New check-off boxes on our ballots?

Posted 03.05.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | It amazes us to hear that in Russia and the old Soviet republics there are many people who want communism back, and that the Communist Parties do well in elections in many places. "Are they crazy?" we ask; "They want megalomaniacs back in power?"

They do. But they wouldn't put it that way. Few people want mass murders or secret police, but a lot of people want guaranteed jobs, enforced low prices on food and staples, free education through university, even free telephone and bus services. They want the security that dictatorial regimes can provide.

In reality, they don't want to feel guilty about pollution, about racism or sexism, about inequalities, about all the social problems which citizens in free societies must concern themselves.

"Life is hard and busy enough," they say. "The fewer worries or obligations, the better."

We have principles of individual freedom and personal responsibility, and these principles are best expressed in the slap-dash democracy of local elections. We don't want the assurances, low prices, and guarantees of Communism in exchange for its social costs. Or do we?

Certainly nobody wants anything labeled "communist." But if we look at the lack of interest in our communities -- as measured by the low number of citizens who vote in local elections -- it looks like our desire to avoid thinking and taking responsibilities is very close to the people in the old Soviet republics.

Our neighbourhoods and our city face big issues. The state of roads, water lines, sewage treatment capacity, policing, and land-use planning is grave. Maybe we can continue to muddle along -- that's humanity's saving skill, muddling along. But muddling along usually ends up shoved in a corner somewhere, with a problem grown much worse because it has been ignored for so long.

We are now in another election year. This November we will pick a mayor and councilors for the next four years. There are no communists running, but there is something like them at work: Our apathy and our self-absorption.

It might be interesting to have a new box on our ballots, one that reads "None of the above.". This would tell the politicians we are not happy with the selection offered, and it also says we want something positive, we want a better choice. We'd like more women running, maybe a couple of seniors, and maybe a couple of youths -- more choice, more new ideas, not more old-boy faces bickering with each other.

Perhaps we also need a second new box to tick off: The "I don't give a damn" box. This won't tell the politicians much, but it will push us to admit to ourselves that we won't engage. Yes, we do want "dictators" to make the decisions for us (and, yes, we love to complain about their decisions after we've refused to vote).

Why else are so many of us so uninterested in the municipal decisions that impact our lives every day of the year?


Copyright © 2013 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/03.13