It is a myth that we have popular control over our governments. Hope reigns eternal and the frameworks are put into place:
- everyone ought to be able to vote (who -the working class, at what age, with property, women…..the issues are ongoing)
- elections must provide a real choice
- voters have adequate information to sort out biased information from good information. TV is expensive, suitable for soundbites, conditioned to watch the media in a certain context. Media ownership is in the hands of a few. The internet is awash with information, misinformation and information overload.
Once we have our representatives in place, are they delegates to do what the electorate wants or are they trustees to do what they think best? It’s a tricky game we play with majority rule and protecting minority rights at the same time. We need to be diligent or our democracy becomes mob rule and minorities (and those with less power, usually those with less capital – women, for example). A person needs a decent standard of living to be able to politically participate, therefore there needs to be economical development before democraty development.
One of the felt needs was to have a high level of literacy as knowledge is power as the illiterate are more easily manipulated. But knowledge is not wisdom and word games and manipulation of fears and desires are not exclusive to the illiterate.
What we have in Canada is a pluralistic society, a multitude of groups with a wide diversity of interests. It is generally considered that power will concentrate among a few. However, if splitting of the vote among parties puts power-for-its-own-sake-and own-narrow-values people into into power, it becomes even more essential to establish consensus of basic values and the opposition parties had better get to it. We need to trust, compromise and identify with the common good. This is something that can be done. We need to believe in possibilities.
Of course, the pressing issue is – what is the “common good”? Like “common sense”, we cannot make assumptions that everyone is working with the same playbook and are on the same page. Diversity and unity in diversity are essential to make deals and rules using compromise.
The country has become cranky and distrustful of deals. Consensus means to consent to the system. If people feel that government or state is inappropriate to the extent that they feel oppressed this leads to instability. Feelings can be manipulated to unseat governments at the polls and to garner following and re-election when the merit is lacking.
It is simply a belief system that power and authority rest in the elite group. Nevertheless some play the game better than others and have more intellect, energy, sensitivity and education.