PROJECT MODEL CITIZEN UPDATE: Date with my new BFF – confirmed!
Next Thursday at 4pm, I will sit down with MP Olivia Chow to discuss what it means for a citizen to participate in representative democracy. That sounds like a broad subject, so let me narrow it down…the kind, teacherly Ms. Chow will talk about how THIS citizen can participate in his respective democracy.
Like many, I’ve tuned out of politics…besides being quickly bored by minutiae, I find my choice of politicians sadly lacking. At least in the US you can vote for political figures that are caricatures not unlike what you’d find in professional wrestling. Take Massachusetts, after 57 years of having one of the most influential US families represent them in the Senate, the legacy ends with a new guy who posed nude for Cosmo and whose biggest political credential seems to be he drives a pick-up to work. Only in America? Perhaps. Never in Canada? Absolutely. Not since Trudeau has Canada fielded a politician who was larger than his circumstances. Today, most Canadian politicians behave more like professors, or accountants…or if you’re Conservative, accountants working for the Mob.
So there are no cults of personality to be found and the issues can be a tad dry; we haven’t invaded another country in contravention of international law, our health care is not perfect but at least no one goes bankrupt trying to get it and our legislative process isn’t choked by muscular special interests. In the vacuum created by the lack of absurd and/or baroque political figures like you’ll find in the US, Parliament can hold about as much real drama as a condo owner’s meeting.
Not that our current minority government team hasn’t tried to turn it into a soap opera; they make reality TV contestants look pleasant, with the kind of constant back-biting and dirty opportunism that’s forced most of the country to turn to the Rick Mercer Report for real political issues. But compared to the
US, we can’t even get political malfeasance right – it’s Hamlet as read by Ben Stein (“Bueller? Bueller?”) and it’s failed to engage many Canadians. That’s why a bunch of us now think we’re “peace-keeping” over in Afghanistan, we’re completely confused about the alleged abuse of detainees and are clueless as to why a lot of us (like me) are still out of work and out of options as the economy “bounces back.” Meanwhile the Government (by a hair) is “recalibrating.” There’s nothing tasty to feed the public here, just a big old batch of apathy soup and I’m full up on it.
In this kind of environment, I have to marvel at Olivia’s work and call to public service. I’m going to ask her what she sees as the big issues facing our community and country. But I also want to tap her passion — how does she keep believing in this in democracy as a noble enterprise when so many of her cohorts are petty and her constituents don’t seem to care? Where does she find the passion do the boring and thankless work that politics can often entail? And how might I summon this passion for the issues so I can truly be a better citizen? These are some of my questions. What are yours?