Sometimes people around me will ask what I think on a particular subject, partly because they are in the mood for some conversation, and I guess because they know I am interested and attempt to take part in our political process.
Once in a while someone unfamiliar with this website will ask me about it. “What kind of website do you run?”, they’ll query. I tell them it is somewhat of a politic editorial/commentary page. Most of the time they roll their eyes or their nose up and politely interject that “politics don’t interest me.”
I used to accept that openly, but inwardly I was dismayed at their lack of understanding of how our country is designed and supposed to function. Lately I have started to fight back, so to speak. I now feel comfortable to challenge, for a lack of a better word, that individual’s perception of what ‘politics’ is. If you know somebody that often tells you that they are not interested in politics, perhaps you can convince them to read this article once you have printed it out. (I hereby authorize the reproduction of this article in its entirety) I will even give you a link to a printable version where you can print it without using up most of your ink. Click here for a printable copy.
Now, when I find myself up against somebody who has no interest in our political landscape, I ask them why. The number one answers are either a) “because they are all the same (politicians), they are a bunch of crooks” or b) “I’m only one person, nobody’s going to listen to me.”
I don’t think for a minute that most Canadians truly believe either of those statements. I believe they are simply outward expressions of the utter and total frustration that most people feel at the state of our political arena. They must realize, however, that the arena is merely a reflection of those whom it represents. If a lack of morality and ethics seems to be in vogue in Ottawa, it is only because it is in vogue with the general population. In other words, the kind of leaders that we are electing are simply indicative of our own standards. If our standards fall, so do the standards which we expect our elected officials, thus those whom we elect, to have as well.
On to the crux of my argument. I was recently working beside a young woman who told me that she didn’t know much about politics. She later told me that she works with animal rights groups and donates to organizations such as the Toronto Humane Society, Greenpeace, and one other that I refuse to mention on this site. I looked at her and asked her why she thought that she wasn’t political. After all, animal rights is a political issue. The goal of animal rights activists is to eventually eradicate what they believe to be cruelty to animals and they have done much by using political tools such as legislation to protect wildlife and the care and treatment of domestic pets.
It seems that perhaps those who state they have no interest in politics simply don’t understand what politics is or what it encompasses.
I hereby state that there is not one person in our country that is not affected by our politics, nor is there one person who does not have something to contribute. Think about the areas which are encompassed by politics. Here are but a few:
Your child’s school is run by politicians; they fund it with our money, decide what Johnny and Joannie will learn about, and how long they must be taught. It builds the schools, hires the teachers, and keeps records of all that Johnny has done.
Do you drive? Politics will dictate how your car is built, how environmentally efficient it is, how much the fuel will cost, what is in the fuel, how fast you can drive the car, how old you must be to drive it, whether or not you will wear a seatbelt, be in a booster or a car seat, where you can park it. Also, you must pay to plate it, to register it, to license it, you must pass an emissions test in some provinces, it must pass a government mandated safety inspection, etc. The roads you take it on are built and maintained by elected bodies. The men and women who repair them are certified to meet government standards.
Do you live somewhere? Politics will state how much rent you can be charged, how much it will cost to own the land the building sits on, who owns the land, who owns the house, what you can do on the property, the uses the house may have, how big the house can be, what additions and renovations you can make, in some instances how many people can reside in it, and how it must look. Some municipalities do not allow unplated vehicles in the driveway or vehicles with corporate signage on them. Some do not allow any signs on the lawn. Some older houses are designated as historic and then all work must be approved by the town or local office responsible. You pay land taxes, hydro costs, water costs, GST on the house, and the list goes on.
Do you work? Government states what your employer can and cannot force you to do, what they must pay you, how much of that amount is held by the government for employment insurance, Canada pension plan, and income tax. Politicians have decided when you can be fired, when you can sue your employer for wrongful dismissal. Legislation passed by politicians ensures that you cannot be mistreated for becoming pregnant, for being a particular religion, race, or age, and mandates that you must receive a break for every so many hours worked. You must be given holiday pay, severance pay, and a minimum wage.
Your government is also in charge of the defense of your rights. To do this it must enlist a body of willing men and women to ensure that we have an armed force capable of defending us. After all, if we were invaded, our rights would mean nothing, they would vanish.
Most Canadians proudly tout their rights for all to see. There is the right to marry whom we wish, to go where we please, to work where we want, to be free, to socialize, to bear children, to remain single, to be educated or not, the right to free speech, the right to access to healthcare, and the list pretty much goes on forever.
Our water safety is controlled by the government. Our justice system and our laws, and indeed our very security is entrusted to government.
Our country is only as good as its people and its politics and politicians. Should the latter begin to become unsavory and unworthy, then everything thing else will begin to suffer. The quality of everything that politics encompasses will begin to wither.
I often hear people say that Canada is one of the greatest countries in the world. Really? I agree totally. Now ask yourself why that is. The reason is simply because is was built by the people and for the people. Our fathers looked ahead for their children. They were wise and were careful to write our laws for our good, not the government’s, but that is slowly changing. They took an interest in our politics, in the way that we would be forced and encouraged to live our lives. They took an interest in what our children would be taught.
As free people, we must be vigilant. We must guard our nation against those who would oppress us. Those people are always present. They are the men and women who serve in government not for our end, but for their own. By simply claiming that politics does not intrigue us or that we do not understand it does not release us from the responsibility that we have to the next generations.
As Canadians, we are all touched by politics. It is our duty, (an old word and concept to be sure, but nonetheless so very relevant still today), yes, our duty, to ensure that we understand politics, as they are simply the rules and decisions that apply to every facet of our existence as Canadians and it is politics that will determine what our children are left with when we are gone.
If every Canadian that thought they could do nothing actually tried to change someone’s heart or mind, there would be a revolution in this country. It would be a people’s revolution. Canadians would once again demand more from those chosen to elect us. We would become a mighty nation.
If every Canadian that has made a difference had come to the conclusion that they could not make a difference, Canada would resemble a third world country more than it would resemble our present nation.
When Canadians get discouraged about the way things are going in politics, they have only themselves to blame. In some places, and in some elections, 6 out of 10 eligible voters choose not to exercise their constitutional right to elect somebody to represent them. That is abhorrent and a recipe for tyranny and a loss of freedom. That may sound somewhat melodramatic, but it is a historically accurate statement.
Further, at election time, I have countless people tell me that they don’t understand what each of the parties or any of its candidates stand for. Do they ask the candidates questions? No. Do they take the time to phone constituency offices to inquire as to one’s beliefs or values? No. Do they vote? Some do, but some do not. In today’s society, with so much information available at our fingertips, there is no excuse for anybody to be uninformed as to the issues that confront them or the nation, nor to the stand on the issues which any of the major parties take.
It is time that those who believe they aren’t interested in the way their lives and country are run became more pro-active in our system of government. It affects them in every area of their lives, and the lives of their children. It is also time that we help disinterested people understand just how much politics does interest them.
I guess you can say that I am adamantly and diametrically opposed to the statement “Politics don’t interest me.”