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Left With No Other Choice – Revolution May Become A Viable Option For Even The Most Benign Nation

Qyebec student protests over increased tuition fees

The Occupy Movement; The Tea Party; The Quebec Student Protests; The Recall Vote in Wisconsin; The forced referendum to end the HST in British Columbia; and thousands of social media sites protesting everything from the removal of Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford to Obamacare all have something in common.

They are an indication of a rising discontent with, and a disconnect from, elected representatives and government in general that people are feeling in countries around the world.

Over the past decade and a bit, there has been a growing divide between the electorate and the elected and increasingly, the electorate is becoming more frustrated and cynical about the role played by government and politicians in our societies.

In a democracy, government serves the people but those who are elected to office or who are appointed by those who are elected aren’t serving, they are ruling. In many ways, once they are elected, they are little better than the totalitarian regimes that people are rising up against in countries in the Middle East and other parts of the globe.

“Zap, you’re frozen!” PM Pierre Trudeau’s famous quote after breaking his electionp promise not to impose wage and price controls.

Government has become an entity in and of itself, where politicians focus more on obtaining power and holding on to it than they do on representing the people who elected them. In the process things like integrity, vision, leadership and good governance are replaced by expediency, gamesmanship, arrogance, and too often, corruption.

The people’s issues, which should not be separate and apart from those who govern, have become exactly that, separate and lesser issues. It is small wonder that more and more people are turning their backs on voting. There is a growing, wide-spread belief that elections are little more than pointless exercises.

It is the result of decades of misrepresentation, broken election promises and outright cynical political dishonesty that has brought many to this conclusion.

In the mid-70s, Liberal Pierre Trudeau ran against Conservative Robert Stanfield in an election that was about a single key issue; wage and price controls. The Conservatives campaigned on imposing them, the Liberals campaigned against. It was put to the people who voted overwhelmingly against wage and price controls by electing Pierre Trudeau and the Liberals. Within six months of the election, wage and price controls were imposed by the new Liberal government undermining the democratic right of the people to choose.

It has happened many times in Canada. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty broke no fewer than 75 election promises within six months of first being elected premier and Jean Chretien, who campaigned on eliminating the Goods and Services Tax, reneged on that campaign commitment as soon as he was elected.

In the United States, Barrack Obama campaigned on open and transparent government when he was elected to his first term as President but delivered a government that has been secretive, imposed more surveillance legislation on the American people with Acts like the NDAA and who did not bring the promised change in the way things were done in Washington. In other words, candidate Obama was not President Obama. Change is the most over-used and under-delivered word in politics.

And therein lies the problem.

Think of it this way. When you purchase something, if it turns out not to be what was promised or is defective in some way, you can either return it for a replacement or a money-back refund.

We don’t have that option with government.

Instead, we have politicians and their backroom strategists who focus on winning and who will say just about anything to achieve that. Once the objective has been met, the campaign book is shelved and they go about the business of running government as if it was their own private business, not the people’s business.

This past year, the populist mayor of Toronto was removed from office over an absurd charge of conflict of interest for raising $3,000 for equipment for a football team he put together for underprivileged youth in trouble. A majority of the citizens of the city are rightfully outraged that their elected representative was removed by gamesmanship by a small elite who didn’t like him.

In Canada, political parties have kowtowed to Quebec nationalism for decades. As a result, federal politicians have stood by and watched the rights of English-speaking Quebecers be eroded and suppressed in order to gain seats in the province.

Canada is country where less than 26% of the population lists French as their first language and more than 80% of those people live in Quebec.

Anti-Engllish graffiti in Quebec

Despite the fact that Quebec was moving aggressively towards being unilingual French-speaking and the balance of the country was predominantly English-speaking, a series of federal governments have spent more than $100 billion on forced bilingual programs across the country and in the country’s civil service.

The result? It has led to more division; more frustration and a mere 2% increase in the number of people who are actually bilingual since the program begin in the early 70s.

I think being able to speak more than one language is a wonderful opportunity and have no issue with my country having two national languages but clearly, government has refused to listen to what people have been telling them. They got it wrong in Quebec where they refused to defend the rights of a linguistic minority and they got it wrong in the rest of Canada as well because in both cases, it was less about the advancement of language rights than it was about pandering to linguistic groups in order to win votes.

I can’t help but wonder how much actual benefit those billions might have brought to health care, education, infrastructure and environmental programs rather than this incredible waste.

Our current system is broken and people are frustrated by it. Sadly, that is a statement that can be made in almost every democracy in the world. That frustration is driving people to turn away from the political process but government has failed to respond to the root causes.

Instead, in countries like Australia, government blamed the people and passed a law making voting mandatory. In other countries, including Canada and the United States, politicians and the chattering class accuse those who don’t vote of being apathetic.

I don’t believe that declining voter turnout is the result of apathy. I believe it is the direct result of mistrust. Governments in general and politicians and their parties in particular are polarizing and that breeds a kind of social mistrust which leads to a lack of faith in our political system and other institutions.

Corruption on the level we are seeing in Quebec politics, London Ontario and at the Federal level all combine to further undermine the people’s confidence and once that lack of faith sets in, voting loses its meaning and its value for many.

It clearly didn’t occur to politicians that perhaps a better solution would be to clean up politics and force politicians and government to start listening to the issues that are important to the electorate they are meant to serve.

While Australia remains the only country to make voting mandatory by law, there have been suggestions of similar legislation in other countries although not so far in North America. North Americans and Americans in particular, can get mighty testy if pushed too far.

And I believe we are being pushed too far.

It might do politicians good to remember what happens when the people feel that their institutions, their government, indeed their very nation, has been hijacked by a cynical governing elite. Certainly, Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette could have told them before they lost their heads. So could Czar Nicholas of Russia, The Shah of Iran and George III and the British Parliament who had an unpleasant experience in North America started by the dumping of tea in Boston Harbour.

The British government who were defeated by a little man in India, the former Soviet Union, East Germany, Cuba, Nicaragua and countless other countries provide more than sufficient historical record to the fact that the people can only be pushed so far before they act outside of the constraints of their political system.

It’s called revolution and it is the final act of a people who have lost all faith and trust in those who govern. It is not a desperate act of a desperate people that occurs only in tyrannical regimes. It has happened in republics (democratic and otherwise), democracies and monarchies, theocracies, empires and dictatorships alike. When the people feel they have no other recourse, they will unite to take back their government.

We saw it in 2011 with the Arab Spring where people rose up to remove governments they felt were oppressive and unresponsive. In Syria, more than 90,000 people have died so far fighting to achieve the same thing.

We saw it start again this past month when democratically elected President Morsi of Egypt attempted to take on dictatorial powers. The people rebelled in the streets and protests caused the military to overthrow and remove Morsi’s government from office.

Nowhere is the frustration and anger with government more prevalent than on social media. People are increasingly redirecting their anger at each other to a unified anger with government. Politicians have done a masterful job of dividing us in order to win elections.

They have pitted left vs right, progressives vs conservatives, gay vs straights, race vs race, haves vs have-nots and a wide variety of other groups vs each other because it suited political interests to do so. But most people see themselves in terms of their national identity first and this divisive political strategy is starting to wear thin with many.

In Canada, left to their own devices, English and French speaking people get along just fine. In America, left alone without political interference, the different races interact far more civilly than for which they are given credit.

At some point, the people will remember that they are Americans or Canadians or Britain’s or Australians or French or German or Polish before they are left or right, rich or poor. At that point they will unite against what they will see as a common enemy – their own governments.

It will be a sad, perhaps violent day, when a people see their government as the enemy rather than their representative because that is the day that a more radical action will begin. It is called revolution and it can happen anywhere that people feel they are oppressed by tyranny, by corruption or by failed government and politicians.

We are civil peoples who have built sophisticated and prosperous (for the most part) nations and many don’t believe revolution could possibly happen in our nations. They are, quite simply, wrong. If history has taught us anything, surely it has taught us that revolution can happen anywhere that a people feel their government no longer represents them and instead abuses their trust.

It has always been in the hands of government to determine whether or not there will be a revolution. Those governments that implemented reforms demanded by the people tended to avoid revolution while those who didn’t were over-thrown at some point. Many think it is inconceivable for a revolution to take place in countries like Canada, the United States or any of the countries of Europe but I think it has already started.

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© 2012 Maggie’s Bear
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