You guys know I normally go months on end without posting anything, right?
I went down to Melrose Cafe for Third Tuesday’s event: “Election Dissection: The role of social media in Election 2010 Calgary”
A couple of points worth mentioning. Apparently I’ve become part of the “usual crew.“ That doesn’t sound like me at all. Which is a point worth discussing all to itself.
I mentioned the conversation between Naheed and I at Civic Camp 3D in twitter. Essentially it was:
Nenshi: So have I pretty much ruined your life? Me: Yeah. Nenshi: Glad to hear it!
It is very much true. I came out of the election differently than I went in. It’s more than feeling I can enact positive change. It’s more than being willing to throw out my opinion. It’s more than just saying I’m engaged and determined to stay that way. All of that is true, but I feel there are intangibles that I don’t have a grip on yet. It’s attitude, it’s determination, it’s a new level of understanding of myself.
Of course, tonight I also learned I’m not normal, but we all knew that anyways.
The point I want to discuss came from sitting with Andrew McIntyre and Brian Singh. Andrew and I were talking provincial politics, particularly in light of me joining the Alberta Party over the weekend.
One of the things that came up was a woman complaining about being disenfranchised for 20 years. Then Naheed Nenshi wins the mayoral election and suddenly she feels enfranchised again.
That’s not the same as being disenfranchised. That’s simply a matter of being on the losing end of the election for 20 years. I hold a substandard opposition to blame for that. The cure for it is to improve the entire opposition. The cure is a re-evaluation of policy and revamping the way to communicate with the public at large. It hasn’t happened in 40 years. It’s way past due.
But there was something bothering me all the way home.
I feel strongly that the government has not been listening to all Albertans. Public consultation has not been broad enough or in depth enough. I have not been part of the inside, I don’t know what it’s really been like. But there has clearly been a problem with a closed and defensive caucus.
I feel that the government has been ideologically driven for 20 years. I believe the government has been arrogantly thinking they could do no wrong and have an entitlement to rule. Granted, it’s only my impression and my opinion need not be shared.
However I know that when I approached my MLA and the appropriate minister, my issue was rebuffed out of hand as irrelevant, that I was in the wrong, that there was nothing wrong with the policy or law no matter how unjust I feel it is.
And there is my disquiet.
When a government has been in place for so long as to become inherently arrogant, closed and non-communicative they cease to represent the citizens and begin to become self-serving instead. Regardless of how well intentioned or talented or big hearted our representatives individually may be. Issues of the day cease to become as important as retaining the status quo. Regardless of how important or unfair or inequitable the issues individually may be.
Governments that do not listen to it’s citizens do, in fact, become disenfranchising. They may not directly take away the right to vote, but a system that has become entrenched and only permits change in 40 year increments has, de facto, lessened the value of the opinions of an entire subsection of the population for a great period of time. We reach the tyranny of the majority.
The government isn’t going to simply change. It is our responsibility to change the tenor of the debate and ensure that all voices receive a fair chance of being heard. I know with certainty that is not happening right now.
We aren’t disenfranchised. But we lose the ability to be heard when the government has lost the ability to listen. Like the municipal election, I have found where my views are best aligned and I will work with those that represent me. But I’m not looking to form the next 40 year dynasty. I’m looking to have a very open and rational discussion about the problems we face right now.
The Big Listen is the antidote to cynicism. An open agenda where we agree upon priorities is the solution to hidden agendas. Honest and forthright conversation is the base we build from.