The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

September 2021: Democracy

Posted on Sep 11, 2021

“Change is fueled by anger and disappointment, as well as by inspiration and patience.”

~Sally Armstrong, Ascent of Women (2013)

Another election is upon us. And if you recall, last time I blogged about my disappointment in politicians and the political system. I remain jaded and cynical about the effectiveness of Canada’s democratic system. If I could call for electoral reform, I would. I understand that some folks are trying to do just that. The party system just isn’t working in our modern day and age. All party platforms are relatively the same…and irrelevant in the big picture.

In a world where politicians truly represent their constituents, they would take the time and effort to visit the people in their ridings, get to know them and their concerns. In all the years I have been a registered voter, I can only recall two visits by political candidates: once in the Yukon (and I did vote for that candidate because she appeared to hear where I was coming from and my concerns; whether they were represented is another matter); and the other day here in Pine Falls. Unfortunately the timing was terrible, so I was unable to chat with him.

To my way of thinking, democracy is another form of bullying and or the popularity vote. And we all know that popular does not always mean best for the general public. It also means that minority groups are essentially left out in the cold. If your concerns do not match the majority, you are SOL. It is another way of being told you are unimportant.

If I had my druthers (an old fashioned turn of phrase referring to “I’d rather), voting would be about specific issues, not about party platforms or people. For it really doesn’t matter who is representing your riding or the country, f*ck ups occur regardless. Messes are made. Clean ups sometimes make things worse. Personal and political agendas from within and without tend to influence the system more so than citizens. Trust in officials is non-existent. Quite frankly they haven’t earned it. But that is a side rant.

My idea of electoral reform involves making use of the electronic platforms currently available that are secure and efficient. I would like my voice heard (represented), even if unpopular or in the minority—which I think could happen either by non-party representatives in government who use their salaries to get to know their constituents and their concerns, or by presenting an electronic platform in which I could state my concerns. The more valuable data would be the stats on how Canadians vote on different issues—not people or parties—and how it is discussed by the power brokers. Not debated like parliament is currently set up, but truly an exchange of ideas.

People will always disagree. Where the wheels fall off the wagon is no different than in relationship counselling. Couples must first hear and acknowledge where each person is coming from before they can negotiate middle ground. Our tendency is to prove who is right and who is wrong—create chasms rather than bridging the gaps. We need to throw that thinking out the window. It is archaic and ineffective.

If we want to thrive in this modern age, we need to embrace change—no only in our thinking, but also in the ways we communicate our thinking. We want to force our way of thinking onto others—whether it’s gun control or vaccines or education reform or cultural values. We also want to shut down hearing what others have to say, labeling them whiners or idiots or whatever suits our fancy to create distance. Even if we don’t agree, we all have a point. Sometimes it appears inconvenient or uncomfortable or unreasonable. But seldom do we take the time to hear where the other person is coming from. If we did, middle ground is more likely to be reached.

Compromise has become a dirty a word because it is often confused with sacrifice. If one person gives up or gives in, that is not compromise. Compromise involves all concerned parties giving “a little” to get “a little.” That’s middle ground, not one person having to concede all ground. And if one person is conceding much more than the other, that is not compromise either. We are once again looking at bullying—applying pressure to the underdog to get what we what. Both/all parties must feel discomfort as well as relief—in appropriate proportions.

So much for that part of my rant. My third political point has to do with the cop out excuse that if we didn’t create the problem, we are not responsible for the solution. This one gets my goat every time. And it is prolific on Facebook. Especially where minority groups are concerned—particularly indigenous groups. However, democracy created the genocide laws and their enforcement, and only democracy can end them. But who is speaking up to even make it a votable issue?

By saying the plight of our neighbours (however far removed from our experience) is not our problem is heartless and irresponsible. It communicates to the original occupants of this country, or newcomers, that we don’t care about them: they are unimportant, nonexistent, not worth our time. And in the case of the original occupants: shame on us! For they did not treat us that way. They extended friendship, respect, shared resources, helped us thrive. And the newcomers of the day took advantage.

It appalls me that people truly don’t care about others different from them. We are all human beings. No one having more or less value. But we certainly create us vs them mentalities every day. Whether it is giving ourselves an excuse not to get involved or shutting down conversations claiming the other perspective is weak or stupid or un-evolved. Facebook is a fantastic platform for sharing views as well as shunning.

I am currently reading a book by Canadian journalist, Sally Armstrong, called Ascent of Women. I think it’s a must read for any human being with an open heart and mind. The introduction alone inspired me not to give up—which I have a tendency to want to do when faced with animosity or apathy. We are so scared of “other,” “different,” or the unknown. It’s time to face our fears, find our courage, and press on to make the world a better place than when we stepped onto the world’s stage. We can all do better.

I am a cynic and doubt reform or great change. It takes a lot of effort some days to keep trying. If that book is anything to go by, time is not a factor—personal responsibility is. And as long as I have breath, I will do what I can to press forward. Maybe change will happen. Maybe it won’t. If women in developing countries can wait decades to see results, maybe I can hang in there a bit longer—and not give up so easily.

“The first thing to get out of the way is expectation that virtue always triumphs; in truth, most attempts to confront and defeat misdeeds are only partially successful or else seem to be outright failures. It doesn’t matter; nothing is wasted in the universe. Even an effort that apparently goes nowhere will influence the future. Though the system looks untouched, it has a fatal crack in it. The next assault, or the one after that, will bring it down. At the very least, someone, somewhere, has learned a lesson and will be more thoughtful.”
~ June Callwood, Canadian journalist and social activist

as quoted by Sally Armstrong, Ascent of Women (2013), p. 15

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