By PIERCE GRAHAM
PROBABLY SINCE its very beginning in early Greece, and later in the minds of the 18th century philosophers, the concept of democracy has been subject to countless iterations, modifications, additions and limitations.
It is no wonder today, then, that it is poorly understood, not just world-wide, but also in countries where it is alleged to have found its finest and firmest footholds. Nations like Great Britain, America, and even Canada come to mind as having exemplary democracies. Yet their democracies are in danger.
Today, democracies that have generally been viewed as being secure, mature, sound, or effective are under threat from what is probably one of the least expected sources. That threat is the very people who are the original, intended beneficiaries of the dream. I refer to those whose presence is revealed in the Greek root name…demos…the masses of individuals in any society.
Throughout the evolution of democratic societies the common goal has always been the consideration, involvement and betterment of the masses of society, rather than just of those with the greatest power, whether social, political, or monetary. It is my contention in this
essay to suggest that the greatest threat to today’s democratic institutions lies in the very members they were intended to serve. I refer to the common man or woman in his or her mindlessly hedonistic, indifferent or apathetic transit. Two massively important current social issues in North America may be taken as illustrations of the kind and severity of the threat.
One is disease protection and recommended or mandatory disease control through immunization; the other is control of hand-guns and automatic weapons. Both are dangers to mankind as he collects in crowded cities; and both must be mandated by governments that are, ironically, required to remove freedom of choice in order to preserve continuity of social process, and, indeed, of individual life. But public apathy and ignorance threaten us.
First, immunization. How ironic that ignorance, hysteria and sheer stupidity have placed people in mortal danger because of their own ignorance and lack of education. And this is
taking place in societies whose education systems raised most of us from ignorance and poverty, put man on the moon, and cured or alleviated the effects of thousands of deadly maladies. And how ironic that, for many people, the technological marvel of the internet has done little better than to expand the irresponsibility of “the back fence” as a source of knowledge.
Ignorance and stupidity can and do occupy major portions of our social network, and feed upon each other.They make a mockery of public education. And people who would gamble their lives and those of their children in the popular, uninformed rejection of science-based medicine are worse than primitive men, who, at least, had a distant future hope. Unvaccinated people are threats to society, and any society worthy of its name and function removes or neutralizes such threats.
Social Irresponsibility cannot be tolerated. The parent who denies his child immunization is irresponsible: it is the sick child who answers, and the parent is not an owner; he is a custodian. The child belongs to mankind and the future.
I find it grossly ironic and hypocritical of anti-vaxxers to denounce and refuse preventive measures provided at public expense, then demand the benefit of public medical care when
they need it. You are either in or you are out, and if you opt for out, then you are a danger to others.
The second issue of social responsibility which concerns me is gun control. I do not refer to guns designed for subsistence or recreational hunting, but those designed for murdering masses of other humans, whom the shooter seldom eats.
Canada’s Prime Minister recently performed an act of egregious cowardice in shrugging off responsibility for this burden, giving it, instead, to municipalities. Can you imagine the stupidity of a municipal-based control law on one side of a suburban street, with absence of control on the other side, simply because the municipal boundary runs down the street, and the voters differed?
Is the law broken only when the bullet crosses the yellow line separating one municipality from the other? Where, then, does responsibility lie? Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals seem neither to know nor care.
South of the 49th parallel, the residents have been lying to themselves for centuries, spouting their sacred Second Amendment constitutional right. I quote it verbatim: “There being no standing militia, the right of citizens to bear arms shall not be infringed.”
It was written in 1776. Here it is in modern sentence structure: “Because the nation does not have a standing armed force or police force, the right of the citizens to bear arms shall not be limited or restricted or governed.”
The essence lies in the opening – subordinate – clause, giving the reason for citizens to bear arms. “Because…” is the reason. Now, fast forward two and a half centuries, and look at that reason. Does America have no national army? No state National Guard? No state police? No municipal police? No highway police? No FBI? No CIA?
No answer required. Only common sense and common decency. America is undoubtedly the most heavily armed and violence-riven society on the earth. But as America drifts inevitably toward a Republican dictatorship personified by Donald Trump’s rabid and armed followers, decency may be a thing of the past.
The right wing of American society, personified by the NRA – the National Rifle Association – has been lying to itself and to the rest of America ever since it was formed. And the public who accept the lies generally lack the courage to face the truth.
I am sorry to see our government follow suit. Mr. Trudeau reminds me of the classic self-caricature of his predecessor, McKenzie King, who is rumoured to have said, “Never let your on-the-one-hand know what your on-the-other-hand is doing.”
But, then, Canada had to lead America’s way into both world wars, so perhaps it is not far fetched to hope that we might once again set course on a mission of decency, care, and common sense. Sadly, Mr Trudeau’s social and political myopia will not get us there.
And just in case my criticism is misinterpreted, neither will the Conservatives, whoever their barely elected leader is this week…or next……
Pierce Graham is a retired vice principal of NorKam secondary, a long-time English teacher, and a member of the Rube Band.