Sunday, April 10, 2016

the reason for government

Coming soon to a garden near here (High today, ZERO)

The basic tenet of a recent Facebook post was that since many Albertans were losing their jobs, the premier of the province—Rachel Notley—should lose hers. A silly syllogism if there ever was one, but expressive of the frustration many Albertans experienced when they woke up to realize that a social democratic government had been elected . . . by them.
      The post drew responses in the hundreds, some applauding the suggestion and some exuding unbridled hostility and rage: “we should band together to turf the b***h out!” Most however, were rebukes; how can you lay the economic problems of Alberta on Notley when the root lies in Saudi Arabia and the downturn was well underway before we ousted the Conservatives?
      Think, people, think!
      But logic and fair judgments don’t dominate discourse in a democracy based on a party system. Makes you wonder if we wouldn’t be better off under a theocracy or a dictatorship; under such governance people might be united . . . if only by their hatred for the dictator. As it is, we are systematically encouraged by our electoral system to like or dislike each other according to predispositions toward anything and anyone that isn't us, relatively stable prejudices nurtured over years.
      “Government by the people, for the people” can’t simply be assumed to be all good, all of the time.
      How we judge party A or B seems to depend much more on our attitude toward their brand than it does on their actions when in power. It makes me wonder why in this country anyone would aspire to leadership: we generally elect our governments with fewer than 50% of the vote which means that a party assuming power must realize that more than half the population will chastise and oppose them no matter how pristine their motives. We effectively elect—most of the time—a government we don’t want, as long as majority rules is how we decide stuff.
      I’m certainly not the first to say this, but it’s becoming clearer that what we have learned to like or love—and what we have learned to dislike or hate—plays a far greater role in our political choices than our thoughtful judgment ever has. We’re most attuned to hearing any sliver of evidence supporting our loyalties, castigating our adversaries.
      Tabloids prey on this tendency in us. They do best when they pick a side and hammer away at the “other side” with mixtures of information and misinformation . . . and their followers naturally lap it up. Take Fox News as an example.
      It’s one good reason for revising our democracy. Proportional representation means that no matter how we vote, our vote affects the outcome. True, this often results in a minority government, but minority governments only work if the parties cooperate, if the government is vulnerable to opposing opinions and interests. Cumbersome as such a change might be at first, the habits of consultation and cooperation could be given some hope of developing in time.
      What we endanger under the current system is the consciousness of our unity under the overarching goal that is the reason for government in the first place, namely that all citizens should enjoy their short lives: well fed, well sheltered, well educated and in peace and harmony with their neighbours.
      Rachel Notley should not be forced to resign; the hostility she faces is a consequence of the fact that our electoral system so starkly focuses on the zero-sum, winners and losers game paradigm.
      It shouldn’t have to be like this.