Those who stand for nothing fall for anything. - Alexander Hamilton
One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. - Plato
What is tolerated today becomes accepted tomorrow. - Various Attribution
An interesting conversation this week on the Facebook page of a member of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta reminds me of why we have the politicians we have.
It’s because we accept anything they give / tell us.
And while we like to rant and rave about what politicians allegedly do to us as we claim victimhood at the hand of their alleged incompetence or corruption (as some people claim), the reason politicians do what they do boils down to one thing.
It’s because we accept anything they give / tell us.
On the previously mentioned Facebook page this week, there was a discussion around the right-leaning parties of the Alberta political sphere and the possibility (or impossibility) of the two primary parties, the Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservative Party, reuniting against the left-leaning NDP Party currently in power.
While the conversation was interesting and mostly respectful, I asked a couple of questions, specifically around whether people can come to an agreement regarding the definition of the words “progressive”, “conservative” and “values”, since failure to come to an agreement on what these words mean would prevent any such alliance from happening.
This sparked a healthy exchange until a former member of the Alberta government proceeded to give their views. The individually waxed poetically about such concepts as principles, values, forgiveness and acceptance and the need “to do better and be better for, and, to each other.”
I thought it was a pretty cool, unifying message although one thing remained stuck in my craw from the previous election loss, a rumor that had been attached to this MLA and which suggested or implied unethical or potentially illegal behaviour and so I asked if the rumor were true. There was no issue with stating it publicly since it had been rolling around in the public space anyway.
[Background Note] In my world and in the public-facing role I have, questions come in my direction every day, some friendly and inquisitive and some accusatory / confrontational. When one accepts a public-facing role, one does one’s best to answer every question respectfully and as fact / data-based as possible.
When I asked for clarity on the rumor that was already in the public space, the former MLA and others supporting this person immediately demanded that my question be removed and made the demands in such a way that the person who owned the Facebook wall felt threatened as exhibited in this text exchange between the Facebook wall owner and myself.
The reason he gave for deleting my request for clarity was also intriguing.
So the mere act of asking for clarification on something being discussed about a former politician (who has a desire to be re-elected) in the public space provides people with a reason to feel fearful of asking for clarity or for allowing the request to stand. This is especially intriguing given that the person being questioned had just cited the need “to do better and be better for, and, to each other.”
Meanwhile an executive within the PC Party texted me this message as he observed the events that unfolded.
I wonder how a Party can expect to rebuild itself on values, transparency and the like when people who request clarity on same are threatened or an effort is made to intimidate them into silence.
The Bottom Line
While many tout our democracy as the greatest form of government on the planet, they forget that the key elements of it need to be constantly, consistently and vigorously earned, re-earned, defended and championed.
One of the tenets of our democracy is the right to request transparency in the actions of those who claim to represent our best interests in our legislatures.
However, a dual crime of democracy occurs when someone who claims to serve us dares to shout us down instead of providing a response to requests for clarity AND the person being shouted at acquiesces without resistance or reason.
When these things happen, our democracy is in danger of producing a result that is not as ideal as that which we desire or deserve.
In such situations, if our democracy or the results it produces is tarnished in any way, we can’t blame the people we put in office nor can we criticize their actions because the reality is that we put them in office and if we accept their actions and keep re-electing them anyway, we have only ourselves to blame.
After all, when we have high expectations of our government and its elected representatives and they appear to be disappoint us consistently, maybe we need to re-examine our expectations of ourselves before criticizing the people we elect.
Unfortunately, I think it is always easier to hold others to a higher standard rather than ourselves since dodging responsibility and accountability requires much less effort when we expect both to be exhibited by others and not ourselves.
What do you think?
Does it matter?
What are you doing about it?
Forget asking what a politician stands for – what do YOU stand for?
In service and servanthood,
Addendum For the history buff who wondered if I chose the Alexander Hamilton quote deliberately on the 211th anniversary of his death in a duel, I can assure you that it was pure coincidence.
My friends at the Bank of New York used to joke that on the day he died, he told employees of the Bank that he founded not to do anything until he got back. Hey .. it’s their joke … not mine! Great people over there with a great sense of humor.
Addendum 2 – Things That Make You Go Hmmmm – July 12, 2015
I received a cease and desist letter from a legal firm representing an unrelated person who thought I was writing about them. Oooops – guilty as charged for a crime as of yet unknown by anyone except the perpetrator. I guess there are more skeletons present than people are aware of.
As a friend of mine pointed out today, Israeli police sometimes offer something of interest to see who takes the bait, referring to the process as the integrity test. The party drawn out is clearly guilty – one just needs to figure out the crime.
In the spirit of offering to help people as much as I can, I offer politicians the quick reference guide to lying as shown below. Click on the image for a larger version.
Addendum 3 – Closing Thoughts – July 18, 2015
What I find interesting about the party in question is that many people who blocked progress before and who fought openness in order to prevent embarrassing truths from coming out are now the same people writing blogs about the importance of truth and openness while simultaneously still blocking the truth.
They wanted to be the hero then by preventing the truth from coming out, they want to be the hero now by pretending to offer enlightenment that is allegedly unknown to everyone else and they are attempting to be the hero of the future by keeping skeletons buried in the closet.
You can’t have it all.
Addendum 4 – I Guess I’m Not Done – August 12, 2015
With a by-election being called in Calgary-Foothills, I dared to ask what the strategy was to win the hearts, minds and votes of the people after the devastating loss by the PC party in May.
Here is one person’s response (click on the images for larger versions):
I guess the PC party (or at least the loudest people within it) have some learning to complete.