Saturday, April 30, 2011

Is this as good as it gets?

. . . consider how the lilies grow.

Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, etc. I expect you know where I’m going with this. While we’re holding elections in Canada and anticipating some surprising results, privileged dictatorships in other countries are killing their citizens in attempts to hold on to power.
In an extremely flawed world, there’s a danger of overlooking the magnificence of democracy as we know it. No matter what is decided on Monday, the vanquished will go quietly, if sorrowfully, to the sidelines. There will be no tanks in the streets, no crack-downs, no suicidal marches. The RCMP will not be placed on high alert; no jet fighters will be scrambled; the UN Security Council will not meet in emergency session.  
The current campaign has been highly educational. It’s pointed out in stark contrast, for instance, what we now are with what we could become. Stephen Harper has unwittingly made it clear that we haven’t yet mastered the degree of compromise and cooperation that would be necessary before we could ever declare ourselves a mature democracy. His declaration that he will not try to save a minority situation by seeking a coalition with another party smacks of the “my way or the highway” mentality that Canadians just won’t buy anymore—it’s far too reminiscent of an ugly, distant “lord of the manor “past.
The Royal Wedding juxtaposed with the campaign has been informative in its irony, if for no other reason. Even as we struggle (painfully slowly) to hone our democracies for ever more fairness, more equality, more transparency, we suspend our debate to revel in the ultimate cult of personality: adulation for an unelected, undeserved and archaic hereditary monarchy. I’m reminded of the lines from Loving Arms, a song popularized by Elvis Presley, Kenny Rogers, The Dixie Chicks and many others, and written by Tom Jans:  I've been too long in the wind, too long in the rain, searching for any comfort that I can. Looking back and longing for the freedom of my chains; laying in your loving arms again. Democracy is hard work; sometimes we’d just like to go back to the days when a king made all our decisions for us.
Speaking of the cult of personality, how and when did our elections degenerate into American Idol-style contests? It’s all about four people, isn’t it? Are we for Harper, Ignatieff, Layton or Duceppe? Closely related to this dumbing-down phenomenon is the focus on strategy. Even our national TV/Radio provider, the CBC, has abandoned dialogue on issues to engage in endless speculation on strategy. It’s all about trends, polls, ads and who’s doing what to manipulate the voters, who’s failing in the ad wars and who’s succeeding. We might as well be watching another episode of “Coach’s Corner” on Hockey Night in Canada. Has Layton’s cane been critical to the NDP surge? Was William’s kissing Kate twice, as opposed to the traditional once, a signal of a new era in the British monarchy?
How I long for a sincere, civilized dialogue on (for example) what we as a country can do to improve the housing situation on reserves, what the right size of military structure might be for Canada, how we’re going to maintain our infrastructures for the next generation, what our current definition of freedom of conscience ought to be.   
How I long for less speculation on how the Liberals, or the NDP, the Conservatives or the Greens should approach the next election in order to succeed.
But enough complaining already. Whatever it is we’ve got, flawed as it may be, I’m exceedingly grateful for it. Remember Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria.
Like my fellow Canadians, I’m allergic to bombs, bullets and blood.
Even so, we could do a lot better, couldn’t we?—or is this as good as it gets?

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