I've been thinking a lot about democracy lately and realize I either slept through the politics courses, misconstrued what I thought I understood, or invented my own meaning of the word.
Bloopers have always been fun. A good collective laugh is a healthy thing for a society. This would be a perfect year to start the "Democracy Blooper Awards." I'll begin with a few of my favourites and others can jump in with theirs.
As an aside, I'll note this might also be the year I'm done with democracy. I've been very disappointed. Even at its best, it has proven to be an out of control PR performance where points are given for best spin, rather than outcome. How about a new reality TV show called "So You Think You Can Get Elected?"
I could be ready for a benevolent dictatorship except benevolence seems to be both fleeting and at odds with impenetrable belief systems. "Dogma Bloopers" could be next years' awards but that kind of humour tends to result in death, torture and entrenched inalienable rights.
Democracy needs a serious overhaul. Access to the club is far too lax, requiring only a "free" election, which, as far as I can see, means nothing more than not having to pay to vote (although you can get paid for your vote or strong-armed, or offered only one crappy choice).
Once elected and ensconced in the big, fancy ruler house, democratic leaders can take their democracies in pretty much any direction. Mightn't we add some criteria to the membership checklist?
I was going to suggest we start by identifying the obvious culprits -- like those who put the term democratic in their name i.e. The (People's)Democratic Republic of... but frankly, I'd rather start closer to home here in Canada in the slightly short of democratic fiefdom tightly ruled by Stephen Harper.
This isn't about policy and legislation that doesn't fit my progressive views. I hate that, but it's not the stuff of democracy bloopers. It's the stuff of inequity, and sadly equity and democracy are merely mistaken for synonymous.
So lest I go on too long, I'll start my blooper list in no particular order:
Canada -- Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, two encyclopedia-sized federal omnibus bills that decimate environmental protection, citizen input and native rights, rammed through parliament with virtually no time for review or input. Stephen Harper, you control freak. Might anyone else get a say?
Egypt -- Newly "approved" constitution that seeks to entrench Islamist sharia law and exclude the voices of women, liberals, and other minorities. A president who unilaterally grants himself the widest authority. Perhaps this young democracy should be cut some slack while its civil institutions fall into place -- but it's off to a really bad start from which I fear there is no just, peaceful return.
Russia (where to begin?) -- Pussy Riot imprisoned. Approval of paramilitary squads of Cossacks to patrol the streets for minor public disturbances and to promote Conservative values. Consistent backing of Bashar al-Assad's murderous dictatorship. Vlad, you're a Tyrannosaurus Rex in wolf's clothing.
Maybe I'm sadly mistaken and this form of government, that wars and revolutions have been fought to defend, is merely a thin veil of a costume. But I'd prefer to think there's more to it than that. When do the leaders of Russia, Egypt and Canada, to name just my choices, stop hiding behind the illusion that the majority of people have spoken, and they have listened?
I'm not arguing that these governments are equally offensive, but if one were to take a poll of successful democracies, Canada would be one of the tops, while the others would fall nearer the bottom. We should expect far more from those who are scoring the world's highest democracy marks.
Ok, so "Democracy Bloopers" are not as funny as sports or film bloopers. And maybe the word, much as I love it, doesn't fit. It's more for the accidental, unplanned and uncalculated.
So instead, I'll ask Stephen Harper, Vladimir Putin and Mohamed Morsi to step forward and receive their well-earned 2012 "Spitting in the Face of Democracy" award for successfully making a mockery of the form of rule they claim to represent.
How about for 2013 both leaders and democracies behave themselves better!