August 28, 2012

The 2012 Quebec Election, or Why Democracy Is Beautiful Even Though You Don't Always Have Your Way

The 2012 Quebec election has got me thinking a lot about democracy.

For those of you who don't know about Quebec, let me explain; Quebec is one of the 10 provinces of Canada. The concept of a province in Canada is equivalent to the concept the state in the U.S., although a province has little less independence than a state. Although they operate under the federal government, each province has its own provincial government. The provinces regulate their own healthcare and education systems, for example.

Politics is a touchy subject everywhere, and especially in Quebec. Quebec is a diverse society that has many social and political cleavages, and a particularly divisive issue: the debate over sovereignty.

Simply put, sovereignty is the idea that Quebec should be a country of its own, not just a part of Canada. This has been a debate for decades; there has been 2 general referenda, and in both cases, Quebecers decided they wanted to stay within Canada.

In this 2012 election, there is much at stake, and it is very hard to predict what will happen on September 4th. It is very easy to criticize the political parties or leaders we disagree with, especially during an election campaign. Ideologies are exposed, scrutinized and discussed, but they are also condemned and scorned.

Everyone has their own opinion about how society should be run and what government should do. We try to figure out which party is closest to our ideals, and eventually, we go to the polls and vote on what we think is the best option out there.

Obviously, as individuals, we don't always have our way. In Canada, governments are generally elected with about 35% of the popular vote, which means that about 65% of voters don't have their way. This is how representative democracy works, and even though this system has its flaws, it is still democracy.

Whichever party is elected, I am grateful for living in a democratic society. I am blessed to live in a country where every citizen has a right to vote and decide what party is in power. Unlike many countries where fundamental rights are restrained or suppressed, Canada ensures freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of association and free elections.

I hope that a large number of Quebecers will vote on September 4th: No vote is lost, every one of them counts. I encourage Quebecers not to vote strategically, but to vote according to their own conscience. Even if the political party you are supporting ''does not stand a chance'' of forming government, your vote gives it funding for the next election.

Whatever happens next Tuesday, let us accept it as the will of the people, whether it is change or status quo. Let us be thankful for a wide array of parties to choose from and free elections. Let us be thankful that the results will be truthful, not corrupted.

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Quebec National Assembly

August 21, 2012

Probably My Favourite Poem So Far

George Herbert,  1593-1633

Most people today have never heard of George Herbert, a 17th century English Priest and prolific metaphysical poet. His most famous collection of poems, The Temple, was published posthumously.

The Metaphysical poets ''developed a poetic style in which philosophical and spiritual subjects were approached with reason and often concluded in paradox.'' (Academy of American Poets)

Herbert's The Collar has been one of my favourite poems for a long time. I appreciate how genuine and honest it is about spirituality. 

The Collar is the story of a man who has been faithful to God throughout his life but now doubts. He is counting the cost and is questioning whether he should persevere. Progressively, he starts trying to convince himself to let go of everything he has always believed in. For a moment, he is tired to seek God's face, to seek moral righteousness and justice.

        I Struck the board, and cry’d, No more.
                                             I will abroad.
        What? shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free; free as the rode,
        Loose as the winde, as large as store.
                     Shall I be still in suit?
        Have I no harvest but a thorn
        To let me bloud, and not restore
What I have lost with cordiall fruit?
                                             Sure there was wine
            Before my sighs did drie it: there was corn
              Before my tears did drown it.
        Is the yeare onely lost to me?
                     Have I no bayes to crown it?
No flowers, no garlands gay? all blasted?
                                             All wasted?
        Not so, my heart: but there is fruit,
                                             And thou hast hands.
                     Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit, and not. Forsake thy cage,
                                             Thy rope of sands,
Which pettie thoughts have made, and made to thee
        Good cable, to enforce and draw,
                                             And be thy law,
        While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
                                           Away; take heed:
                                           I will abroad.
Call in thy deaths head there: tie up thy fears.
                                           He that forbears
                    To suit and serve his need,
                                           Deserves his load.
But as I rav’d and grew more fierce and wilde
                                           At every word,
        Me thoughts I heard one calling, Childe:
                    And I reply’d, My Lord.
The last two lines get me every time. As the author grows fierce and wild, God whispers and reveals himself to the author again. He has been there all along! 
Doubt gives way to certitude, and the relationship is restored.
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