There is a plague spreading across our vast country, rooting itself in the young. This epidemic is apathy, and it has been growing.
Earlier this month, there was an assassination attempt on the newly elected premier of Québec, Pauline Marois. The news, though surprising, seemed to fade from the headlines rather quickly. And there are many people here whom I have talked to who haven’t even heard of it. Whether people care or not, it has happened, and it’s something people should know about. Someone tried to kill her! And few outside of Québec care.
Also earlier this month, our country’s glorious leader, Stephen Harper, pulled all ambassadors out of Iran. This dimplomatic action is another in an ever-growing list of Harper’s decisions that are damaging Canada—and especially damaging how other countries view us. Why have we, the people of Canada, done nothing to stop Harper? The answer is apathy. Instead of finding ourselves involved in the deadly, ridiculous clusterfuck that is Israel and Iran’s relations, we should be staying out of it and dealing with our own problems.
This apathy should come as no surprise to those who do care. Since the ’50s, the voter turnout for each election has been steadily decreasing. Voter turnout dropped to 58.8 percent during the 2008 Federal election. This phenomenon is not restricted to the federal level, either; it is present within both the Provincial and Municipal level—the municipal level, at least in Nanaimo, might be the worst. In Nanaimo only 26 percent of eligible voters turned out for the last municipal election. And John Ruttan managed to gain nearly half of those votes. So, half of a quarter of the people living in Nanaimo and eligible to vote decided upon who our mayor and city council should be.
Why is this apathy present? There are any number of reasons, all of which people would argue. Have we been numbed by television? How about radio? Or the Internet—ah, there’s the rub. The Internet: it has changed our lives in nearly every way imaginable. First thing I do when I get up in the morning is check my email. A couple hours later I’ll check it again, and then again, and again, and again, until I go to sleep. I doubt I’m the only one. But it’s not just email, it’s everything else one does on the Internet. I browse the same old sites daily: reddit for my news and humour, facebook to live vicariously through my friends’ ridiculous posts and pictures, or twitter (not really, though, considering that I don’t have a twitter account) to get all the same shit as facebook with fewer characters. In this, the 21st century, we seem to care more about our digital lives than our real lives.
Of course, this is a dense, complex issue, and one cannot simply point the finger at the Internet and leave it at that. We could blame Hollywood, celebrities, work, post-secondary education, etc. (I could go on, but, in all honesty, this apathy could be caused by nearly anything.)
No matter what the reasons behind it, our country—and, therefore, our provinces and our cities—are suffering because of it.
Perhaps, as a way to combat this increasing apathy, there needs to be more discussion within any sort of democratic organization about changes that could be implemented. For instance, why not use the Internet in a productive manner? If so many people are present on the Internet so often, why not have them vote online, and extend the voting period to maybe two or three days? Or, we could go the route Iceland chose.
In 2008, all three of Iceland’s major banks crashed. In response to the financial crisis, Iceland’s Prime Minister at the time, Geir H. Haarde, resigned in 2009 for health reasons. Following Haarde’s resignation, the government collapsed. When the new government came into power, they rewrote their constitution, but not in your average way. Instead of those in power coming together to write the constitution, they began an online discussion, which was available and open to all Icelandic citizens. Using the power and possibilities of the Internet, the people of Iceland—nearly all of them—had a say and were active in the creation of their new constitution.
Democracy in Canada is a story headed to a tragic ending, unless something changes. Should we follow Iceland? How many other possibilities are there? If we want democracy to work, we need to get as many people as possible to vote. We live in a cyberpunk world, and it’s about time we embraced it.