

Interactive painting, Co-Democracy concept and article by:
Ross G. Drago
Paint Rag Magazine
No donation is too small