Editor’s Note: The following 5-part article was sent to me by Ed Goertzen in response to the launching of the Canadian People’s Party website. I felt it was interesting enough to post on the site as it provides a lot of interesting historic background on the way our government is run and is supposed to run.]
How To Practice A Representative Democracy
~ Examining the deficits in the theory & practice of Canadian Democracy …
by Ed Goertzen,
Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
Published as a five part series in Dialogue magazine
The simultaneous decline of Religion and Democracy is not coincidental
We are not governed by the current elected political administration; we governed by the laws made by the people we elect, and who are there to protect us from the rulers.
Capitalism and Democracy are irreconcilable.
There are three kinds of democracy
1) Direct Democracy works for small groups where the costs and benefits accrue to and affect only the persons present.
2) Electoral Democracy is the kind we practice at present and is where we elect our rulers.
3) Representative Democracy is where we elect persons to govern the ACTS of the rulers who administer the bureaucracy.
The essential difference between Electoral and Representative Democracy arose out of the English Reformation wars. Those Reformation wars were as much about equitable laws regarding property as they were about Religious freedom.
There is not only one, but there are three Democracy Deficits
1) There is a deficit of a Neighbourhood/Community. The neighbourhood where people talk to each other about matters of public interest – the moral and statute laws – building the moral and statute laws by which we govern ourselves.
2) There is the Deficit of Meaningful Information about the consequences of the laws that are passed. Print media does not inform as much as it entertains for the purposes of attracting advertising dollars.
3) There is a Deficit of Representation by the people we elect. The best information shows that there is not one elected person with a non partisan organization by which to discern the consensus of opinion on a matter of public interest. Without that consensus of public opinion, an elected person cannot represent the voters.
Self absorbed Individualism can only result in a materialistic and narcissistic society.
The importance of an organizational structure within which to perform the necessary functions of a Representative Democracy cannot be understated. The engagement of youth, combined with the wisdom of age can make it happen.
In a functioning Representative Democratic society we can “Shift the Vote’ necessary to ‘Shift the Power, from the rulers to the voters and thereby provide for the economic, social and spiritual needs of the voters.
That can be accomplished by engaging the energy of youth with the wisdom of their elders, and doing it at the grass roots local level where all political decisions are effected.
I chose the title words “CPR Democracy” since our democracy is in trouble. Not only do we not know how to practice it, but also the knowledge of ‘how to do it’ is being deliberately kept from us.
The modern version of both Democracy and Protestantism were forged during the Reformation Civil Wars of England (1638 -1660), the ‘CPR’ in the title can be “Citizens Practicing Representative Democracy” or “Christians Practicing Representative Democracy.”
Prompted by the excellent but inadequate (6-part, summer 2012) series on democracy by Toronto Star columnist Rick Salutin, there should be an attempt at getting the message across on the correct practice of Representative Democracy.
One of the biggest hurdles in communications is the corruption of the meanings of words. That is not to claim any expertise, but it has to be a fact that if we cannot agree on the meanings of words, then we cannot communicate.
One of the unrecognized blessings Gutenberg left with us is the ability to print dictionaries, codex, and index, etc. Once students in different countries could define the meanings of words that other students used, knowledge grew exponentially. It was not only the ability of mass printing, but also what was printed.
I recall being told by a parent as a youngster, ‘never use a word unless you know what it means.’
As an example of misused words, there is the phrase “Self Government.” Students are taught that it signified the end of colonialism, but the real meaning of Self Government is that, in a democracy, each of us has to govern themselves, as individuals by the laws we make.
Another popular media practice is to refer to Harper or McGuinty or other party leaders as being “The government”, but they do not govern us.
We are governed by laws. How we do that as a society lies at the crux of democracy; we do it by passing laws.
I hope others have noticed that the converged media constantly focus the political on the party leaders.
As will be shown, political parties exist, not to represent the people, but to obtain the ruling power. Their whole existence is focused on that purpose. In our parliament, the people’s commons, there are only rulers and commoners. When our MPs get it into their heads to be rulers, then to claim to represent the people is a sham.
Abraham Lincoln has said that the purpose of government is to obtain the results we want as a people, which we cannot obtain by ourselves alone. Our converged media constantly presents the practice of politics as a conflict; it is that, but the conflict in debate has as its purpose the obtaining of a consensus which can be promulgated into laws.
Most readers are also familiar with the expression, “Don’t talk politics or religion,” but have no idea as to the origin of the prohibition. Actually the prohibition was to England’s Army after the Restoration. The Monarchy, after the Reformation, forbade the soldiers to discuss politics, religion and women when they found the source of the strength of the New Model Army, which had beaten both the Royalists and the Papists of the day. That source of strength was that Cromwell’s New Model Army, while bivouacked between battles, in their tents, read and discussed the newly-printed King James Version of the Bible (1611). When the soldiers were granted land in Canada, the practice became the norm.
So what about laws:
John Stott, in his Crucial Problems Facing Christians Today (2) puts it that we are a paradox, with both an animal and human nature. There are essentially two kinds of laws.
(A) The laws that govern the natural world and our animal nature; and
(B) The laws that we make to govern ourselves and others.
Sir Winston Churchill has famously said that “In a democracy, the law flows from the people.”
How it does is the focus of the next segment; and it will become obvious that this is not how it happens in current practice.
Three Kinds Of Democracy
The first part of the series introduced the concept that political parties and the media cause much of the confrontational politics practiced by Canadians.
Susan Delacourt, a columnist with the Toronto Star has written; “Most people in Canada, it’s fair to say, are not political junkies and would likely opt for the biking or horseback riding at the resort. But it isn’t politics turning people off, but partisanship – raw, tribal, black-and-white adherence to party lines. Most people, unless they are professional wrestlers, don’t live their daily lives in sole pursuit of pummeling their opponents.” (3)
Secondly, in a democracy we are not governed by the leader and political party which happens to form the Cabinet, but we govern ourselves, or are supposed to be governed, by the laws proposed by the ruling Cabinet. Those laws are then supposed to be vetted by the people we elect to assure that they do not infringe upon the well being of the voters, in any part of the country.
Thirdly, it is the allegiance pledged by the candidates to the political parties leaders which allows the party with a dominance of members in the people’s commons to act almost as a dictatorship, restrained only by ‘fear of the enemy party obtaining the ruling power’, or a converged media predominantly serving the advertisers’ (read corporate) interests.
Before proceeding to the ‘Three Kinds of Democracy” – the main focus of this issue – we should briefly address some of the kinds of government which have preceded what we now practice.
“The ancient Greek writers Herodotus, Plato, Aristotle, and others theorized a great deal about the nature and function of government. They concluded that there were three possible types: rule by one, rule by the few, and rule by the many. Each of these had its corruptions. Rule by a virtuous king was a monarchy, but rule by an evil king was tyranny (commonly called dictatorship today). Rule by a few virtuous citizens was aristocracy (rule by the best). But if the few were evil, it was called simply an oligarchy (rule by the few). If the mass of the population governed and they were virtuous, it was called a timocracy. (The Greek timios means “worthy.”) But if the many were not virtuous, it was called a democracy. The Greeks generally had a very low opinion of democracy, equating it with mob rule”.(4)
The reason the Greeks called it ‘mob rule’ was because they had not yet initiated the concept of representation.
It was only later, about “….500 B.C. that Cleisthenes, a statesman in ancient Athens established a democratic constitution using several reforms. The first of these reforms was to divide Athens into 100 districts known as demes. The districts cut through the competing tribal, special and economic interests and focused on obtaining the common interests of the whole state.
“By further gathering the 100 “demes” into 10 regions, and assuring that all the economic and tribal interests were balanced against each other, he weakened the power of the landowning families to make or influence laws” (5)
It has been generally agreed that the source of modern democracy had its origins forged in the civil wars in England. J. Wesley Breda, author of “England: Before and After Wesley,” quotes professor and author R. H. Tawney, D.Litt., in “Religion And The Rise of Capitalism” (6)
“The foundation of democracy is the sense of spiritual independence, which nerves the individual to stand alone against the powers of this world, and in England, where squire and parson, lifting arrogant eyebrows at the insolence of the lower orders, combined to crush popular agitation as a menace at once to society and to the Church, it is probable that democracy owes more to Nonconformity than to any other single movement.”
So what about the different kinds of democracy generally being practiced?
I was first alerted to the idea that there were different kinds when Chairman Mao was quoted as saying that ‘we also have a democracy, but it is of a different kind’. Further investigation revealed that there are essentially three kinds.
1) Direct Democracy – is when a gathering of people inform each other, come to a consensus and all share equitably in the costs and benefits of the resolution.
2) Electoral Democracy – is the kind which we currently practice. It is where the voters elect a political party or leader, who then, with the assist of a bureaucracy, makes the laws and commands the powers which enforce them, or not; the invoking of laws being an executive decision.
3) Representative Democracy – is when the voters elect members to the people’s house of commons, where they then protect the people’s interests, by allowing the rulers to both ACT, and amending ACTS to prevent the rulers from harming the well being of the voters.
The people’s interest is protected by our representatives amending the LAWS proposed by the rulers, laws which always seek to promote the interests of their courtiers and courtesans, cadres, special interests, supporters and major contributors.
The essential difference between Electoral and Representative Democracy arose out of the English Reformation wars.
The Roman Catholics and the Royalists believed in the personal and authoritarian rule of Pope and King (divine right) on the one hand and the Puritans, led by Cromwell on the other, believed in the rule of law and when all the chips were down, insisted that the ultimate power was to rest with the commons, not with the rulers, irrespective of whether the rulers were elected or not.
We have culturally inherited the difference, as evidenced by the predominance of personal rule (bordering on dictatorship) in Countries predominantly Roman Catholic and the rule of law having greater dominance in the predominantly Protestant countries.
That difference is never discussed or even referred to.
Charles 1st knew that the legislative Power principal was so important that he gave up his head rather than yield that ultimate power to the elected Parliamentary commons.
As a landowner, Cromwell twice betrayed his Puritan supporters, first at the Putney Debates (pg.408) and secondly when, by refusing to accept the role of king, he left the protectorate without an executive head. “Civil War by Trevor Royle (1638-1660)” (7)
See also “Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches” (second edition) by Thomas Carlyle pg.725: Excerpted: Cromwell, in addressing Parliament on 1657-05-08 said, “… I am persuaded to return this answer to you, that I cannot under-take this Government with the Title of King. And that is mine answer to this great and weighty Business”. And so exeunt Widdrington and Parliament:” Buzz, buzz! – “Distinct at last!” – and the huge buzzing of the public mind falls silent, that of the Kingship being now ended; and this Editor and his readers are delivered from a very considerable weariness of the flesh. “The Protector,” says Bulstrode, “was satisfied in his private judgment that it was fit for him to accept this Title of King, and matters were prepared in order thereunto. But afterwards, by solicitation of the ’Commonwealth’s men’ by solicitation, representator, and even denunciation from ‘the Commonwealth’s men’ and ‘many Officers of the Army,’ he decided ‘to attend some better season’”(8)
Any compendium of English Statute Laws still omits the period of the Cromwell’s Protectorate as a blank, since none of the laws passed by the parliament received the needed “Royal Assent”, however, many of the proposals of the Protectorate legislators have been incorporated into the way we are taught to practice democracy.
Currently, many are advocating various new ways to ‘elect our representatives’.
The proposed new ways to obtain voter representation are useless without an organization to communicate the voters’ needs to the elected. That would change the dynamic in the people’s commons.
The Three Democracy Deficits
Deficit of Community/Neighbourhood
“The foundation of democracy is the sense of spiritual independence, which nerves the individual to stand alone against the powers of this world, and in England, where squire and parson, lifting arrogant eyebrows at the insolence of the lower orders, combined to crush popular agitation, as a menace at once to society and to the Church, it is probable that democracy owes more to Nonconformity than to any other single movement” (9) The expression “Democracy Deficit” first was first spotted in an article in the April 1, 2001 edition of Catholic New Times titled, ‘The Growing Democracy Deficit’(10), by Author Ted Schmidt and it got me thinking, what if there is more than one deficit, and if there is more than one, what are they?
The Three Democracy Deficits are introduced with the above quote since it not only speaks to the Anabaptist and Puritan cultural heritage, but also opens the mind to the fact that The Puritan Birth of Democracy age demonstrated that new economic, social and political concepts were possible and that a people’s thirst for justice and equity are unquenchable.
I do not believe that it is coincidental that the practice of modern Democracy and Religion are declining simultaneously.
Both were brought into being, as inseparable Siamese twins, with the Protestant Reformation and expressed during the Civil Wars of England.
The three deficits impact on each other and show why our democracy has not only failed, but cannot be practiced without some major rethinking to revive the practices that have languished, or been extinguished.
The first segment mentioned Gutenberg and how the printing press had contributed to the exponential spread of knowledge. That requires a little expansion. Many people have noted, the corruption of language on the Corporate Converged Media.
If the meanings of words are corrupted then it follows that the communication itself must be regarded as corrupt. [Reference to Marshal McLuhans ‘words as medium’]
Those who know the ancient Gilgamesh and Biblical story of the Tower Of Babel know that the corruption of language led to the dispersion of the people. (diversity?) It was the technology required to build the Ziggurat that led to the dispersion. The builders failed to teach the workers the language defining the new materials for which they were calling.
It is technology that drives the language, the language drives the culture and the culture drives the people.
To identify the Deficit of Community we have to note that media uses the words community and neighbourhood interchangeably, when in fact they have very different meanings.
The word Commun-ity derives from and relates to Commun-ion, and is the basis of words such as Commun-ication and Commun-ion, that is, people commun-icating with each other.
Neighbourhood on the other hand is defined as those who live in a particular geographic area. They live ‘neigh’ or close to, each other.
While at one time in the distant past people in a neighbourhood communicated with each other, the lack of neighbourhood interaction is palpably apparent. I would be surprised to find a person who knew their neighbour, not just to nod, but who actually knew where they worked, their family situation, where they went to church, if they did, and so on.
Neighbourhood is based upon trust, and that trust is as important as our monetary system. Alienation is doubly true in the case of condominiums where many people are living desperate lives in almost complete isolation.
Past Prime Minister Thatcher of Great Britain famously or infamously said that there is no longer a society that we are all just individuals; and the phrase has been quoted repeatedly.
Is there a reason that the media is setting up diversity as a new cultural norm? It struck me that the antonym for religion, (back + to bind) is, according to my dictionary, diversity.
The most serious effect of the absence of people talking to each other is that we are no longer the source of our unwritten moral law.
Sir Winston Churchill has said that in a democracy, the ‘law flows from the people’. When people do not meaningfully talk to each other, there is no flow!
In The Revolt of the Masses by Jose Ortega y Gasset, 1930, P. 140 it says, “Morality cannot be eliminated without more ado. What, by a word lacking even in grammar, is called amorality and is a thing that does not exist. If you are unwilling [pg141] to submit to any norm, you have to submit to the norm of denying all morality, and this is not amoral, but immoral. It is a negative morality which preserves the empty form of the other. How has it been possible to believe in the amorality of life? Doubtless it is because all modern culture and civilisation tend to that conviction. Europe is now (1930) reaping the painful results of her spiritual conduct. She has adopted blindly a culture which is magnificent, but has no roots” (11)
Another reason for the Deficit of the Community cum Neighbourhood is the change from a mix of 20% urban and 80% rural to the reverse of 80% urban to 20% rural.
When people participate in the making of law, both moral and statute, there is a stronger likelihood of obedience. When laws are imposed, then the new mantra becomes ‘don’t get caught’.
“The stories we tell one another – about our lives and about our world – form us. As we hear how others live, how they solve problems, how they parent, what they value, how they invest, how they face health challenges – we either resonate with them or are in dissonance with them. But in either case, they shape us. We are each formed in a web of relationships and stories” (12)
The unspoken ‘agreement to disagree’ is fundamental to meaningful and continuing discourse on important matters.
Our political polls are geographic areas, correctly geographic areas as neighbourhoods, where people once lived, but with growing urbanization merely population areas.
In the days when our democracy was younger, the media was local; the editors facilitated the necessary conversations between voters and the elected.
In light of the above, to resolve the…
Deficit of Community – Neighbourhood and for the purposes of practicing democracy, there must be a way to facilitate the dialogue between the voters and the elected and also allow all the voters to monitor that dialogue.
The next deficit is the…
Deficit of Information: Bill Woollam email@example.com wrote in 2012-11.21: “David Baldacci in his novel The Whole Truth….mainstream news agencies are nothing more than ‘perception management firms’.
These news agencies censor by omission.
The news is fabricated and spun to garner support for such items as continued control of the issuance of credit by the international ‘Banksters’, or for unjustified warfare that only benefits the global power-elite, not world citizens per say” ” (13)
On 2011-12-23 Jack Etkin wrote: “Because we Canadians don’t have our own media, we have only a limited ability to find out what is really going on in our world. And I think that is why we continue to lose so many important fights” (14).
The Deficit of Information begs the question what is information other than the in-forming of the mind. The primary source of mass information has be come firstly, the mandatory state curriculum and later the Converged Corporate Media.
I think it can be taken for granted that the prerequisite for apathy regarding public affairs is the voter ignorance. How can we be concerned, and act upon, what we know nothing about. Not only about the issues involved, but ignorant of the consequences of the legislation.
There is precious little real reporting being done in the media.
Reporting means setting out the facts of a matter in a way that assists the voting public to a rational comprehension. The media focuses primarily on entertainment. That is, it captures the imagination and sells it to the advertisers. In the present age of mass media, radio, TV etc, it does so with depiction and description, not with information and explanation.
What little information filters through is seized upon by the columnists who proceed to wrap it in a garb and form of official, semi, or learned opinion, leaving very little thinking for voters to do.
So with a loss of neighbourhood and communing, and blessed with little knowledge of facts with which to communicate, and further, being bombarded with trivia, there is an absence of consensus which any of our elected persons can represent. That leaves the source of information for the elected to the bureaucracy.
Finally, a word about public opinion polls; If we think about it, we can only come to the conclusion that a public opinion poll merely measures the extent to which the Corporate Converged Media message has penetrated the public mind. When a poll does not produce the desired response, it is not published and the media message is massaged until it does. The consequences can only be a….
Deficit of Representation
The importance of voter representation was established when England’s Civil Wars, the Reformation Wars, were being fought.
Those wars are and have historically been characterized as a fight for religious freedom, but they were just as much to establish and affirm economic, political and social reforms.
At the Putney Debates and, “in response to the discussion led by Ireton about who should be included in the franchise, Rainsborough replied ‘I think that the poorest he that is in England has a life to live as the greatest he; and therefore, truly, sir, I think it’s clear that… every man that is to live under a government ought first, by his own consent, to put himself under that government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that government that he has not had a voice to put himself under.”(15)
For rulers, it is important that people do not talk to each other, since if they do, there is a possibility that they will develop leaders to represent them.
Here’s another example of the attempt to obtain representation from Readers Digest “You and the Law” (1973:P.48) in an item titled, “Flirting with Democracy”:
“During his first term as governor (1672-82), the Comte de Frontenac attempted to establish a Canadian version of the States General, the ancient consultative body that had once aired public grievances to the Bourbon kings of France.
As governor (1672-82), Compt de Frontenac added the local judiciary to the traditional three estates (classes) of noblemen, priests and commoners. It seemed that a democracy was taking shape in the far-flung domain of the Sun King. (Canada)
Intendant Colbert was afraid that the idea might grow to threaten the royal authority. Colbert also ordered the governor quietly to abolish the syndic which presented requests in the name of all the habitants, it being a good thing that each man speaks for himself and that no one speaks for all. In this way, even the token popular representation of 30 years standing was dissolved. Intendant de Meulles wrote at the time that… “It is of very great consequence that the people should NOT be at liberty to speak their minds” (16)
Deficit of Representation yes, but what kind of representation can there be if there is no consent or consensus to represent it? Something has to be developed and that can only happen when people have an organizational structure to enable themselves to communicate with to each other meaningfully.
We can only do that if we let our elected persons know how legislation is affecting us. That is, what are the consequences of the ACTS of the legislature?
There can only be two factions in our commons. One is the Rulers, and the other is the Representatives of the people.
The rulers are the executive and the elected are the persons who are there, not to rule or obtain the ruling power, but to constrain, limit and otherwise restrain the power of the rulers to ‘do bad things’.
That can only happen if the elected person’s first loyalty is to the voters and not to a political party in exchange for perquisites. [special rights or privileges. Ed.]
The media has shaped the political parties to believe that their only function is to obtain the ruling power.
The reason they do that is to obtain the perquisites that rightfully belong only to the rulers.
The question of perquisites introduces the question of how to reward our elected representatives so that they are not seduced by either the rulers or the lobbyists.
If legislation could be put in place so that the rulers could not reward the elected either materially or with favours it would be a long step toward assuring the elected persons independence.
Other legislation could be passed so that the only money that a candidate or political party could spend would be the amount filtered through a non partisan body such as Elections Canada.
It must be recognized that by reducing the amount able to be spent by candidates or parties would increase the powers of the Converged Corporate Media which even now has few if any constraints.
Footnote to the editor:
Janet, that’s most of the chessboard loaded. The next submission or two will address the matter of organizational structures needed and the functions that need to be performed and who will perform them.
John Stott asks in his book Decisive Issues Facing Today’s Christians, said, “So what is vision? It is the act of seeing, of course, an imaginative perception of things, combining hindsight and insight with foresight. But more particularly, and in the sense in which I am using the word, it is compounded of a deep dissatisfaction with what is, and a clear grasp of what could be. It begins with indignation over the status quo, and it grows into an earnest quest for an alternative”. (17)
Daniel Quinn, in the Story of B, says “If the world is saved, it will be saved by people with changed minds, people with a new vision. It will not be saved by people with the old vision….” (18)
The Organizational Structure and Functions Needed
to practice a Representative Democracy
The last three parts have shown that Democracy, for various reasons, no longer flows from the people as Sir Winston Churchill said it should.
It has also been explained that there are three Kinds of Democracy and that the preferred one should be a Representative Democracy, then in the last edition of <Dialogue> demonstrated that the three Democracy Deficits, of Neighbourhood, Information and Representation impact on each other, with the result that we, as voters, are left without the effective representation that Abraham Lincoln claimed, is to “provide for the people the results they want from the conduct of their public affairs that they cannot provide for themselves as individuals”.
The cumulative effect is that the people we elect, almost totally, represent the political parties. The reason that the elected so willingly genuflect to the leaders of the parties is twofold.
The first reason is that they have been persuaded that they owe their election to the political parties and their leaders, purchased through the media. Corporations, using their immense volume of advertising dollars, have effectively garnered the support of the Corporate Converged Media. Also, the converged corporate media facilitates the dialogue between themselves and the rulers, rather than between the rulers and the voters, the major reason being the cost.
The Stockholm syndrome does not need to be explained; People (in this case the elected) are loyal to that upon which they are dependant. The Patty Hurst Syndrome takes it a step further: People will adopt, as their own, the agenda of those upon whom they are dependent.
The second reason is that, by pledging loyalty to the party leader, it is their only chance of a meaningful role in parliament, as minister, committee chair or opposition critic, thus providing the illusion of opposition. The party leader by appointment, provides a member the opportunity for media exposure and thereby the likelihood of re-election. Members whose talents merit a major role but whose independent mindedness precludes their having a ministry or committee chair are usually shuffled off to chair a task force, which is promptly shelved.
Also, the structure of the House of Commons has been arranged so that divisions are vertical between parties instead of horizontal, between rulers and commoners as was intended.
Don Drummond, who recently did a major study to find savings for the Ontario government’s minority budget, made a key observation: “Almost every time a program was performing badly, I could trace it back to the origin of the program. Whoever had implemented it had not really thought long and hard about what they wanted”. (19)
Canadians are frustrated at not having more influence over the country’s’ politics, yet one in four voters surveyed in a recent poll admitted to never undertaking grassroots activities like signing a petition, joining a party or marching in a demonstration.
SES Research conducted the poll for the Crossroads Boundaries National Council and the Public Policy Forum, a pair of think-tanks, to assess Canadians’ attitudes toward political activism and governance. Pollster Nik Nanos said findings demonstrate voters are keen to play a greater role in government decision making but are frustrated with traditional ways of becoming involved.
“People want more input, but not on the political paradigm that exists right now” said Nanos, who is president of SES(20)
Is today’s youthful generation apathetic and self-indulgent?
That myth was busted at a packed, standing-room-only book launch for a new anthology about the “power of youth” and how to build movements for change. Young activists from across the country spoke about their passion for climate justice, indigenous solidarity and strengthening a sense of community in a society being ripped apart by inequality and oppression.
“There’s this myth in our society that young people are apathetic,” said Brigette DePape, co-editor of the book Power of Youth. “We’re told that we don’t care about anything but ourselves – we’re the ‘Me Generation,’ we only care about our Starbucks and our MacBooks – and I have seen exactly the opposite in my experience.
“I have seen young people who care so deeply about the people around them, the environment, social justice, racial justice and independence struggles. They are actively putting forward their vision for a better world”(21)
Bridgette is one of the many young people across Canada who know that, in a few short years, they will be inheriting the country that we are preparing for them.
To this day, a disquieting number of its participants believe that the traditional democratic channels, including the ballot box, have failed them.
Over the past decade, it has spread to ever-expanding pockets of politically engaged Canadians. It does not help that so many of them have consistently failed to find an effective opposition outlet for their aspirations” (22)
People are desperate for a means to enter the political discussion and having their voices heard. That does not mean that they necessarily want their own contribution to prevail, it does mean that they want their contribution to be heard. On the other hand they do not welcome the idea of partisan conflict with their neighbours. As a matter of fact, most people, aware of their ignorance despite having opinions, would agree, with little prompting, agree to disagree as a starting point for dialogue.
So what’s wrong is not the only problem, also what is missing needs to be identified.
Most successful national organizational structures have been predicated upon the ‘orders’ model. While inherently dictatorial, the dictatorship is based upon the need for the integrity of the organization. So long as the functions are free and open, the constraints force adherence to the elemental purpose of the organization.
The point is that the functions must drive the purpose and not the requirements of the organization.
The following thought adapted and modified from Rick Salutin’s item in the Toronto Star, regarding fan owned sports teams. ‘The beauty of a new media arrangement is that it aligns the experiential reality together with its economics.
Is there really any chance of a different system? Well, such transformations do occur occasionally, when what had seemed set in stone crumbles.
Print looked like an impregnable feature of culture for 500 years. Its absence was unthinkable. Then, in just the last decade and a half, it began to fade’ (23) .
Newsweek said this week it will cease print publication. Time-Warner is shedding its magazines.
With that perspective, can’t we at least entertain the possibility of different economic or media structures?
Community ownership of small economic and media structures, a little like co-ops, would allow the profits-benefits-gains to grow in the neighbourhood.
A poll suggested traditional parties are faced with a tantalizing opportunity, provided they can tap into the restlessness many voters expressed.
The poll found 61 percent of respondents would like a direct say on policy or government decisions but 31 percent said it should be left to politicians.
Nanos was struck by the fact 24 percent of respondents said they had undertaken none of the five aspects of activism studied.
Of the politically active, only 21 percent took out membership in a political party, 22 percent marched in a demonstration, 32 percent wrote to an elected official, and 38 percent attended a town hall meeting. Most popular was signing a petition!
One of the most powerful third-sector forces in Japan is the community-based mutual help organization, includes more than 90% of all Japanese households. Neighbourhood associations began to proliferate in the 1920s and 30s, in large part to address the issues of rapid industrialization and urbanization. In the late 1930s the Imperial government incorporated these associations into the state machinery. In 1940 the government ordered every community in Japan to form neighbourhood associations and made membership compulsory. The groups were used to spread wartime propaganda and control the distribution of food and services. After the war, neighbourhood groups resurfaced as self governing associations without legal ties to the government. Known as jichikai, these organizations now exist in more than 270,000 neighbourhoods. A local jichikai generally consists of between 180 and 400 households. Its leaders are elected and usually serve two year terms.(24)
Some older readers will remember the almost 42 year reign of the Ontario Progressive conservatives, first led by George Drew. The run was attributed to the Big Blue Machine, but few if any, even among Tories, have ever learned what the machine was and how it worked.
The machine was actually one person. The man who WAS the machine was a party organizer named A. D. McKenzie from Guelph. To put the machine in place, A. D. McKenzie, got busy establishing a network of helpers out in the ridings who could keep him informed of problems and the mood of the electorate.
A. D. McKenzie was a brilliant man and a brilliant organizer who established an amazing network of contacts throughout the province. This network allowed him to see that problems arising in the ridings were dealt with promptly, and that the Conservatives got the credit.
He had a Conservative ward heeler not merely in every riding, but in every poll in the province.
It made the Tories part of daily life in Ontario, or, to use an appealing Maoist image, the party moved in the community as do fish in water. [Later], Mr. Davis and his organization [lived] off the strength of that creation.
Altogether McKenzie engineered 6 provincial elections and 20 by-elections, and won the lot. (25)
Even though that was before the age of television, the political science maxim that all politics is local is still valid.
According to the most recent Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating an examination of data collected from 2010 and released by Statistics Canada this past March, young Canadians (aged 15 to 24) volunteer more than any other age group. Young altruists aged 15 to 19 did an average of 115 hours of volunteer work in 2010, and those aged 20 to 24 volunteered for 159 hours. Karen Willson confirms that there has been a significant increase in the number of young Canadians getting involved. (26)
Democracy is a process, not a process of voting, but a process of preventing the rulers from imposing on voters what they know is not in their interests.
The need is for a new kind of representative who will put voter’s interests before party. That means we need to counter the Stockholm syndrome which keeps party members toeing the party line.
The first responsibility is for an elected person to strive for the rule of law, then to assure that the law will be what the people require, not what the rulers require. Then finally, the elected should strive for stability even if a period of instability (such as a series of elections) must be endured.
Assuredly, just as Charles I rejected being dependent upon the elected, current rulers will resist [perhaps to the death?] being controlled by the elected. The important point is that those who shape the law cannot usurp power of the ruler who executes the law, that is, the CEO power.
A couple of months ago, a lobbyist with close ties to Stephen Harper and the Conservatives addressed a room full of environmentalists with some sobering news. Essentially he told them that: they and their organizations were irrelevant to Harper because they couldn’t move votes or influence electoral outcomes.
His message that modern politics is not about good policy, but vote counting was tough love, but accurate. (27)
That leaves us with the game changing challenge of, “What will it take to shift the vote? certainly more than banging on pots and pans.”
“Participating in the common good or general welfare provides the members of society with means that serve the pursuit of their individual happiness. By aiming directly at the common good or general welfare, a good society and a just government also aim indirectly at the happiness of all persons who constitute the society and are under its government.”
“The common good or general welfare is only the proximate goal at which a good society and a just government should aim. The goal achieved serves as a means to society’s ultimate goal – the happiness of each of society’s members or the general happiness of all.”
“The crucial point here is that individuals BY THEMSELVES cannot work DIRECTLY for the general happiness – the happiness of all other persons in the society in which they live. They can do so INDIRECTLY only by working WITH OTHERS for the common good or the general welfare of the political community, which is itself a means to the happiness of each and every individual”. (28)
Democracy doesn’t happen because people are given a chance to vote. It happens because of a whole series of interconnected changes in attitudes and in systems. (29) Also: from a Toronto Star Letter of the Day by Professor Vaughan Lyon, Political Studies, Trent University Peterborough. “For generations, Canadians have been telling anyone who would listen, they want the MP that they elect and pay to speak for them. But for this form of representation to occur, we need an appropriate enabling institution.” (30)
Stephen Handelman quoting Mikhail Gorbachev: “Democratic systems need to be reinvented, two important ways to do this are through more citizen involvement and decentralization”. (31)
Canadians need and deserve a counter-balancing measure to hold government and industry accountable – a way for them to band together to advocate their (common) interests as easily as interests can. (32)
Not all people are interested in the law making process
Perhaps we should think about developing some kind of body of community members, unburdened by legal training and trial-oriented minds . (33)
Such a group could sound out the neighbourhood and determine what are the policy and administrative of the people.
“A sense of morality, a passion for freedom, and a large and fearless capacity of righteous anger are at the heart of journalism. Otherwise, its nothing more than selling ads” (34).
“The ability of a party to make a valuable contribution is not dependent upon its capacity to offer the electorate a genuine government option. Political parties… act as a vehicle for the participation of individual citizens in the political life of the country. …Marginal or regional parties tend to raise issues not adopted by national parties. Political parties provide individual citizens with an opportunity to express an opinion on the policy and functioning of government. Each vote in support of a party increases the likelihood that its platform will be taken into account by those who implement policy, and votes for parties with fewer than 50 candidates are an integral component of a vital and dynamic democracy”(35).
Tommy Douglas on Fascism:
“Once more let me remind you what fascism is. It need not wear a brown shirt or a green shirt it may even wear a dress shirt. Fascism begins the moment a ruling class, fearing the people may use their political democracy to gain economic democracy, begins to destroy political democracy in order to retain its power of exploitation and special privilege”.
A couple of months ago, a lobbyist with close ties to Stephen Harper and the Conservatives addressed a room full of environmentalists with some sobering news. Essentially he told them they and their organizations were irrelevant to Harper because they couldn’t move votes or influence electoral outcomes. His message that modern politics is not about good policy, but vote counting was tough love, but accurate,”(36)
S. Learner from Waterloo U. quoted Craig McKie of Ottawa, “If Canadians are to have any alternative sources of information and commentary at all in the future, they will have to devise them themselves completely outside the media structures outlined above. As a practical matter, the only way of doing this is to use the Internet as the delivery medium. It avoids the expense of paper, no money changes hands, no bonds of fealty are created with bankers, it does not require a license, and there are no technical means of censorship.” (37)
The demand for Representation has a long history going back to sections 51 and 53 of the Magna Carta, (June 1215) which says that there should be no taxation without representation. (38)
Part of the genius of American Democracy has been to ensure isolated individuals face concentrated state and private power alone, without the support of an organizational structure that can assist them in thinking for themselves or entering into meaningful political participation, and with few avenues for public expression of fact or analysis that might challenge approved doctrine. (39)
In the absence of organizational forms that permit meaningful participation in political and social institutions, as distinct from following orders or rationalizing decisions made elsewhere, the instinct for freedom may wither, offering opportunities for charismatic leaders to rally mass popular support with consequence from recent history. (40) The Culture of Terrorism P. 200 by Noam Chomsky.
Also from Mr. Chomsky: “there is not a single none partisan NGO that is organized – on the same geographical basis as that by which we elect our representatives”.
A democracy movement should propose new civic structures that give citizens a voice in societal decision-making, mechanisms for citizens to hold people in positions of power accountable, and the means for citizens to band together to counter the power of large institutions. It should create “tools” of empowerment for citizens to use in all the principal social roles they play – as voters, citizens, taxpayers, consumers, workers and shareholders. It should rework the institutions of the country to bring them in line with the realities of a modern, working democracy. And, it should coordinate the efforts of people and groups who want to work together for common reforms. (41)
The intention, never realized, of those who promoted the concept of democracy intended that the division of the parliamentary commons be horizontal between rulers and commoners, rather than vertical between political parties.
By merging the community and the neighbourhood with new non-corporate print media we could have a new economic and social model that could develop a realistic moral code and social system.
How can we create the organizational structures that we need in order to shift the Stockholm syndrome type dependence that our elected have upon political parties and make them dependent for re-election upon the voters.
The apathetic can only be awakened through informing voters of what their elected are doing.
A mayor famously said, it is not the responsibility of the elected to inform the voters of their public affairs. Yet we cannot rely on the corporate converged media for unbiased and clear information.
If not, then whose responsibility is it?
In proposing how we can practice representative democracy, there are some basic criteria to be followed.
‘What CAN we do’ speaks to ability.
We need to:
Keep it elemental
Keep it inoffensive
Keep it effective
Keep it organized
Keep it disciplined
Keep it uncomplicated
Keep it undemanding time and material
Keep it inexpensive
Keep it easily replicated, imitated.
Keep it rewarding.
Given the opportunity to engage in the dialogue of public affairs in a non partisan way, voters will become engaged.
This conclusion of the series will set out the Organizational Structure and the Organizational Functions that are needed to practice a meaningful and Representative Democracy.
Recently a University of Toronto Professor of Political Science has said that, students arrive at university with open minds. (University Toronto Professor of Political Science: Toronto Star 2012-12-11) and that should be extended to include senior high school students.
Those are the open minds we need to tap into. It is important that we begin to consider education as a social investment, a future asset and a source of budgetary remuneration, and not as a budgetary expense.
(The above proceeding is presently being pleaded at the Federal Court of Canada, by Mr. Rocco Galati, Court File No. T2010-11) on behalf of The Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform (COMER), William Krehm and Ann Emmett, Plaintiffs)
I suggest that, if we offer students an opportunity to get an education that is an investment by society, with future dividends returned as income tax, they will see that it is a better idea than banging on pots and pans, with even greater rewards.
In a few short years this will be their country also. They have a vested interest in it being something they will want to be part of.
There are two things we need to put that in place, an Organizational Structure and a Functioning Process.
The Organizational Structure is already in place. It is in the riding and poll structure provided by the non-partisan Elections Canada and is used to elect what should be persons representing us as our Federal Representatives.
There are now 308 ridings in Canada. Included in those ridings are just over 80,000 polls (the word poll is from the Greek word polis. (Defining a political entity) The boundaries of the polls rarely change, only reflecting population changes, even if the riding boundaries are redrawn. Those polls are just sitting there waiting to be represented.
I suggest that we recruit high school students, appoint them as non-partisan reporters, one for each poll, representing it as their beat. Even if they only start with a petition, it would show that they care about their neighbourhood’s well being.
They will need help. There is more help than will ever be used. Altogether there are about 82,000 charitable tax deducting organizations in Canada. That’s a lot of help. In addition, there are over 100,000 non profit, non tax paying organizations in Canada.
One would wonder why, with all those tax deducting organizations, there should be homelessness, privation and poverty in Canada.
In addition to that are all the governmental departments generally called our social welfare system.
A Columnist (Carol Goar: Toronto Star) has written that the amount of revenue being diverted through charitable and non profit organizations could amount to over $100 billion dollars annually. Those expenditures are fixed and no elected member of parliament ever examines them to see if they are still doing what they were intended to do when they were put in place.
That should be enough help to assure that there are no dead voters melting into beds or homeless voters freezing on the sidewalks, If only we knew where they were.
There are about seven elected members supposedly representing my poll; Municipal; regional; Provincial; Federal, and the Board of Education. Some jurisdictions also elect representatives to a utilities commission.
Of course reporters need editors, that is, non-partisan editors/mentors who can suggest questions for petitions, or focus on the important topics pertaining to the poll. An editor, obtaining reports from several reporters would soon see what opinions voters have in common, then, by contacting the elected, they could help the reporters write answers to the questions posed by the voters and communicate them back to the voters. They would be doing what used to be done by the local media, facilitating the dialogue between the elected and the voters. We might even get a dialogue going to see what the consequences of proposed legislation will be.
I would suggest that it would shift the vote, and if any elected person would fail to provide a remedy for a problem or fail to give an answer to a question they would surely not be elected in future.
It would be elemental that the reporters not be a mouthpiece for the elected. The purpose would be to determine the appropriateness or consequences of the moral and statute laws by which we govern ourselves.
The clear advantage of the proposal is that it could start with one poll in one riding and the value to the voters participating could only increase as more students/editor/mentors sign on. A national registry could reveal which polls were without representation. The poll boundaries are available from Elections Canada.
What WILL we Do?
There is no other way to obtain the representation to which we are entitled in a Representative Democracy.
(1) [edited out. Ed.]
(2) Crucial Problems Facing Christians Today: John Stott
(3) Susan Delacourt: Toronto Star (2012-09-08)
(4) Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia (© 1993, 1994) Compton’s New Media.
(5) The Will Of Zeus: A History of Greece
(6) England: Before and After Wesley: J. Wesley Breda, quoting prof. R. H. Tawney, D.Litt., in Religion And The Rise of Capitalism
(7) Civil War – The Wars of the Three Kingdoms: Trevor Royle (1638-1660 2004).
(8) Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches: (second edition): Thomas Carlyle pg:725
(9) Professor R. H. Tawney, D.Litt. Religion and the Rise of Capitalism:272.
(10) Growing Democracy Deficit: Catholic New Times, Ted Schmidt 2001-04-01
(11) The Revolt of the Masses: Jose Ortega y Gasset, 1930:140
(12) Mosaic: Fall edition, 2012:2
(13) Bill Woollam <firstname.lastname@example.org> 20012-11-21
(14) Jack Etkin: 2011-12-23
(15) Civil War: The Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Trevor Royle 2004:407.
(16) Readers Digest: You and the Law: Flirting with Democracy: (1973:48
(17) Decisive Issues Facing Christians Today: John Stott
(18) Daniel Quinn: Story of B
(19) Don Drummond:Toronto Star 2012-12-29
(20) Sean Gordon of Ottawa Bureau of SES, Quoting President Nanos Toronto Star Sept 7th, 2005
(21) HYPERLINK “http://thetyee.ca/Bios/David_P__Ball/” David P. Ball: TheTyee.ca
(22) Civil War: The Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1638-1660 By Trevor Royle 2004:407.
(23) Flirting with Democracy: Readers Digest, You and the Law (1973:p.48.
(24) The End Of Work: Jeremy Rifkin, (1995:227)
(25)The Power and The Tories: Jonathan Manthorpe (1974:36:45)
(26) Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering: Toronto Star 2012-11-14
(27) The Dogwood Initiative: Will Horter, 2012-10-17
(28) Ten Philosophical Mistakes: Mortimer J. Adler (1985:141)
(29) Richard Gwyn: Toronto Star, 1997-07-09
(30) Professor Vaughan Lyon: Letters: Toronto Star, 1996-05-06.
(31) Stephen Handelman: quoting Mikhail Gorbachev; Toronto Star, 1995-10-03.
(32) Aaron Freeman & Duff Conacher, Toronto Star, 1995-12-19
(33) Chronical-Herald: 1996-08-01
(34) Peter Desbarats: Dean of Journalism, U. of W.O. (1997)
(35) Figueroa v Canada (Attorney General): 2003 SCC 37
(36) Will Horter: Dogwood Initiative: 2012-10-17
(37) S. Learner from Waterloo U. quoted Craig McKie of Ottawa
(38) COMER Journal: Sept 2012
(39 The Culture of Terrorism: Noam Chomsky
(40) ibid pg200
(41) Ralph Nader: Consumer Advocate,
(42) University Toronto Professor of Political Science: Toronto