Tuesday, May 19, 2009


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.