Yes, My Friends, Everything is Political

Here are some notes. They fall under the general category of democracy.

Issues of legitimacy haunt independent journalists. Why? Independent journalist are not attached to any legitimating body. They need to seek sources for their stories, and those sources need to be legitimated. This isn’t always a problem, but journalists, any writer, interested in social change needs to go outside the parameters of legitimacy to engage with not what is, but what is possible.

Any writer concerned with democracy feels the weightlessness of their words, if those words lack the stamp of a legitimating authority. A scholar needs to find a peer reviewed and published work deemed legitimate by the institution to begin her critique. A journalist needs official sources to get the story right. When the story falls outside common sense, finding legitimate sources is near impossible.

Common sense is a sense I continue to struggle with. We know a lot of things — we think a lot of things — that are so basic to our understanding of the world that writing them down is unnecessary. As an adolescent, and then when dealing with kids over the age of 10, (an interesting age when conditioning is more or less complete and reflective thinking is kicking in) you’ll hear, “I thought we lived in a democracy?” or “I thought we lived in a free country?” It’s just common sense that we live in a free country, which is of course a democracy. The evidence to the contrary of this common sense, doesn’t seem to have an effect on the way we understand our situation. Clearly we do not live in a democracy, the basis of this note/post is the question of authority and legitimation as an external conditioner imposed upon a writer’s practice and limiting expression and action.

In the Weekend edition May 1-3, 2009 of the Metro, Ezra Levant writes in the Comment & Views section,

Funny: I thought freedom of speech, freedom for the press and freedom of religion were human rights!

He ends the article with, “freedom is a Canadian value and we won’t give it up easily.” He says in the article that we take this freedom for granted, and that the price is eternal vigilance, but if you find that whenever you actually say or do something outside the parameters of ‘Canadian Freedom,’ you find yourself in court (literally or figuratively), would the base line not then be that we live in a heavily legislated society, and that we’ve got the choice to obey or resist?

I’d also like to make a note of the Metro’s May 8-10, 2009 Comment & Views section. In the article titled “Vote – democracy will thank you”  we get another short piece heavy on common sense. It’s peppered with phrases (are they cynical?) like “The miracle of Democracy,” “a privilege many people in the rest of the world do not enjoy,” “this choice is better than no choice,” and then it goes into the old line about the apathy of the electorate. But here, trotting out these old tired lines, there are some interesting moments. Paul Sullivan writes,

“For some reason, everyone is really good at complaining about the government, but not so good at doing anything about it.”

Even writing the words ‘journalistic integrity’ calls the notion into question, but my concern here is journalistic curiosity. “For some reason,” just like that, is dismissed, it is as though this reason is of no interest. What interests our writer is the tired old line about the complaining non-voter. The implication is that those who do not buy-in to the illusion of representational democracy are somehow themselves the systemic problem. Could the reason be, as is even mentioned in the article, that there really isn’t anything the voter can do about it? We are limited by weak choices. Look at the Vancouver-False Creek riding with a Conservative running as a Liberal against a 22 year-old-tit-grabbing-kid!! No seriously make your choice, and live quietly with it. This statement is also ridiculous but because as common sense it stands without editors needing to check the facts and sources. It’s a joke sure, “everyone;” where’s the source to confirm that number?

And this is good too:

“More than 40 per cent do not live in a democracy and have no say over who runs their lives.”

Is that what a democracy is? Choose the people who run your life? Choose your Gods and Kings? Or might democracy be better understood as the right to manage your own affairs in community with others. It might, but that’s not what we have. Looks like real democracy still needs building.

And one more note…

Ok, maybe this is a few notes, but they do relate.

At Broadway Station on Thursday morning a transit employee used the system’s loud speaker to say “Carole James rocks” and in all the news reports this was followed by a negative comment, let’s imagine “Gordon Campbell is a big fat liar” (That’s been going around on the back of a bike for the past few weeks.) The employee was sent home, his actions are under investigation, and he will be dealt with accordingly.

Teachers have had the same sort of muzzle strapped on them by their employers. (And Canadian scientists too)

Bill 42, B.C.’s pre-election ‘gag law’ which took effect on February 13, is an attempt to muzzle all critics of the BC Liberal government in the 90-day period preceding the May 12 provincial election.

And in today’s Province (Thursday May 7, 2009) it looks like Onion-like-lampooners have struck again. On A3 there’s an article about Parliament’s unanimous support for integrating seal pelts into designs of the Canadian Olympic Team’s uniform. Yes, my friends, everything is political.

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