Snapshots of Hope, Part Three: The Situation
Our politics are broken, not our democracy. I hope we can see the difference. Our politics have turned into the social chaos of a privileged high school. Democracy sits patiently in the library. She’ll be popular by the 2047 reunion.
Today divisive politicians are the popular kids. Milling around them are the feel-good left and the good old-fashioned right, the popularity contest creating so much work that it becomes the work. Many “politically involved” people opt to follow rather than lead. This means that people aren’t running the government. The government is running the government.
And what of the apathetic masses? The ones keeping this set-up valid? Their angst of Columbine is manifesting itself politically through violence of inaction. They treat politics as a write-off and do not realize how many suffer at their hands through this decision. Apathy is arrogant and hurtful, but it’s also understandable:Party politics today imbue a false tinge and a repressive air to political engagement. They enslave anyone who wants to get involved in politics in a mandatory and mindless tug of war. This wasn’t the way party-systems started. It is not the way they will exist in a renewed democracy. Parties are useful and helpful. But only if the population is sufficiently involved. In 2007 the population is not sufficiently involved. The longer we pretend it is the harder it will be to attract people back to politics.
To start with, politicians must take a very critical look at themselves. The move towards better democracy will require an orchestrated act of self-deprecation by these political figures - a symphony of confessions. They must admit that we, as citizens, do not receive the political education we need to use our democracy properly - from the city level to the national level. Current policy for education regarding democratic participation does not reflect adequate inclusion of the everyday citizen. This inclusion is the cornerstone of just democracy. Its development is of paramount importance. The integrity of any democracy that fails to educate its citizens properly for their role in a democracy is at question. Such is the case in Toronto; such is the case across North America. Secondly, the politics of self-interest must be bled dry. Those practicing such inexcusable livelihoods on the dollar and to the detriment of the citizens must be called out. If there wasn’t an alternative to this situation such a move could be destabilizing. If there were no good people around to fill the void this move would be irresponsible. But there are good people everywhere. By failing to welcome these people into politics, whether as residents or as representatives, we continue to damn ourselves with the lowest common denominator. Or the most recognizable face. A broken but functioning political system will be perpetually reinforced by those it serves to benefit.
A turnaround will require the ultimate in maturity and honesty. It will require little short of a complete gutting of current political attitudes. But there ought not to be any shortage of hope. The people involved in the current broken political machine are already a minority. This is not an effort to reverse an entrenched stronghold. This is fighting a battle with a ready-to-deploy majority. Those willing to declare their position as proponents of more inclusive democracy (and those willing to follow the statement with action toward increased civic education) should now take the floor. Whether they stand from the left or the right is irrelevant. This is not about a purge of all people currently involved in politics. This is about an integrity call-out that one should be proud to survive or ashamed to flee. And those who remain standing deserve support, regardless of their party, for they have been navigating an exhausting path to stay involved.
Alongside this renewal must come the commitment to a political education that ensures we don’t slide back into this position of malfunctioning democracy. We are free to create a new political education that gifts confidence and purpose to all, equitably. It can eventually override the treachery of the home and the stagnancy of class. It’s not academic, it’s practical. This is the forty-year reality. It doesn’t need hope. It needs a lot of work.