Democracy Requires Constant Vigilance from Active Citizens: For Trudeau, Not Being Mr. Harper is Only a Good Start

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It’s been almost two weeks since the election delivered a sense of relief confirming Canada and Canadians aren’t the nasty, individualistic, divided, uninformed, uncaring bunch of callous taxpayers we were being moulded into.  It’s a huge relief that democracy, despite the many barriers thrown to militate against free expression and informed decision making, was able to assert itself.

The election was also revelatory.  Despite the deluge of daily attacks against Canadians and Canadian society, and the useful chronicling of these attacks over the last decade, the deep dark secrets of how that was done, the details about why and who benefited, the crossing the line of moral justification, and the disreputable actions of numerous individuals is now coming to light. Sadly, the Duffy affair will likely only be the tip of the iceberg.

These unaccountable actions have galvanized Canadians and the Liberals to seek out better democracy in the form of electoral reform.  It’s sad to have had to come to such extremes, and while it could have been worse, we now have the opportunity to improve the voting process in Canada.

Repeal – another theme likely to echo over the coming months and years.  The loss of door to door postal services will be stopped and Bill C-51 will be scrutinized – as it should have been done in any democracy in the first place – and reformed.  Environmental assessment is promised to become more accountable and trusted, and attacks on Canadian drinking water will be reversed.

At the same time, environmental, foreign policy, social programs, housing, First Nations, military, information, science, health, the economy and communities, among others, will receive a reinvigorated shot in the arm.  It’s shocking that so much effort was wasted strengthening only one of our economic sectors, while the remainder floundered pinched between the clutches of Harperlands’ thumb, neoliberalisms’ forefinger and middle-fingers’ austerity.

This decade long Canadian fiasco should serve as a reminder to us all how fragile democracy can be, especially when apathy, resignation and divisiveness creep into the Canadian psyche.

As citizens, we need to be engaged, actively, in the political processes within our community, region and nation.  If that’s not possible, change the system.  Don’t be apathetic, whether it’s a federal election, or a change to your local Fire Services. The experiences you hold, stories you tell, and information you share becomes the knowledge our decision makers need to make wise decisions.

As the Rush song Freewill notes:

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill

I will choose a path that’s clear

I will choose freewill 

Apathy and non-participation is a recipe for disaster: blame is better to give than to receive. Disengaged citizens is a guarantee of lost freewill.

Canadians can never again afford to resign to the visions, aspirations and goals of those elected without testing, questioning and understanding.  Margaret Mead observed that “human nature is almost unbelievably malleable, responding accurately and contrastingly to contrasting cultural conditions.”

We find this clearly in the last decade’s rule: the use of known techniques to engineer Canadian society, values and behaviour along irrational lines to benefit wealthy, and harm the majority, yet all done in a manner that the majority believed were of benefit.

As was recently noted by political blogger Christopher Majka, “We should not underestimate the actual and potential harm of this virulence: Stephen Harper’s vision of obedient consumers marching to the tune of corporate kleptocracy is not a pleasant place and we shouldn’t imagine that Canada could not be driven to such a dystopia. The stunning progress of neoliberalism owes its success to snake oil salesmen like Harper pitching tax cuts, austerity, the fear of whatever there is to be feared (and an infinite number of apprehensions can be conjured ex nihilo), chest-thumping patriotism, sabre-rattling at imaginary enemies, privatization, trickle-down economics and other such sleights of hand. As Naomi Klein’s power book The Shock Doctrine illustrated, these tactics can work anywhere. Sow enough fear and panic and an irrational stampede can ensue.”

Read it; it’s in the public library.  If your attention span is as short as the fleeting bytes running through your mobile, watch it. It’s on the web.

“When you have more than you need, you don’t build a higher fence, you build a longer table.” Using wealth disparity to isolate from poverty, environmental destruction and social conflict makes for a sick society.  Sharing that wealth improves health for everyone. A key point made in the Spirit Level, by Wilkinson and Pickett – read it too.

Whatever you do, become engaged.

Relief, revelatory, reform, repeal, reinvigorate. A lot of missing in action needs over the last decade will now be resolved.

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