Friday, April 8, 2011

Harper and the Principles of Democracy. . . . .

Even if we are advocates of the idea of democracy, we know that as political system it faces serious challenges, and these challenges are deepening as years pass. One of the central challenges that we face is to make people understand that democracy is not simply the process of ensuring that people can vote for their representatives but that agendas and discourse must not be the sole purview of any one group or class. In other words, democracy is not a fixed 'state of affairs' but a gradual motion toward open discourse. The problem is, of course, that we live in a system in which money plays an ever greater roll, controlling the perceived possibilities and limiting pubic discussion. An obvious result of this process of 'limiting' is that the agenda of different political parties tend to converge as they all begin to more or less assume the 'truth' of what certain people claim are the very narrow limits of political and social possibilities. This problem is enhanced by the process of globalization as the 'room for manœuvre' for independent states grows smaller in the face of capitalist pressures.

A good example of this limiting of discourse is found in the public's perception of questions such as social programs or public pensions. As right-wingers and capitalists generally seek to privatize all social services as well as pensions, a perception is fostered that government services are 'inefficient' and that the system cannot afford decent public pensions. This maybe (and generally is) distinctly counter-factual, but in politics perception counts for much more than reality.

Meanwhile, right-wing parties seek everywhere to eliminate limits on election spending, realizing of course that those with more money will be able to control political discourse through media control. It is a fairly simply equation summed up by the famous dictum that those who pay the piper call the tune.

As alternative opinions are effectively marginalized many people turn away from the democratic process and others simply become alienated by the apparently petty bickering among primary parties who, despite what they say,  just barely disagree on many central issues. This is where a contemporary right-wing leader like Stephen Harper finds a particular advantage. Already well served by the corporate control of the majority of media outlets and the alienation of many voters, a man like Harper can further push his advantage by leading a new movement of contemptuous and obnoxious politicians who generally undermine citizens' faith in the political process. By further alienating potential voters from the process, the right gains an even greater advantage as the core support of the traditional right-wing maintains the greatest commitment to voting. Politicians like Harper advance their advantage by muddying the legal waters of government rights and powers as well as fostering ignorance about the constitutional fundamentals of the state. Thus when the Harper regime wilfully ignores basic principles of Government responsibility concerning the powers of the House of Commons, they are doing so not just to control information but to intentionally confuse the public concerning what the government responsibilities are. And when John Baird tells the country that they will bypass the Governor General, he knows he is talking about wilfully breaking the most basic laws of the nation, but he does so to confuse the public concerning the constitution and thereby sewing the seeds for the gradually wearing away of the basic principles of democracy.

Thus the very principles of democracy that were so long fought for by so many people are significantly undermined as more and more people turn away out of disgust, media manipulation, and ignorance. Democracy is a delicate system, the safety of which can only be ensured by gradually reducing the undue influence of a priori advantages of money and power. Unfortunately we are now on a down turn in the fight for democracy and men like Harper are leading the charge against democracy's principles.

Reward this Government, and one more stone from the edifice of democracy that people have strived so hard to build will be taken away, and eventually the whole thing will come crumbling down around us.

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