Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Are We Supposed to Defend Democracy or Just Mourn Its Passing?
There is certainly no shortage of opinion pieces these days bemoaning the steady decline in Western or "liberal" democracy. I've penned a few myself.
People I speak or correspond with seem to agree that the introduction of Bill C-51 is an assault on freedom of speech and protest that sets government against the public and treats democratic dissent as subversive.
We have a government, make that a "regime", in power today that has erected walls of secrecy between itself and the Canadian people. It's all but impossible to have a conversation with your government that is filtered through freedom of information requests. We can ask questions but that doesn't mean they'll be answered.
Even as it has become much harder, in some cases an ordeal, to look into our government and what it's up to, our government has cloaked itself in powers that make it ever more capable of prying into our lives. It connives to exploit any incident, even something shocking thousands of miles distant, as a pretext to expand its powers over us and diminish our freedoms to object.
What does it say for Canadian democracy when we need Edward Snowden to blow the whistle on critical issues such as domestic spying?
Our government, instead of respecting our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, butts heads with it and seeks ways to circumvent or undermine it. Time and again we have to fall on the Supreme Court of Canada to protect us from this government's predations.
We are witnessing the rise of illiberal democracy, a shifting of the balance of power between the individual and government. This regime swept to power on clear and unequivocal promises of accountability and transparency, promises it had no intention of keeping. Instead it promptly scurried behind walls of secrecy and lies as it put in place first a surveillance state and, now, a police state.
So what are we to do? Under C-51 is the mere asking of the question subversive? Is raising the prospect of some response in defence of democracy, up to and including civil disobedience, an offence against the regime? Does this earn us a place on some secret security service's watch list?
Or are we just to mourn the passing of our liberal democracy and sit idle as we watch it slowly displaced by neoliberal authoritarianism? Are we to settle for a new style of democracy, illiberal democracy, where you can still vote yet that is of little meaningful significance?
Do we have a duty to defend our democracy? Do we even have the right if that demands resisting our government? I wish I had some answers but I really don't.