Hating the governments we elect

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

A reader has complained that this column often blames citizens for wrong-headed government actions and plans. “Don’t blame ordinary people for turning off politics,” she wrote, “when the politicians are doing everything they can to shut us out, shock us, flaunt us – even ignore us.”

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

A reader has complained that this column often blames citizens for wrong-headed government actions and plans. “Don’t blame ordinary people for turning off politics,” she wrote, “when the politicians are doing everything they can to shut us out, shock us, flaunt us – even ignore us.”
She’s correct. There is a conscious effort at work to discourage    ordinary people from participating in politics – from dirty tricks like the Conservatives’ “robo-calls” to a generally high-handed and abusive attitude toward the   public. It can seem that no matter who we elect, we get something we  didn’t expect. No matter our social problems, we get politicians following their own agendas,   mostly aimed toward winning the next election. Add in the Senate spending scandals, appointment of cronies to Canada Post and other federal agencies . . . yes, all this rightly does      discourage voters.
We also receive letters about the health system, our schools, and the state of public infrastructure. And with all this, readers also object to being called part of the problem. They find that “we get the governments we vote for” is too a depressing statement, even if it is the pinnacle of “democracy.”
So many citizens expect a health system to respond quickly, and effectively to them each as they walk in the door of the local ER. We       citizens have an obligation or a commitment to also take care of our health – watch our weight, exercise, stop smoking and drinking, watch our diets for salt, sugars and fats, etc – yes, it’s work, but why do we expect that the only  people who are supposed to work are across the desk from us? 
Plus, we also complain about costs – we want more people to do more work on our behalf, but without it costing more in taxes?  Really?
Likewise with schools. We ask why our schools aren’t turning out kids better trained, with    better study habits or a stronger work ethic, or respect for community property – but without expecting that we as  parents, grandparents and neighbours are also teachers of the next   generation.
What we ourselves do – or what we don’t do – is so much more important today than in the past when there where more structures shaping all our career paths and lives. A teen doesn’t feel motivated to learn French in high school? Do we just shrug and say there are unilingual jobs in Alberta – and then we complain that Quebec jobs require French, or that our government publishes material only in French?
We – you and I – love to hate the governments we elect. If we elect   people based on simplistic views – to save $60 on our tax bills, for example – then we should not be criticizing those simplistic people we elected.
And, listen up, a single vote does count – in every election there are contests decided by a couple of votes. The parties are all the same? They might seem to be, but they can make significant changes to our lives and to the rules, sometimes just by not enforcing bad laws. It does  matter what we do. It does matter who we vote for (and that we do vote); it does matter what we eat and whether we help our kids with their homework or not.
Blaming others, including politicians and the government, is part of not taking our responsibilities towards ourselves and our communities seriously. Yes, the writer was right. Forget      blaming. Let’s start being responsible. To ourselves, in the end.