Most Canadians will tell you that Canada is a democracy, and that they think democracies are the best political systems in the world. What I suspect 1/3 or more of the population cannot tell you, is WHY they think democracies are good, and link their points with their support of certain politicians and parties. Politics has come to be perceived as a professional sport to Canadians — optional to play in and to watch.
Pick a favourite team, or ignore it altogether, and vote only if you feel like it, as if it’s as important as tuning into the Grey Cup game or Canadian Idol. Non-voters and some voters alike admit they stopped caring about democracy, long ago. They simultaneously admit that the system directly hurts them, and their friends. How can you treat apathy on that level, where painful stimulus can’t elicit a response (anymore)? What can empower these people who feel let down by democracy; failed by their neighbours and politicians?
Well, politics isn’t a sport, no matter the number of analogies linking them. Politics is closer to a soap opera, or pro-wrestling — scripted and influencing, with good people, bad guys, and really bad guys. The major differences are that soap operas can’t turn you into a criminal overnight by changing a copyright law, or destroy your job by legalizing marijuana, or send you to die in a war, or make you pay taxes, or cut you off from social assistance. Sports don’t decide if you’ll have clean water to drink, and clean air to breathe, or if you’ll go bankrupt if you get cancer, or if you’ll even get medicine for treatment. Anything that really matters in your world is not decided by sports or soap operas, it’s decided by politics. Who is supposed to control politics in a democracy? The Queen. Harper? Wait, the People are!
In this loveless marriage we call Canadian democracy, is there hope for people who want to remain free? Can we reach peoples’ minds and get them to question what it takes to maintain a democracy, before desperate people make the Toronto G20 look like a walk in the park? Without a legal means to criticize the government, only criminal means are an option, logically. So what’s the big deal with Free Speech Zones, and unconstitutional mass arrests? Figure it out – the people in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya sure did!
Try explaining to people that the fundamental difference between democracies and totalitarian regimes is who is in charge. It seems complicated for some reason. It shouldn’t be, and it should be understood by every person in Canada that politicians and media who do away with dissenters’ voices, have stopped acting as forces to maintain a democracy, and have thus become almost as great a threat to democracy as terrorists. Democracy cannot survive without active participation of citizens, so people that suppress or prevent participation, are anti-democratic.
People have stopped (if they ever did) weighing ideas against each other, and are treating political parties like sports teams who they’ll back regardless of recent “play”. Give up the notion that you have to back the same party you did last election if the party now is not the same as it was when you chose it. It’s not like you’re suddenly cheering for the Blue Bombers after being a life-long Roughriders fan — you’re picking a new political representative who doesn’t treat you like a bad lover. After all, politicians change, a bit anyway, and may not even agree with themselves after 5 years. Why are past supporters expected to follow their politicians’ devolution as power corrupts them.
Let’s have More Debates, Not Fewer Debaters.
ADDED: I almost forgot an important point. What happens If we make this election about democracy, and Stephen Harper’s contempt for it, and then we lose?
If democracy’s lip-servers and freedom loving Canadians alike lose to the budding Canadian King, then are we giving him a democratic mandate to be more authoritarian because we collectively voted for it? It’d be moot anyway I guess at that point, it would simply be salt in the wound. Because Parliament doesn’t have legitimacy any longer, if we return someone to power after removing him and his party for CONTEMPT of the institution that embodies our democracy.