Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Who Will Stand Up for Democracy?

The whole kerfuffle about Elizabeth May being excluded from the leaders debates got me thinking about democracy and who's job it is to ensure that it does not erode. Is it the government's job? Looking at the situation in Canada right now, it would be laughable for anyone to say that our current federal government is a strong upholder of democracy. Stephen Harper has no problems with Elizabeth not being in the debates, he even hinted that he wouldn't want the NDP or Bloq in them either when he suggested an one on one debate with Ignatieff.

So if its not the government's job, what about the media? The media has historically represented itself as an accountability mechanism for governments to make sure that people know what their government is doing. This is a big reason why the concept of freedom of the press is so important. But no with the decision to not allow Elizabeth May into the debates, the reason they are citing is that it is not their responsibility to keep people informed of all the major parties, their job is to make money. So it's clear that the mainstream media has reneged on its own previously self-purported responsibility to uphold democracy, who's left? There is independent media which does a great job of holding government accountable and espousing democratic ideals, but it's independent and thus doesn't get the exposure that the more well-funded and far reaching mainstram media gets.

Then there are the people. Us. But the problem is that most of us don't know how to access the type of information we need in order to hold the government accountable. Some of us know about the indy media sites and publications. Some of us are involved in the political process. But the vast majority of us don't have access to these resources and only hear what the government and the mainstream media tell them. Ans when that is all you get, you may come to believe that the status quo, no matter how corrupt, intolerable, or authoritarian it is, is just peachy, simply because they tell you it is.

This brings us back to the question: Who will stand up for democracy? Because the small group of us that are outraged enough to try to do anything about it aren't strong enough to hold the powers that be accountable.

The political system is broken. Our mainstream society is broken. I would love change it but don't know how and don't know where to start. How do you change important parts of the system when the people that have all the power don't want that change? This is the question I put out to all of you, and I look forward to your suggestions.

Rob McDonald

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