It’s all a scam, you say?

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Stimulated by all the promising around our October 1 election, I’ve been looking at some polls about voter participation elsewhere, support for democractic processes, and, even, peoples’ openness to totalitarian government.  What we hear in our own election is not far from the civic conversation around the globe.

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Stimulated by all the promising around our October 1 election, I’ve been looking at some polls about voter participation elsewhere, support for democractic processes, and, even, peoples’ openness to totalitarian government.  What we hear in our own election is not far from the civic conversation around the globe.
The polls aren’t cheering.  Voter participation is down and falling, fewer people expect democratic processes to work, and more say they are open, not necessarily to Joe Stalin, but “to a strong central leader who does not need elections nor the
hassles of independent courts and legislatures”.  That’s worth a thought.
One thought might be: these are linked. They’re linked to an “I don’t care attitude” from start to finish.  But how?  People care about some things – sports or gardening or particle physics – there must be something, and if it isn’t the society around us, the organization of our daily lives that sets the limits, all we do and do not do – not worth caring about? 
It’s difficult to accept this as part of our Canadian social fabric, but it’s important to acknowledge the strength of these negative attitudes. Newer generations don’t care about self-government and cooperation?  What could cause such
disenchantment? Pontiac’s Liberal candidate, André Fortin, may have put his finger on it when he told the Campbells Bay public meeting that the Pontiac “has been sold a fake bill of goods way too many times”. 
That is a startling observation from a politician.  Scam people too many times and eventually they’ll grow leary of any new people, new ideas – everything becomes a
possible scam. Mr Fortin feels this applies only to economic hucksters, those who come in looking for public money and then disappear when the grants run out.  Sure, that’s a local industry.  But what about the politicians who appear out of nowhere, promise millions of things – all to be paid for, not by them, by us! – and then after a couple of successful scams, er, election campaigns they retire on a magnificent pension.  Yes, Mr Fortin, we’be been sold a bill of goods way
too many times in way too many ways – by way too many people!
So it’s become too easy to complain that elections are nothing but a show,
that the parties pick and direct “our” MNAs – but this cynicism merely re-enforces the view that democracy is not valuable, is a sort of scam, and
that a strong leader equals efficient, and, especially, cheap government.  That never happens, but always sounds like it could, especially in the land of the free-enterpriser. This cynicism adds no improvements, no alternatives . . . just bitchin’!
When we complain about “all promises and no action” we are not prompting our political reps to be more active (on our behalf) – we are actually supporting the negative cynic. Complaining does not show that we know better; it likely shows
that we don’t see the whole picture. (I wish that was a highway sign.) Proposing real solutions or caution (in things like radioactive dump locations) – these show a hint of seeing the big picture.
Likewise for those who see elections only as “our team/their team” contests, as sporting events.  Politics is not sport. Sport is largely inconsequential; it’s all about the moment.  Politics are all about the aftermath, the results of the game. A sporting
attitude towards one’s vote, again, re-enforces the view that democracy is not valuable, a sort of scam, and that a strong leader equals efficient . . .
Given our rushed lives, each with a million responsibilities, few of us have time to sit down, study, discuss and ruminate on improving our democracy – hoping we don’t just perpetuate on-going scams and cynicism.  Buying into pessimism may be more a sign of our aging!
All of us do have time to do one thing that is positive: go vote.  Vote with your own brain, your own heart. Remember that it counts. And promise your kids you’ll behave like a real citizen, if only for their future’s benefit.