Guest post by Patrick Quealey, a resident of Ottawa and graduate of the London School of Economics.
A friend and I were discussing the Globe and Mail's "Fake Oath" article largely because it illustrated so many reasons why the current state of politics is failing us all. My friend agreed, but found it difficult to figure out 'who to blame'.
This got me thinking. Who is to blame when our leaders fail in their duties? Who is to blame when our institutions no longer work on our behalf or maintain their independence from political control? Who is to blame when no one holds the media, our main source of information, to account for the accuracy of what they are reporting? Who is to blame for the lack of civility and common purpose in our body politic?
The answer is clearer than any diamond or crystal ball, we are all to blame. Each of us bears some blame for the current state of things.
In this particular case the minister should have upheld the integrity and solemnity of both Canadian citizenship and the ceremony through which it is conveyed. The departmental communications officials should have understood their role is to communicate key information to the public and not be the mouth piece for any political party; the civil servants should have simply refused to let themselves be used in this way as it violates the independence of the civil service from political interference; and at the end of the day, every one directly involved should have realized that misrepresenting a citizenship ceremony, is nothing more than the political equivalent of counterfeiting currency or impersonating a police officer. Its fraudulent and it's wrong, regardless of your political stripe.
This is just one of many examples where the governing party has decided to play fast and loose with our most important institutions. This situation begs the bigger question of who is to blame for things getting so out of control? How did we get to the point where our lives seem run by people who view leadership and vision as nothing more than equal parts contempt, fear, anger, spin, forgery and reaction, and why have we let them?
In the end we’re all to blame. As individuals and as a society we’ve systemically tuned out the people, institutions and information which frame and govern our lives because it’s just easier that way. As we have increasingly tuned it all out we have provided the opportunity for our ruling class to ignore us, to see us as disconnected and easy to manipulate; and we are. By tuning out our body politic we‘ve allowed those in power to take advantage of us and the worst is, increasingly few of us seem to care.
We are all to blame.
Every resident who shuts the door during an election rather than engaging and grilling candidates on what they would bring in concrete terms and what they have failed to do is to blame;
Every person who has focused on buying the next best gadget and chasing the next best ‘deal’ while ignoring the erosion of their political, economic and social freedoms is to blame;
Every media outlet and individual reporter who reports information they know is false, or worse, reports accurate information in a purposely misleading or manipulative way is to blame;
Each and every one of us who has allowed our elected officials to go unchallenged at every indignation, when other countries would pour into the street at the slightest breach of their elected official’s contract with citizens, are to blame.
When a ruling political party and any media outlet willingly falsify a ceremony with as much meaning and solemnity as the conveyance of citizenship it provides two very worrying signs. First that those involved didn’t believe they would incur any consequences for their actions, and second it suggests that it’s only a matter of time before other integral aspects of our civil and political life are at risk for falsification and manipulation.
If a ruling party is willing to fake a citizenship ceremony for ‘good press’ what else are they willing to do? In this case the Canadian response of 'just watch me' is terrifying. Any political entity willing to create a Potemkin citizenship ceremony runs the risk of quickly having Potemkin citizens, Potemkin elections and eventually may end up as a Potemkin government of a Potemkin country…
The mindset and tools employed in this case by the ruling party and media are the familiar tools of despots and cowards not leaders and statesmen. We have collectively let our civic and political lives degrade to this point and we collectively have a responsibility to make it right again. What are you going to do? How will you make it right again?
Patrick Quealey is a resident of Ottawa and graduate of the London School of Economics.
1Note this is not to mean free from political direction only that in our Westminster system the bureaucracy is designed to be separate and independent of political machinery unlike in other countries. The bureaucracy is still tasked with executing the policy direction set by the government but is, all things being equal, design to be independent from the politics.