Monday, September 01, 2014
Restoring the Vox Populi
Some thoughts for this, Labour Day.
The voice of the people. Oh, how long has it been since that really meant anything? In Canada and many other advanced countries, polls show that people are being governed without much if any regard to their views, their concerns.
It's sort of like standing, waiting at the civic bus stop for a bus that just keeps passing you by.
Canadians want action on climate change. Are they going to get it? No. Canadians want action on inequality. Are they going to get it? Don't be ridiculous.
The American people utterly loathe their federal government, their Congress. Does it matter? Hell no! The vox populi has been discounted to the point of near total irrelevance.
Governments don't do what we want them to do. Governments don't deal with things we want dealt with, the things that cause us worry and insecurity.
There used to be a notion that at the heart of democracy lay the consent of the people to be governed. To the extent that ever meant something it has been superceded by the ascent of neoliberalism and the corporatist state.
You get to vote and that's about all you get. There is no longer much of a role for the vox populi. There's still a vox, a voice alright and it is reaching the ear of the political or ruling classes only it's not your voice. It's the voice of energy and commerce and high finance that has the ear of those you supposedly elect to office.
Think I'm kidding? Go back four years to the reign of Ignatieff. Do you remember when he summoned a "thinkers' conference" to map out a new strategy for a Liberal Canada? The speakers list spoke volumes for it was massively dominated with CEOs and "management consultants." Ignatieff wasn't there to formulate policies that would resonate with the voting public, solutions to their needs and concerns. His focus was Bay Street, not Main Street. As the Ignatieff Liberals turned their backs on ordinary Canadians, so did ordinary Canadians turn their backs in the next election sending the Liberals from Sussex Drive to Stornoway to Motel 6 out on the Gloucester highway.
The simple fact is that you can't consent to be governed without a reasonable understanding of how you're to be governed. Without that understanding, there's no informed consent to be governed. You're simply consenting to be ruled. And even that hollow consent is being coerced out of you through the application of misinformation, outright deceit and fear-mongering.
Your vote used to mean something back when parties offered up a real spectrum of vision and policy. You knew what made one party distinct from the others and they worked to champion policies that might suit the voting public.
Today our body politic lies on the life support of neoliberalism. Iron lungs all around. Even the NDP has embraced neoliberalism. There's a term for what's happening. It's called "depoliticization." Politics is being shut down, its place taken over by grey suits stuffed with wet cardboard. Administrators, not leaders. Mere technocrats, doing sums. The public, quite conveniently for the corporate state, is disengaging, tuning out. Why bother if no one will speak to your concerns? Why bother if no one hears your voice? Even before you begin to tune out you're already out of the loop.
How then do we reverse this? How do we get their ear? How are we to get our voices heard by those we elect, those who are duty bound to serve us? How do we make them responsive to our concerns, our needs?
How indeed? I don't know. I do know that we need to get these people we elect to listen to us and that means they need to stop listening like attentive lap dogs to those who do not elect them. We need to drum into their heads the prescient words spoken by Teddy Roosevelt more than a century ago. These words:
...our government, national and State, must be freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests. Exactly as the special interests of cotton and slavery threatened our political integrity before the Civil War, so now the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit. We must drive the special interests out of politics.
...every special interest is entitled to justice but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office. The Constitution guarantees protections to property, and we must make that promise good, but it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation.
...The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have themselves called into being.
There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains.
We no longer "effectively control the mighty commercial forces that we have called into being." Those mighty commercial forces too often have the ear of those we elect to represent us.
Wresting political control away from these commercial forces may be the key to reclaiming our democratic freedoms. The thing is I just cannot see that happening under either Trudeau or Mulcair or any other Liberal or New Democrat. Like others I'm coming to accept that if we cannot rehabilitate the Liberal and New Democratic parties, we need to stop wasting our efforts and put them into building a new party, a genuinely political party, one that speaks for Canadians and speaks to their concerns. It's pointless to seek solutions in neoliberalism.