Original Thought · Uncertainty

Democracy

This is an unpopular truth, but not everyone’s opinions are equal. ~Shane Parrish

In the Farnam Street post this morning, the above quote appeared. Shane went on to defend the statement with a reliable if simplistic story. ” I am going into surgery and have a few choices to make. While the opinion of my partner and a first-year resident should be heard, they should have less weight than an experienced surgeon.

If we should give more credibility and validity to some opinions or advice in a potentially life-threatening situation, shouldn’t we extend that rationale to other circumstances? Or do we?

If I am considering the purchase of a new laptop, I review information from a number of sources; social media, tech sites, manufacturer’s promotion, friends’and colleagues’ recommendations, and bring my own experience, logic and intuition to bear. Somewhere in the calculation, I might add a measure of confidence to my logic and a friend who has a tech rep. If I am satisfied with the choice and find the decision to be reasonable I (all thing$ being equal) would act and purchase a specific laptop. If I am later satisfied or disappointed with the purchase, I would refine the selection criteria in subsequent searches and weigh the input differently.

Yet, we, without question, believe that every elector should have a full vote. We don’t consider the voter’s preparation for the decision. It would seem outrageous to suggest that informed, concerned, interested, involved individuals should have greater sway in the choice of elected representatives. Is it outrageous for pragmatic or philosophical reasons? What ramifications would we face if voting was a responsibility rather than a right? If I was required to fully participate in the fulsomeness of debate and arrive at a well-reasoned and informed position (whatever that was) before my x on a ballot counted as 1.0, would I be making a different or better choice?

For me, I realize that I have tendencies towards certain political ideologies, I have an ease at making decisions, and I am likely to be more informed about the substance rather than just the sizzle of a policy or platform. Should that make my input more valuable to the greater good than someone who is influenced by self-interest? religious belief? partisanship? financial gain/loss?

Is the idea that elections or referendums should produce the best result a red herring/ What if democracy isn’t about the quality of the choice or even the quality of the participation? Maybe, democracy is about the ongoing quality of equitable relationships. What if the results are supposed to be accepted because it holds polar opinions in tension, somewhere between agreement and conflict? Democracy reduces the disparity of disposition and narrows the bandwidth of societal norms? Is a smaller range of acceptable positions advantageous to individuals, community, society?

Does it feel uncomfortable when the range gets so wide that someone else’s opinion seems reprehensible? Do we stop listening when a line is crossed? It seems that we loudly and quickly assign labels to positions that are outside the narrow spectrum that is safe for discussion. Can the scope grow if we are subjected to a vocal force who espouse a view that is outside the box? I have witnessed changes in societal norms and acceptance that a few years ago was outside the realm of ‘polite conversation’.

The big progressive issues of the past 50 years have gained traction and change the conversation by courageous activists constantly bringing them forward. 50 years ago, no country accepted the concept of same-sex marriage. 50 years ago abortion was taboo. 50 years ago health care was a luxury. 50 years ago sovereign debt seemed impossible. Is it unreasonable or unrealistic to expect that the pendulum will continue to swing? Would democracy suffer if it only swung in one direction? How would conservative voices be heard if the scales were always tipped towards the left? Would revolt be inevitable if only conservative ideas were validated?

Are we on one edge of the paradigm today? Are we on the verge of a swing or the cusp of a revolution? Is the frame stretching or ready to burst? For me, the answer to these questions is “it depends on the day”. With that in mind, I can’t accurately predict where the state of affairs will be in 2019, 2020 or at the end of the next election cycle. It feels like we can survive if we accept responsibility for the process and become engaged in the debate. Is it optimism? Maybe, but without that hope, I need to concede that we are doomed to dangerous conflict. What are you going to choose?

Make Today Remarkable,

B

 

Original Thought · Uncertainty

Foxes and Hedgehogs

In the midst of the 2017 fall election in Calgary, Alberta I am reminded of a quote from the Greek poet Archilochus, who lived around 650 BCE, ” The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The sly fox knows how to deceive his prey and predators with misdirection or misrepresentation or by hiding in the weeds. Even after he has been caught in the henhouse, he won’t just own up to the crime but deflects it towards a skunk, a weasel or another fox.
The hedgehog knows that transparency is the best defence and when he makes a mistake he acknowledges his position and rolls into a ball seeking atonement. He really knows many things but they all revolve around honesty. He knows he is a hedgehog, he knows he isn’t a horse or a hare or a frog. He has accepted his role and has determined to be the best hedgehog in the woods.

I am biased regarding the politics of my city. I was biased going into the campaign and signed the nomination forms for the incumbent mayor and incumbent councillor. I pretended to be objective and neutral during the debates I heard; pretended in the sense that objectivity and neutrality are myths. I bring the sum of my experience to my analysis of ‘evidence’, as do you. I heard nothing that changed my opinion of the candidates and was not persuaded to consider changing my vote. I cat my ballots in the advance poll in favor of Mayor Nenshi and Councillor Carra. I did, however, move my vote for Public School Trustee. The candidate that I initially was leaning towards did nothing to convince me of his trust and I was offended by the heir apparent message that I heard from a campaign worker. I exercised my franchise fully and I anxiously await the results.

In reality, whatever happens on Monday will have little effect on me personally. My taxes might go up 5%, I might pay additional fees for services I use or don’t, I might need to petition my representatives or engage in public forums but all those things have been part of my life for the last 30 years.
However, Monday’s results will have a dramatic impact on our city. Collectively we will be a different place depending on which frontrunner wins the Mayor’s chair. We get to vote once every four years and then wait and see how it plays out. There seems to be a clear enough difference between camps that I/we could predict where we might be when we go to the polls in October 2021. I have declared my subjective preference and no doubt that helps create a vision of a progressive, positive, passionate city where anything is possible for everyone. My worldview worries that under a less visionary leadership, we will see a city that is devoid of culture, except cowboys and hockey teams and a less caring and less equitable place to live.

I recognize that if your preference of candidates is different from mine, you may see hope and possibility through a different lens but that is what democracy is supposed to afford us.
For the next 48 hours, I am going to proudly wear purple and represent hedgehogs as best as I can.

If you live in Calgary, I encourage you to get out and participate in the process. Vote for whoever you choose but don’t let others make decisions on your behalf by not marking your ballot. Stand up and be counted. It’s too important not to.

Make Monday Remarkable,

Bob
And then let’s get back to building a world-class city on Tuesday morning.

Uncategorized

Democracy is Inconvenient

The process, practice and philosophy of democracy is painfully inconvenient.  We hold our breath hoping that decisions made by elected officials don’t cripple us individually and collectively. Anticipating an election, our hopes are that changes will bring about needed results. We are willing to pay for better results. An election happens and very little changes. Government swells to fill all the  imagined needs without actually meeting very many.

In elections and legislative voting, majority rules (or is supposed to ) but what does the majority know about the big issues facing our communities? How can we possibly understand the desires of minorities? Do we care or do we just get it over with?

The wheels slow down at 20% into the new term and by 40%, nothing is really happening. The wheels stop and we wait again. Slow, unrecognizable movement is swept away by a changing world.

Decisions that were easy during a campaign are now impossible. Re-election becomes the goal. The koolaid gets stronger and once energetic, passionate representatives become politicians.

Democracy is inconvenient. Winston Churchill had two famous quotes about democracy.

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all others that have been tried”

I don’t have THE ANSWER but would sure be excited to enter into a discussion or revolution that brought about something we haven’t tried.

Make Today Remarkable, by asking a difficult question,

B