Thursday, March 10, 2011

Apparently You Nor I Really Care...

I realized the other day that I was behind Bev Oda. I mean I was behind on the Bev Oda affair and not physically behind the Femme Fetale of the Conservative Party of Canada. I saw all of the headlines involving her and some scandal in my morning Globe and Mail, read Rick Mercer’s tweet about it and quickly turn my browser to Gawker.

Certainly if this were the United States we’d have memes celebrating Bev Oda, and someone would re-write the lyrics to Fergie’s song “Fergalicious, so delicious,” to "Odalicious, so fictitious". In the states that shit would go viral; but in Canada, no one really cares.

After Oda I proceeded to miss the whole Jason Kenny imbroglio because truthfully I kinda didn’t care. Sorry, we’re arguing about stationary? I mean I just bought a bunch of really nice French stationary from this paper shop in Yorkville. But sorry… politics and stationary? Who in the what now? I had the same reaction after Rob Ford canceled muffin service at Toronto City council meetings. I’ve also tried to reduce my carb load so I get where he’s coming from, but like… colour me uninterested. So as Harper, Ford, Kenny, Oda and Iggy re-arrange the deck chairs on the good ship Canada – I’m going to be over there, aka get into a lifeboat, but thanks for coming out guys. Let me know how that works for you; maybe someone can send me a postcard?

My political malaise is, to be honest, fairly surprising. I was recently having coffee with a Globe and Mail journo friend lamenting my sudden inability to keep up with political news, when I finally admitted that for whatever reason, whether it was societal, transitional, demo-graphical, or technological, or due to attention deficit disorder, I just could no longer feign interest in broad-based Canadian politics.

This wasn’t always the case; at 22 my life, both personally and professionally revolved around politics. A lot of my friends were politically employed and I assumed that forever bitten by the bug of politics, we’d forever be addicted. A funny thing happened on the way to 30. We all sort of stopped caring.

The lack of interest of course isn’t just voter apathy in the conventional sense, a problem in and of itself, and which campaigns like and Apathy is Boring exist to challenge. Youth apathy is one thing. Complete disengagement, is, however, a different beast.

It would be easy to claim, debt, business school, and careers for this waning interest in all things government. I worry, however, that there is an insidious undercurrent in this generational angst; an undercurrent, which has created an age of mass political indifference.

As Andrew Coyne notes in what I think is a seminal article on politics in Canada: “Politics in this country – federal politics, at least – is in a kind of death spiral, whose terminus is not dictatorship but irrelevance.”

So what causes this death spiral? At root, surely information, or the lack there of. A friend of mine recently started an organization called Samara, whose goal is to strengthen Canada’s democracy. Samara recently released its second report based on interviews with ex-MP’s. In the reports backgrounder Samara lists the 3 official tasks an MP has in our Westminster Parliamentary system. They are: establish policy and pass laws; ensure that the laws are being carried out properly, and that tax dollars are being spent responsibly; and determine the life of the government by voting for things you support, and against things you don’t.

Truthfully, if you asked me what an MP’s job was before I read Samara's report I’d probably yammer on about “Representing riding interests”. And that’s the ironic truth in this age of information, right? We know so little about how our own government works. How many of us understand the nuances of the recent Globalive ruling, can fully articulate the relationship between the CRTC, the cabinet and industry Canada? To misquote Obama: No We Can’t. This morning as I read about Peter Milliken’s ruling that the government is potentially in contempt of I subsequently had to Google what the ramifications of contempt of parliament actually are.

What’s fascinating and potentially very worrisome about this lack of knowledge is that many of the trends facing our democratic system are dangerous. While most of us like to pinpoint Harper’s supposed hidden agenda as a danger… in reality encroaching conservatism is a red herring at best. What Canadians are actually quietly acquiescing to is a fairly frightening concentration of power.

Jim Travers, the recently deceased Toronto Star columnist wrote this in 2009: "Incrementally and by stealth, Canada has become a situational democracy. What matters now is what works. Precedents, procedures and even laws have given way to the political doctrine of expediency.”

What Travers wrote in 2009, is probably even more truthful today.

And so the chicken versus egg situation that we are faced with is: is our political leadership taking advantage of us because of citizenship disinterest, or are we disinterested because politics has become a dirty business where power is increasingly centralized?

It sort of doesn't matter. There's still fun to be had over at gawker... right? In today's 5700 channel internet, there's 5700 web pages and no one's able to concentrate on any of them... Pity that. [learning of the day: the saying: 57 channels and nothing on is a Bruce Springsteen lyric... am I stupid for not knowing that?]

1 comment:

  1. I’m going to be over there, aka get into a lifeboat, but thanks for coming out guys.Uni-source 2000