A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
Contact us at democracyunderfire@gmail.com

Monday, April 13, 2009

What is Democracy?

A recent exchange on the blog Report on Greens brought home to me the difficulty of expressing exactly what we mean by democracy. My bloging partner and I discussed this before starting this blog and thus far have been unable to come up with a real answer, perhaps because it is different things for different people. For me it is focused upon (but not limited to) Parliamentary democracy, having a process free of undue outside influences that allow the people and their representatives to use the system to truly represent the peoples wishes as best as can be established. For Monique it is she says, more “organic”, the ability to effect change to protect our environment from corporate greed, for others it seems it may be even less clear “we can debate this but not that” was one attitude I came across.

Senator McCoy says for her it is “a multifaceted phenomenon, a much richer texture than just voting” and says that “the rule of law is the single most important aspect of democracy” also that “freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of information and -- of course -- the Senate” are part of the thread, so you see our difficulty in defining it.

Monique thinks that this difficulty stems from the economic theory currently plaguing the world; the seduction that we all deserve to make money from our money without lifting a finger (ie, buying stocks, mutual funds etc. so our money will “grow” regardless of what that does to the environment and to other people), and from this faulty mindset comes a partial democracy, democracy for the people with money.

It seems to me that the difficulty stems from the fact that democracy, whether we are talking parliamentary democracy, democratic debate, societal democracy or whatever is that it is the sum of many parts each of which some believe are necessary for democracy and some are less inclined to include.

If we say we can debate whether to give public money to this industry or that one but will not allow debate upon giving public money to libraries or research scientists for instance, is that democratic? If government trumpets from the rooftops its largess to one organization whist carefully hiding is cuts to another, is that democratic? If a party or organization with a particular view point is able to, because of its ability to buy media exposure, negate an opposing point of view, is that democracy? Is democracy just the ability to vote for those candidates put before us by a limited number of ideologically united groups once in a while? Is the power those groups have over their members that requires them to vote in unison on any particular issue something we must accept as democratic? If the press only publishes one side of the story is that enhancing democracy?

I could go on for several pages like this, and I have my own thoughts on each one of them but the overriding question is are all these issues and more part of democracy. I believe they are, but obviously there are those that don’t and it is that point of view that scares me. I believe that democracy requires open, honest, unfettered but polite debate, with nothing hidden, off the table, or unduly influenced by those with power over the system or money to buy that power. Thomas Walkom National Affairs Columnist for The Star recently said “If war is too serious to leave to generals, then surely democracy is too important to delegate to politicians.”. He is correct; democracy requires the input of its citizens - it is in fact the definition of participative democracy.

The reason for this blog is that the authors believe that all of these “parts” of our democracy are gradually being eroded. Judging from the number of web sites and blogs popping up of late on the subject of government accountability, communication, access to information, media bias and similar issues around the interaction between government and citizens, we are not the only ones concerned.

This blog is for you to have a place to express your concerns, or perhaps you think everything is just fine, either way feel free to jump in and say your piece. We welcome dialogue. Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

No comments: