The people of North Africa and the Middle East continue to protest for their democratic rights, willing, and often paying for that decision with their very lives. Yet, in my seemingly stable, and decidedly more democratic world of Canadian society, the onset of the fourth federal election in seven years has people rolling their eyes, and exhaling with a frustration that signals the seeming futility of it all, and undoubtedly helped contribute to the lowest voter turnout in Canadian history the last time around, 58.8% in October, 2008.
Is this right? I know it is perhaps understandable given the choices on our political stage, the adoption of U.S. style attack ad campaigns that barrage an unsuspecting population even before the call-for-an-election writ is sealed, and campaigns that are conspicuous for no other reason than their lack of visionary platforms. For the most part, we, the electorate, are left with leaders who are more inclined to tell us what their adversaries are doing wrong, rather than what they plan to do right. We are presented with often contrived hypotheticals to fear, as opposed to the inspiration of progressive vision.
Yes, voter reaction is understandable. But, is it right? Around the world, people are dying for the right to something we are increasingly apt to brush aside, as if it were a nuisance. Where is our collective sense of social responsibility? Everyone’s life is becoming increasingly busy these days, and we all have responsibilities of some magnitude to manage in a finite amount of time. But, everyone manages to prioritize his or her life to some extent.
Maybe the question should be rephrased? What priority do we place on our democratic privilege? I would hope that it is greater than the 58.8% rating shown in 2008. 58.8% would amount to, at best, a D grade in much of our nation, and, at worst, an F – a failing grade. Neither is acceptable.
Our democracy should not be a right that we choose to opt out of, at our convenience, with little or no thought. Wading through the endless sea of issues, non-issues, and spin doctrine is not an easy task. It requires time, and effort, the same type of effort that leads some who seek it, to be willing to pay the ultimate price.
Surely, if we want to acknowledge the efforts of our fellow global citizens in their fight for democratic rights, and do justice to their admirable cause, and more importantly, their sacrifice, the very least we can do is treat our democracy as a responsibility. Somehow, our cost in fighting apathy seems incredibly cheap by comparison.