2.19 Election 41
When starting this blog many moons ago, I was adamant about not bringing politics into the fray. I promised. My growing disillusionment with politics at all levels – municipal, provincial, federal and even internationally – has simply gotten the best of me. Promises are made to be broken. For the sake of this entry, I have editorially changed the word American to Canadian in the quotations from George Carlin. You can watch his rant HERE, he does a better job explaining than I ever could.
“There is one thing I don’t complain about: politicians,” George Carlin said. “Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall from the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from Canadian parents, Canadian families, Canadian homes, Canadian schools, Canadian churches, Canadian businesses and Canadian universities and they’re elected by Canadian citizens. This is the best we can do. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces. Garbage in, garbage out.”
For the record, I know nothing about politics. Don’t claim to know and feel so removed by the rhetoric that this federal election could be in another country. Everyone will jump down my throat and say that this is what’s wrong with the entire process. Indifference. I’ve been told to ‘vote strategically’. I should cast my vote for someone I don’t want elected in order to not elect someone else. That makes no sense. I’m being told that this politician is evil and that other one is too intelligent and the guy with the moustache is finally making the most sense and the green one is too green and the blue one is too specific.
Bollocks. All of it.
George Carlin continued: “But maybe it’s not the politicians who suck, maybe something else sucks around here … like, the public [audience groan]. If it’s really just the fault of these politicians, then where are all the other bright people of conscience? Where are all the bright, intelligent and honest Canadians ready to step in and save the nation and lead the way?”
The day after our parliament lost confidence in the government and an election was called, I already had flyers in my mailbox even though I have a clear sign that says: “Please no junk mail.” My only public message and it was ignored. Ignored, much like my vote, much like my voice, much like the tiny little ‘X’ we will mark on a secret ballot. I understand that we have the privilege to vote, that in other countries, this is not the case. I am not advocating for a dictatorship, I am simply saying that the politicians are not listening. Nothing new here, but you would think we’d have all grown up a bit.
A long time ago, during the last election – wait, long time? Sorry, that was three years ago. Much has changed. Wait, wrong again, what has changed? During our last election, there was also another one going on south of the border. I was very encouraged and excited by Barack Obama’s message. Here was something exciting, he was going to change everything. The Canadian election was not nearly as inspiring, but since I could actually vote here, I took an interest.
The debate between the candidates in my riding was not encouraging. There were representatives from the big parties: NDP, Conservatives, Liberal and Green. As well as members of The Marijuana Party and The Christian Heritage Party.
I was not aware that this was a night of standup comedians. The Liberal and NDP candidates were strong, well, strong in a different sense. The NDP was the incumbent and a heavy weight in the party. The Liberal was in the running for the leadership of the party before they made the suicidal decision of Stéphane Dion. They bickered back and forth. The Conservative looked like she was in the wrong room, “You mean this is a debate?” Every one of her statements started with, “Stephen Harper says…” The Green Party representative made the most sense, in a humane and long term way. But this is politics, the words ‘long term’ and ‘humane’ are not good ways to win over people that want things done NOW.
The Marijuana Party member sat with arms crossed and a frown on his face. The only time he spoke was at the end where he gave an impassioned speech about legalizing marijuana. The Christian Heritage Party member was the comedic part of the night, the headliner, if you will. One of his killer punch lines: “Al Gore and many scientists have filled your brains with propaganda in regards to global warming. The environment is in great shape. God wouldn’t let it happen.” We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. As it turns out, I recently discovered that this particular politician has, in fact, done stand-up. I can’t say what kind of comedy, but I have an idea. If I wanted a comedian to run for office, I would only want George Carlin. He certainly wouldn’t be representing the Christian Heritage Party, but he certainly would shake things up.
This time around, I am refraining from attending any debates.
George Carlin: “So, I have solved this little problem for myself in a very simple way. On election day, I stay home. I don’t vote. Two reasons. First, it’s meaningless. Second, I don’t vote because I believe if you vote, you have no right to complain. Now, people like to twist that around, saying, ‘well, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain,’ but where’s the logic in that?”
Before this election, we had our mayoral election. We all know what happened with that. I have been told, “Well, you voted him in.” Nope. I didn’t vote, so I get to complain. Does anyone even remember the other candidates? Would it have been any different? Yes, sure, the city is under siege and I don’t want to even think about the state of things after the next four years. But I didn’t vote him in.
More George Carlin: “If you vote and you elect dishonest, incompetent people and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You caused the problem. You voted them in. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote, who, in fact, did not even leave the house on election day, are in no way responsible for what these people have done and have every right to complain as loud as I want about the mess you created that I had nothing to do with.”
What is this election about? It’s a lot of noise. A lot of rhetoric. A lot of grown men acting like children. A lot of people acting like they are entitled to represent us, the citizens of this fair country. They all seem so removed and detached from everyday experiences. Out of touch? Only interested in self-interest? I want hope, I expect one day a politician will be elected and actually do what they say they will. I might be a cynical person by nature, but when I see hope, I grab on to it and would do anything to push it forward. Politicians lie, we all know this, but when you sift through what they are actually saying, what is it they are selling us? And as a naive and hopeful person, why don’t they just do what they say they will do? We have created bad guys and good guys and we are so involved with this and the stream of messaging has gotten so narrow that I don’t believe what anyone says anymore.
Where do you and I fit into this? I recently learned that with each vote a party receives, they are paid $1.95. In theory, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing since it lowers the residual requirements of corporate donations. However, if you also take that theory and sprinkle a little logic and a dash of realistic preconceptions, I can’t help but put aside the fact that through all the philosophical, ideological and moral obligations wrapped up in voting, in the end, the monetary value of my vote is worth less than buying two songs on iTunes.
Nobel Prize author José Saramago’s novel Seeing, offers the premise that a complete restructuring of government should be demanded by the public. The book begins with an election. When the ballots are being counted, most of them are blank. A very peaceful protest. The government takes exception to this and decides to leave the city, believing that without structured leadership, society would crumble and fall.
There is an image from the book that I have always remembered. The members of government prepare to leave in a calvacade in the middle of the night. Unseen citizens offer a trail of lights as a path out of the city. The government was not wanted.
The politicians watch from outside the city, believing the citizens will turn on each other. The members of government were punishing the citizens and observe them with excitement over when they will be welcomed back. But the citizens do alright. I’m sure they weren’t influenced by George Carlin, but I couldn’t help thinking of him when the protest during the election was not voting by voting. The public’s message was very clear.
After I wrote this, I came across an article in the Eye Magazine and a quotation caught my eye and reminded me of Saramago. “We deliver the services that Canadians use every hour of every day,” Naheed Nenshi, the mayor of Calgary recently said. “We do not have the revenue sources or the authority to deliver those services as effectively as we could. If the federal government disappeared today, it would probably be a week or two before most Canadians noticed. If the provincial governments disappeared, unless you were in school or the hospital, it might be a couple days before you noticed. If the municipal governments disappeared, you’ve have no transit, no roads, no lights and no clean water. You’d notice because you’d be dead.”
What would it take for the government at all levels to operate positively in our everyday experience?
I respect having the ability to vote, something not so welcomed in other countries. I will exercise my rights, even though it does seem futile. I will try not to complain about it because I am simply not as brave and confident in my convictions as Carlin. Perhaps there is a way to use Saramago’s allegory as influence? Maybe there is another way?
Anyways – well, I did it, wrote about politics. At least I won’t have to bring this up, that is, for another two years when the next election happens. I promise.