December 8, 2008

On Democratic Rights (and Responsibilities)

In a democracy, no, you don't HAVE to justify your beliefs to others, but you should be able to explain them. A relative of mine joined a facebook group called Canadians Against Coalition Government. When I asked her why the hell she would do that, when ANYONE has to be better than Harper, who refuses to do an economic stimulus packaged like every other developed country, slashes funding to the arts, basically eliminates The Commission on the Status of Women and hates Toronto, she basically sent me an annoyed message saying it was her "democratic right" not to have to explain herself to me. Okay, fine, yeah, it's her democratic right not to HAVE to engage in political discourse. But if you are going to join a huge political movement publicly, on facebook, maybe you should have some fucking reasons for this association?

I really just wanted to know why she didn't want a coalition in light of all those reasons. It's not like there aren't any reasons to hate the idea of a coalition. Does she dislike Dion? Does she hate the Bloc? Does Laytan strike her as a creepy used car salesman? I really just wanted to know, but the impression I got was that she was so defensive because she didn't really know how to defend her beliefs in the a face of an actual public debate. The conservatives have been smart with their propaganda, telling everyone a grand coalition is unconstitutional, when it follows the Westminster Parliament. They have been unethical, comparing Dion to dictators, too. What concerns me is that university-educated people like my relative are falling for this crap and then refuse to engage in responsible democratic debate to get the issues out in the open, so we can all understand each other and work towards a resolution of this mess that is our country's current political scene.

So, no, you don't have to engage in political debate to defend political associations you choose to connect yourself with publicly on facebook. But I would argue that, in a robust democracy, every citizen SHOULD be able to do so. And every citizen who wants to have these public associations should also WANT to engage in political discussion. I think it's a democratic duty. Dialogue is key for a functioning democracy. So, the goal for the Canadian electorate should be, in my opinion, to become a little less ignorant and a little more confident. That way, if you are actually falling for Harper's political propaganda even after knowing its historical inaccuracies, you can at least tell me WHY. Honestly, I REALLY WANT TO KNOW.

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