Friday, October 11, 2013

Democracy 2.0

If you own a computer, gaming console, smartphone, or tablet, it's likely you've had to update your operating system in the recent past. It's inescapable. Information-technology is evolving at a breakneck pace and if we want to keep our gadgets performing optimally, we must constantly install new fixes.

For the most part these updates consist of minor tweaks. Someone well-versed in the original Windows operating system would probably have little difficulty navigating Windows 7. That’s because despite all its incarnations, Windows has employed the same basic framework since day one.

Similarly, the latest iOS offers a variety of new features that greatly improve functionality, but are any of them really necessary? Will my iPhone become obsolete without this update? Will I have to relearn how to use my phone after the update?

And it looks super sexy.
Of course not. We update and upgrade our gadgets because they have become an essential part of our lives. We depend on them for communication, banking, news, shopping, entertainment, etc. And since they have become so important we want to get the most functionality out of them. We want them to be intuitive and easy-to-use.

It is strange to me that we continually upgrade our smartphones without question but have yet to seriously consider upgrading the other systems that govern our lives.

Why haven't we upgraded democracy? Why haven't we fixed the glitches that plague our political system?

See what y'all did? Thomas Jefferson be spinnin' in his grave.
The American Constitution--the supreme law of the United States--was finalized in 1787. Consider the following quote: "Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right." Is this a radical idea or was the Constitution originally intended to be a rigid, unchanging document? The man quoted above surely had some insight on the matter. He was none other than Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers, and he never intended for the Constitution to outlive him and his colleagues.

In the year 2013, the American Constitution remains largely unchanged.

But that's the United States, not us! Surely we Canadians are not so rooted in the old world?

Actually we're worse. The Canadian counterpart of the American Constitution “is one of the oldest working constitutions in the world, with a basis in the Magna Carta” which was penned in 1215. From my best friend, Wikipedia:
The composition of the Constitution of Canada is defined in subsection 52(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982 as consisting of the Canada Act 1982, all acts and orders referred to in the schedule, and any amendments to these documents. The Supreme Court of Canada held that the list is not exhaustive and includes a number of pre-confederation acts and unwritten components as well.
Don't get too excited: the Constitution Act of 1982 wasn’t a revision but rather a gathering of previously existing acts under one roof. And even if we had done a thorough review of our constitution in 1982 we would still be 30 years removed from said review. Are we to believe that our political system is perfect as is? That since 1982 we have learned nothing and developed no technology that could perhaps make our political system more effective?

Newspapers are crowded with articles about the latest political scandal. Rampant corruption, politicians breaking campaign promises, and governments enacting oppressive laws behind the backs of its people have become commonplace. Didn't we elect these people? Aren't they supposed to look out for us?

It's no wonder voter turnout is at an all-time low. Our version of democracy gives people the illusion of control, nothing else.

Once candidates are elected, they are liberated from promises made on the campaign trail and free to enforce the status quo of their respective parties. Political discourse is dictated primarily by lobbyists who represent the incredibly wealthy minority, the heads of industry who have only one item on their to-do list: extract more money from the walking wallets.

That's us, by the way.
Believe it or not, I don't blame our politicians for their dishonesty. The issue at hand is both larger and more complex than crooked politicians and the tycoons who pad their pockets. Our representatives operate within a system that facilitates corruption and nefarious deals. If anything, it is the system which has corrupted the politician, not the other way around. We can't really blame our fossilized political system either. A lot has changed in the past 30 years, let alone 800.

What worked back then clearly doesn't work now.

The view that nothing can be done, that it is impossible to repair the malfunctioning parts of our political system, is extremely short-sighted. "We've had monarchies and feudalism and republics and empires and dictatorships and communist-states and none of those worked!" some people argue. 

Modern democracies are not the end-all be-all; they're simply the best we've come up with until now. The same can be said of each political system listed above. At the time, each one was the best we had. Eventually we came up with something better.

What I am proposing to you is that we come up with something better and start treating our political system with the same importance we treat our smartphones. I propose that we wrest control of our nation away from the crooked politicians before it is too late and that we drag this democracy of ours into the 21st century. 

By "we" I don't mean Liberals or Conservatives or NDP'ers. I don't mean Catholics or Protestants or atheists. I mean we Canadians and, if we can get our shit together soon enough, maybe even our neighbors to the south, who have it much rougher than we do.

If we work together I know we can do better. I know that we can establish a system that is fair and balanced and without opportunity for corruption. We have the tools, the resources, the understanding.

Let's upgrade this thing. Let's get Democracy 2.0.

It may take a while to download and install but it'll be worth it.

(PS. I hate when journalists decry some great evil without offering solutions. They come in, stir the pot, get us all riled up, then walk away. Great help that is! In order to break this tradition, I'll be tackling the various flaws in our government as I see them and offering potential solutions. Our world is incredibly complex and changing at an alarming pace. Simple solutions just do not cut it anymore. The problems that plague our modern world are the branches of evil. There is no use in pruning them. What we must do is uproot the whole damn tree. /rant over)

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