By Steven Kaszab
Can we assume that we live in a democracy? Can we assume that the democracy we live in – puts the individual citizens’ rights above all else? Can we assume that our governments and their various agencies work towards fulfilling the promise of democratic rights?
Well, if you think about it the questions above, will lead to more questions with often unwelcome answers.
We believe our nation is a democracy, where our neighbour’s freely elect those who will represent us and work on our behalf. We believe in the promise of democracy, that each of us, no matter our differences will be seen by our government to be equal, free and endued with particular human rights.
We are told that our governments’ desire is to protect our freedoms and work towards their welfare.
One tool governments and their agencies created is The Freedom of Information Act ( FIA). Many nations have such legislation describing the capacity for the government to provide timely and accurate access to internal data concerning government services. Each province and territory has access to freedom of information legislation. Great idea right? In theory yes. In practice not so much.
Ever tried to get information using this legislation?
Well, let us talk about a costly venture, and if you think you can get information quickly, you are misguided. The financial cost if high, limited the process to institutions, corporations and those with coins. Timing is also an issue. We are talking about months, years and decades to get some information. If the information you seek has anything to do with national security, policing or the government you may wait forever, and once you receive this information don’t be surprised if much of it has been redacted.
The FIA seems a tool that assists the government and its agencies to delay and hide their secrets. Highly undemocratic eh?
Our governments spend a great deal of time and money carrying out legislation to protect themselves, their bureaucracy, and their friends.
For example, the Supporting Ontario’s Recovery Act passed by Ontario’s government protected the government and senior living management from lawsuits so long as they “acted in good faith” in carrying out their mission to protect the citizens of Ontario. There you are, a freely elected government protecting itself and its friends, no matter how badly they may manage this crisis. No transparency or accountability. We can kick them out of office but they may still be protected. Try to get information on what happened during the crisis and be stonewalled by the FIA.
Governments are made up of our fellow citizens. Most of the time they are charismatic, hard-working well off people and groups. They are not like the rest of us. They are ambitious gamblers who will do whatever it takes to win and take another step towards fame and fortune. Since they are motivated in a duel fashion, towards self-empowerment and assisting us, our elected officials become dictators in their own right.
Once elected there is nothing the average citizen can do, but wait for the next election. Those in power may be affected by social media or community influences but otherwise, they are in power for the long haul. They will do what needs to be done to accomplish a satisfying the status quo. Is this democracy?
In the US, legislators passed legislation giving corporations the same rights as the average American.
While an individual has all the protections of being a citizen, they can also be arrested, charged with a crime and go to prison. Try that with a corporation, made up of many owners, stockholders, managers and employee’s, the corporation is more protected in America than a citizen. If a district attorney wanted to charge a corporation for a crime, who do they charge? The legal and judicial process could go on forever, ultimately protecting the corporation. What if they are an offshore corporation? What can be done right? A man or woman in an America prison for many years before the corporation can be held to account for its perceived misdealing’s.
Democracy? Whose democracy?
Our legislators show deference to the powerful and influential. It has been this way for all time.
Those who wish to be powerful, wealthy and secure protect the powerful. Only religious figures believe the poor shall inherit the earth. The poor, disabled, unfranchised can experience their portion of democracy every 4-5 years by electing someone who seems a lot like the other previously elected. Legislators were so enthralled by the powerful that they gave away America’s greatest gift, the rights and protections of Citizenship to a (Corporation), an artificial creation that does not breath, laugh, love or create for the sake of creating. They put their chips into the pot of greed and manipulation.
Democracy promises a circular process that promises progress and delivers just enough to satisfy the unwashed among us.
Can we live in a democracy that is also capitalistic? There is no greater power more self-interested, more selfish in its very nature then our economic system. Capitalism invented democracy. In that way, the powerful can maintain their influence upon all citizens. Historically the world moved from dictatorship of the Royal to the dictatorship of the wealthy.
Ever feel like our representatives are working against us? Do you not trust your government?
Imagine those people who stormed the US Capital on January 6, 2021. They received promises that did not come to fruition. And they are viewed as the bad guys. They came from midtown USA, a place that has been slowly dying economically and socially for many years. They sought justice and fairness for their families, communities and towns.
They remind me of the Indigenous Peoples of America and Canada, who have been struggling seemingly forever to be treated respectfully and get their land claims fulfilled. Many promises later and still many reservations and communities do not have proper housing, schools or clean drinking water. Like other forms of government, democracy finds it easy to ignore the weak, powerless, fringe elements of society. Human government promises limited power to those like itself. Ultimately our governments are just like our society, suffering from social injustices, prejudices and economic greed.
Democracy is only as good as the citizens it represents. The greater the energy of participation and intelligence shared by all citizens, the more vibrate, transparent and accountable their democracy can be. There are so many inequalities and negative influences in our world. The good we do has a time limit, whereupon something in the future will challenge our good and try to substitute with another.
Perhaps democracy exists in so many different ways, in so many different locations in the world; we can only work towards our own unique form of government, “our own shangra la”.