Once every four years citizens are offered a brief reprieve from the responsibility of endless decisions about matters concerning their kids, their homes, and their work; of just getting along and making ends meet. Once every four years we are inundated with propaganda telling us that all the problems associated with the triumvirate of economy, ecology, and society can be resolved with the stroke of a pencil. Just one X, if placed in the right spot on the ballot, will do the trick.
Citizens are not offered a range of policy choices on economic, environmental, social, and cultural matters, or choices on how to finance their respective policy preferences. Decisions on issues of any kind, if they were left to citizens, would require an endless string of referendums. The vote on May 14, all propaganda aside, is not a referendum on issues, it is an election. Citizens are asked to pick one person from a list of names given on the ballot. If we are to believe the propaganda, only one group of like-minded people performing under the direction of one leader can have the answers to all our worries and the solutions to all future problems. The proposition is absurd!
Reality has no beginning and it has no end. Reality is a succession of surprises. All our problems arise out of only three circumstances: things we could not have anticipated, things we should have but failed to anticipate, and things we saw coming but ignored. Ours would be a problem-free society if there were a political ideology blessed with infinite wisdom and headed by a leader with impeccable foresight. We would not have shortages of skilled workers or unemployment. We would not have shortages of hospital beds or jail cells. We would not be running deficits and we would not experience disasters of any kind because all of this would have been anticipated and appropriate measures would be in place to avoid and prevent such problems.
Society is made up of individuals, some are cleverer than others, some are luckier than others, but, without exception, we all depend on one another. Daniel Defoe did not chronicle the life of a self-sufficient man; Robinson Crusoe is a fictitious character. Democracy’s philosophy recognizes that we all depend on one another, that we are responsible for each other and that we are all equal. The goods and services we depend upon to survive are produced, arranged, and provided by others, by individuals performing tasks and being responsible not only to themselves, but to society as a whole. Coordinating all of these efforts will be the job and responsibility of the assembly of the candidates we are about to elect.
Democracy’s ethos is not to distinguish winners from losers; it is to compose a mosaic from society’s multitude of political colours. When we vote for a candidate to serve as a member of the Legislative Assembly for the next four years, we take responsibility for the decision we make. Our responsibility is to decide which candidate listed on our ballot is the most likely to listen to what others, also elected to serve in the Legislative Assembly, will have to say on the subject of coordinating society’s needs, ambitions and activities. The key question is: which candidate is the most likely to search for common elements among legitimate albeit conflicting political views and interests?
Party membership and leadership are mere window dressing. What matters in our decision is to find the candidate who is most likely to respect the views of others and set aside party affiliation and personal ideology to work instead at crafting compromise responses to social, environmental and economic challenges as they arise in the years to come. The candidate who leaves me with that confidence will get my X.
Andre Carrel is a retired City Administrator, journalist, author, and full-time grandpal.