Tuesday, May 19, 2009

WHAT WAS LOST



Citizenship, is all.

Somewhere in those mysterious actuarial gardens where numbers grow unbidden like kale come post election polls.

Last week, we were first meant to believe that the voter turnout in the BC provincial election was a mythical 52%. Most of us knew, and it was later confirmed, that 48% was the much more accurate and darker truth.

Less than half the eligible population of this barely civilized outpost left their important rounds long enough to appear at their local elementary school gym to exercise their franchise.

How many millions took up arms and died merely 60 years ago for such privilege? How do we honor and remember them?

The explanation for this shame is twofold.

New Canadians

We have all done a woefully inadequate job of integrating immigrants into the real fabric of our mythically diverse society.

So many recent immigrants from many countries, especially Asian countries, have no knowledge of and no interest in local affairs. What Val Someladyorother or Wally Whatsis has to say about salad or sambas or bicycle paths on throughways carries no weight for these folks. In fact, they don’t even hear the messages.

Whose fault is this?

Yours, theirs and mine. That’s whose fault it is.

Immigration Canada demands not enough. The settlement societies are too defensive and negative, looking more for Canada to accommodate the new than for the new to develop an awareness of Canada. And the so-called ethnic communities are largely focused on creature comforts. The same obsessions that I will discuss in a moment with reference to Old Canadians – consumerism and marketing. New Canadians want an SUV or two, 4,000 square feet in the burbs, hockey equipment. That’s the Canada they have bought into. What’s voting got to do with all this?

Old Canadians

The other group that couldn’t be bothered to turn out at the voting booth last Tuesday was the thirty-somethings who are second and third and fifth generation Caucasian Canadians. Old fogies like me showed up, and thankfully some young voters appeared, but the backbone of the community was busy with their cell phones, blackberries, SUV’s, hockey leagues, bar dates, plasma TVs and all the other myriad forms of mindless amusement that passes in this neck of the woods for culture. What is, in fact, a society of brain-dead shoppers, ennobled by being made a part of the Consumer Index.

American public schools cannot hold a candle to ours, but they do have one glaring advantage. They maniacally, often jingoistically, but with good reason and result, teach something called “Civics” throughout the school years.

This is your government. These are the documents and struggles that brought it to birth and to date. This is how it is supposed to work.

Not that it is the “truth,” or even something approximating reality. But it is something.

It forces on young minds a burgeoning awareness that the democratic process and dream have a history and a prize.

* * *

It doesn’t really matter that much in the long run which of the scallywags won office last week.

What is more important – and disheartening – is that so few people found import in this moment.

The politicians are not to be blamed – except, of course, for their own low quality of character and offerings.

We are to blame for not finding enough excitement or vision in our own holy enterprise.

When we care little enough to send the very worst, this is what we get.

When we care little enough to remind ourselves and our neighbours about the rewards and demands and responsibilities of citizenship, this is what we get.

Citizenship is being lost. May it soon again be found.

7 comments:

Gavin said...

Amen David....I voted at the advance poll and as I looked around the room and it was crowded....I saw mostly members of visible minorities voting. Then again I live in an area that is multi-cultural. 48% is shameful, we get the politicians we deserve.

Anonymous said...

I also voted in the advance poll and it was fairly crowded when I was there. I thought that this boded well; however, I was sadly mistaken. My daughter is 17 and she is excited that in less than two years she will be eligible to vote. Her high school held mock elections (the Liberals won and STV did not pass). Given the talk around our house, this was a big disappointment to her and somewhat of a surprise -- I guess she hoped that teenagers would be slightly less conservative. We can only hope that the next generation will be more involved citizens. Although having said that, even though I went to the voting booth, I couldn't bring myself to vote for either of the choices for Vancouver mayor.

And I fully agree that citizenship is being lost and I place the blame squarely on our politicians. As you say, they demand little of new citizens.

I also completely agree with your take on our schools and their lack of instruction regarding our history and our government. Much of what passes for history in our schools is some politically correct information about the First Nations.

Good to see that you may pop up to blog when the mood strikes. You made my morning, because even though you said you weren't going to blog, I keep checking, just in case!

Mo.

Dave C. said...

David,

Glad you're back in the pulpit, even part time! Completely agree with your comments. I'd go one further though, and suggest that voting in provincial and federal elections should be mandatory and enforced with hefty fines. I believe the Aussies do it and increasingly I find myself more aligned with those folks than Canadians on these controversial topics.

And "yes" to some form of Civics course in high school. As important as Nov. 11 ceremonies are, we need to remind our youth about the sacrifices that many groups have made at various times in our history on behalf of our country.

DC

Anonymous said...

My wife and I voted as absentees. I believe that the low voter turn out has a lot to do with immigration. I work in an industry where 75% of the people are visible minority. That seems like an oxymoron. Well many of my fellow truckers do not read write or understand English very well. They do not live in Canada as Canadians but live here as though they are visitors. Instead of them becoming Canadianized they are bringing their customs and traditions and living in Canada like it was still India. Perhaps due to the lack of democracy in many other countries our immigrants don't even understand that they can vote.. I don't see much improvement in the future unless we make voting mandatory

Gary said...

Mandatory voting? Just the folks I want to determine under whose Rule we will exist under for the next 4 years! People that are MANDATED to vote.............. or else. That would certainly create throngs of well versed, well informed, well studied, Voters to the Polling Booths.
As an aside David, I just KNEW that I have been clicking on your Site daily for a reason! You just made my day!
Cheers

Keith said...

My father served in WW2 and the only time he voted was when I pushed him to vote.
How is the voter turnout determined?
In the past there was an enumeration before an election and not everybody was recorded on the voters list.
Today the government relies on a question on the income tax form asking whether a person is a citizen followed by a question whether that person wants to be recorded on the voters list.
I live in a small aprtment building and noticed several tenants left their voters cards to be returned by the postman.

FeStealth said...

I've always maintained that the reason for low voting turnout is how the eligible voters were raised.

The majority of the population are raised spoiled, where it's "I want, I get" and if things don't work that way, "The system is broken, it's all their fault!"

People needs to understand that the person you vote isn't going to win all the time, and that's democracy, it's not what YOU want, it's what the MOST people want. I knew going into the election, my candidate wasn't going to win, but I still voted for him because I still want to throw my support behind my party.