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GUEST COLUMN – Democracy is threatened by the very people it serves

(Image: Pixabay.com)

By PIERCE GRAHAM
Kamloops

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.

About Mel Rothenburger (8234 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

5 Comments on GUEST COLUMN – Democracy is threatened by the very people it serves

  1. Jennie Stadnichuk // April 27, 2021 at 2:06 AM // Reply

    I’m a little late in discussing Pierce Graham’s opinion piece on how we “the people” are a threat to Democracy. His perspective is borne out when we closely examine North American politics, i.e., by noticing the millions of voters who voted for D. Trump: it’s evident they support a Fascistic Egocentric showman! Nothing democratic about him and his views as represented by his four years as President. Despite the fact he was not elected by the convoluted Electoral System the USA practices, his enormous right wing popularity frightens me. He does not speak to the moderate, thoughtful democratic voter. Also, we can look to many European Countries who elected Right Wing populist representatives (google “Right wing populism / National Populist parties) and you’ll find this phenomenon has been on the rise since early 2010. Many who study our world’s slow, steady movement away from Democratic Principles attribute this to austerity measures and to immigration (migration). Why not examine how poverty has forced human movement / migration? We will then see the long lasting effects of Colonialism (Africa, Central & South America) as we examine the long lasting effects of war and climate change. While we consider the above, we need to simultaneously understand that we have surrendered much of our Democracy to Corporate Colonialism / Consumerism — and that we have done so willingly and blindly. In this culture, those of us who fall into the “have nots” will be easy prey for Nationalism be it political or corporate, we simply ‘buy into’ their message. ….. As I reread my “opinion”, I realize I have undertaken a lengthy essay that I do not have time to finish. I do hope readers consider the several points I have made. Yes, Mr. Graham — we the people — often aren’t bright enough to see what we are doing — we are too easily manipulated!

  2. The media’s job is to report social phenomena, I do not pretend to lament anything, our city council has nothing to do with the issue I addressed, and I have no distaste for the Trudeau government . Give your head a shake and try to clarify just what it is you are trying to say. But please do not address it to me.

  3. Read it again. City councils have no authority to control handguns or abuse of Medicare. And neither

    does my letter contain a “desertion on democracy,” whatever that is. And the CBC does not have a front page, to my knowledge…..I am not sure what you are talking about. Are you?

    • There is a CBC “front page”, it is online. I wasn’t talking about council having “authority” over Medicare or handguns. I mentioned council because of their disservice to democracy at the local level.

  4. So a letter that had to be a way of venting a distaste for our current liberal government and our Prime Minister, never mind a heartfelt and mindful desertion on democracy. Mostly though it can be easily argued the greater disservice to democracy has been done by the media. Even on the venerable CBC there was a front page article recently regarding one of the few cases of negative reaction to one of the vaccines, making it sound almost like it is better to avoid vaccination altogether. Furthermore, if we are generally hedonistic and ignorant (because we are in my opinion) there always is a media outlet somewhere “feeding it” to the masses…and social media has now made it pervasive on an unprecedented scale.
    So do your part Pierce Graham, don’t pretended to lament about the loss of democracy, your intentions are just more petty. And if your really want to get to the heart of the matter don’t look any further than to our local City council. Their aversion to criticism and arrogant, condescending pretense of some sort of intellectual superiority should be condemned without mincing words.

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