I enjoy pretty much everything there is that has to do with the outdoors. Some of my most peaceful moments have been while walking through the forest, sitting on a beach, or boating (minus the loud engine). Accordingly I have a great respect for nature and enjoy learning about the plants and wildlife therein. My plan is to continue that learning process and hopefully enhance it by sharing what I learn. I intend for this blog to serve many purposes, but in the immediate future it will be a place for me, and hopefully others, to share ideas about reducing our individual impact on this planet, protecting wild spaces, and in general just to comment on the things we enjoy most in the great outdoors. I welcome all opinions as otherwise you cannot consider every aspect of a subject. However, I would ask that every opinion be expressed in a respectful way and considered with an open mind. Often there is no single right answer. Thanks.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Still Disgusted with Politics

Ugh!  Cheesy ads abound, attempting to stir up emotion for or against one party or another.  As usual these ads are lacking in any information that could be considered useful.  Heaven forbid a political party use these expensive time slots to tell us something that it will do.  About two years ago, just before the federal election, I wrote a blog post "Canadian Politics and Voting..." in which I went on (or off) about my opinion of politics in general.  I will attempt not to repeat myself, but I do feel exasperated every time another election rolls around.  I am happy to report that since my blog post I lived up to my promise and I voted in the last municipal election.  I even took the time to attend an all candidates meeting while my husband stayed home with our kids.  I dutifully took a notebook, recorded the candidates positions on a variety of issues, and brought them home for discussion.  Unfortunately my attempts to become engaged do not cancel out the cynical feeling I get every time an election campaign begins.

According to an article from 1999 on CBC News, entitled Record Low Voter Turnout in BC Election, voter turnout in the last provincial election was a sad 50%.  I am not sure why I stubbornly drag myself to the polls when I am just as disheartened by the political arena as a majority of the population.  I cannot shake the nagging feeling that every politician who asks for my vote is full of lies and deceit.  Or, if they actually have morals to begin with, they are quickly corrupted by special interest groups, provided with incomplete/inaccurate information by staff with their own agenda, or, controlled by their own party.  Is it really a democracy when you are not able to vote according to the interests of your constituents?  Candidates stand there and say that they will represent us in Victoria, or in Ottawa, and then self-preservation instincts take over as soon their ass hits the seat in the legislature.  But hey, most people do not pay attention anyway.

If all of the people who did not vote banded together and agreed upon a candidate that had no affiliation to any party, and was not beholden to a special interest group who supported their campaign, that might put an end to this ridiculous concept of vote splitting.  How can you say there is vote splitting when the number that separates the winners and losers is less than the number of people who did not vote?  For goodness sake there must be someone out there who can capture our imaginations.  In fact there are probably plenty.

Perhaps they do not want to be part of the bullshit of politics.  My children have better interpersonal skills than those I have seen on display from some politicians.  Any time I have caught a glimpse of the televised goings on in the legislature I have felt embarrassed by the juvenile quality of the interactions.  It has a greater resemblance to toddlers throwing sand at each other in a sand box than a group of adults who are supposed to be responsible for guiding our province or country.

Perhaps possible candidates do not want to be scrutinized by the media.  I am sorry but if a 40 year old person made a mistake when they were 20 I believe they are entitled to live and learn.  I am an entirely different person than I was 15 years ago and I imagine I would be pretty embarrassed by some of things I said when I was a teenager.  Yikes!  I will probably be berating myself 15 years from now on some of the opinions I have now.  I do not believe it is the job of the media to dredge up every possibly scandalous event and turn it into a sensation.  How does that help with democracy?  I want to hear about the issues that should be addressed.  The job of the media should be to elevate the level of intelligence of the debate not drag it down to the point of insulting.

While I am mentioning media could we please fire all of the public relations people involved with politicians and politics in general?  We are human after all and I certainly do not expect my representative to be perfect.  In fact I would settle for a personality a little less plastic and polished.  Make some mistakes and show me that you have the character to accept responsibility for your actions, listen to feedback and become a better representative.  Or, if appropriate, tell everyone to screw off and stand by your decision.  I might not agree with you but at least I can respect you.  As it stands now I find it difficult to believe anything I hear and, in reality, what I am hearing is of very little use.  For goodness sake have an opinion!  It would also be beneficial if you could state the opinion in less than 5 minutes without beating around 50 bushes.  I do not want a PR machine censoring the information I am entitled to receive as a citizen in a supposed democracy.  (This is slightly off topic but I am adding a link to this article When Science Goes Silent from MacLean's magazine because it relates to censorship and helped inspire me to write this post)

Perhaps people considering a political career feel that they must have one, or more, degrees in law, political science, or economics in order to become a politician.  In fact, if the federal Conservatives are to be believed, teachers and camp counsellors are among those who need not apply.  I wonder if the people without the fancy degrees might be slightly better connected to the average citizen.  I find the arrogance in politics today more than a little disturbing and perhaps a better mix of people from different social and economic backgrounds would serve us better.

I recently read a book The Value of Nothing by Raj Patel.  The book was not primarily about politics, but it did raise some points that caught my attention due to the upcoming provincial election.  Athens is considered the birthplace of democracy but it was vastly different from the democracy we have today.  Instead of voting for a representative who would be entrusted to represent me I would be able to vote on most decisions directly.  Also, there was a requirement for citizens to participate.  Of course, as a woman in Athens, I would not have been allowed to vote, but I am not endorsing an adoption of the exact system.  I found a published lecture from 1999 (from where exactly I'm not sure) but it offers some details about how the system worked.  While there were public officials their power was very limited and they were chosen by a lottery system.  The time you could hold an office was limited and you could not hold the same office twice.  I can see that there would be several negatives to an exact replica of the system, but the concept of a direct democracy intrigues me.

When decisions are made for us, especially behind closed doors, there is a lack of accountability.  It seems that the more controversial the issue the less it is discussed openly.  I have had few opportunities to vote in referendums and if my representative is told that they have to vote a certain way then my interests are not necessarily being represented are they?  I imagine that our freedom to choose whether or not we vote in a referendum, or an election, works in favour of the government.  As long as enough of us remain disgusted with the process and choose not to vote, all that is required is to stir the emotional pot enough to get your supporters out.  Or, if not supporters, then people whom you have persuaded that you are the lesser of the evils.  In my opinion this is no way to run an effective democracy.

Who will change it???  Most people I know are so bogged down with work, family, activities, etc. that the thought of becoming an informed voter is exhausting rather than invigorating.  I mentally applauded the people who came to my door in support of their party of choice.  Obviously I do not agree with all of their opinions but I can respect the fact that they are willing to stand up for something they believe in.  Most of us cannot say the same.

Advance polls are closed, but voting day is on Tuesday, May 14.  Take a look at the platforms of the parties: Conservative PartyGreen PartyLiberal PartyNDP, or an independent candidate in your riding, and make an informed decision.  If you do not like any of them then you have several years to find someone you do like and help them get elected.  I hope people choose to become more engaged in the democratic process that we do have.  I do not want to look back 10 or 20 years from now and wonder how things got so bad.  They are bad enough already.

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