That some people choose to live more public lives-by running for civic office, association positions, corporate boards of directors, union management -regardless of motivation, provides each of us the opportunity every day to learn something more about ourselves and our societies.
Politics, political activity, politicians: these are defining characteristics of human civilization even when it is presented to us in the form of head butts and decision making under the influence.
So, remember the words of Vaclav Havel:
If the hope of the world lies in human consciousness, then it is obvious that intellectuals cannot avoid forever assuming their share of responsibility for the world and hiding their distaste for politics beneath an alleged need for independence - Speech to Congress, Washington DC Feb 1990The events across the pond reminded me of an email I wrote way back in 2008 in response to a piece by Lawrence Solomon in which he decried the lack of bi-partisanship back here. I've included excerpts of my email to him below.
Feb 24 2008
Dear Mr. Solomon
Your recent article, Common Ground, struck a chord with me. Such matters have been on my mind recently as well. Cooperation – or, in political terms, bi-partisanship – is sorely lacking in Canadian politics and has been for some time. The decimation of the Progressive Conservatives after Mulroney certainly helped reinforce the idea of the Liberals as the natural ruling party and saviour of all Canadians . . . and the need to work together as Parliament disappeared from Canadian politics for over a decade. The foundation of true bi-partisanship, respect, is largely absent, and the behaviour of our (not always so) Honourable Members is akin to that of, well, pre-schoolers.
But think back to kindergarten, Mr. Solomon, when we all learned to play nicely together in the sandbox and to share our toys. Cooperation, patience, sharing and respect are learned behaviours, so important that an entirely new grade, kindergarten, was created.
That aside, the adversarial turn runs deeper than just within federal politics. I think it is more insidious at the inter-governmental level because it strikes a blow against the cooperative federalism envisaged in our Constitution.
. . .
I loved my first year poli sci course for what it taught me about our Constitution, and the specific sections that had the most relevance in our daily lives, such as sections 91-93. Professor McCullough made clear how important the division of powers is in support of the Constitution’s goal of providing for Peace, Order and Good Government. This division was never meant hierarchically; rather it was meant to serve the diverse needs of governing a large country efficiently.
. . .
Most Canadians would be surprised to learn the federal government is not in primacy over the provinces; they would be surprised to learn that municipalities are non existent in the constitution, and their ability to thrive is due largely to the whims of their provincial governments, not federal; that the federal government cannot just decide to spend money to support our welfare state which is the responsibility of the provinces.
. . .
The political and economic reality of Canada forms a black hole of knowledge for Canadians, including those running the country.
. . .
We learned how to play nicely once before . . . maybe a refresher course is needed. Is there a day care on the Hill?
The thing is, we ALL live political lives already. We each can live more effective political lives by assuming responsibility for at least our small part.
If you'd like to brush up on your Canadian political knowledge I highly recommend City Politics Canada by James Lightbody and The Canadian Founding by Janet Ajzenstat.