Friday, August 28, 2009

The Process of Democracy. . . .

Many people, including some so-called experts, talk of democracy as a political ‘system;’ something that we either have or don’t have. I have thought for a long time that democracy needs to be thought of as a process, a working toward. In other words, democracy should be thought of as a verb rather than a noun. This is important because there are many who are, in a rather Western-centric way, smugly satisfied that we live in a finished democracy. And people who think this way are perfectly satisfied when elections occur, elections (keep in mind) that are already made severely problematic by the influence of money, and a party wins the most seats even with only say thirty-five percent of the votes cast, then this party has some kind of inalienable right to dictate the entire legislative agenda of the nation. They imagine that this is democracy, end of story. But this cannot be. If democracy is a process, a working toward ever greater degrees of fairness, justice, and a society’s self realization, then this can hardly be the end of the story. We must work ever vigilantly for our political institutions to express the will of the people. But just as important as this, the ‘will of the people’ must be ever more expressed and expressible. And by expressible I mean that we must work ever harder to lessen the degree to which power determines what can be expressed. If those with a great deal of money and power are able to narrow the field of expressible possibilities then we are working away from our ideals rather than toward them. And in recent years not only has the field of political discourse narrowed  (largely in the interests of those with a corporate agenda), but even in the very institution of legislative power a mockery has been made of the idea of democratic expression. At every corner of the country our present government has made every attempt to shut down discourse, to narrow its field, and to rob it of its meaning. From closing down the Supreme Court challenges program, to the erasure of almost all adult literacy programs; from a handbook for Committee chairs instructing them on how to shut down committee discussion, to the proroguing of parliament and convincing the nation that the expression of the majority could be a coup, the Harper Government continues to reverse the process of democracy and to move away from the very ideals that democracy aims toward. Just like the concept of justice, democracy is a difficult and abstract concept, but the right-wing’s consistent effort to move away from both is becoming more and more clear. 

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