Common Sense Comes to Town!

Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have. (Descartes)

Democracy as an Event

Posted on | October 29, 2011 | No Comments

The 250 to 400 people who mock the cold in Montreal’s Square Victoria, emulating the hundreds of protesters of the Occupy Wall Street movement, appear on the whole to be sympathetic, cohesive and well-organized. In fact, their presence raises questions that go beyond the simply economic worries of their New-York predecessors.

It must be known that inequality, objectively mesured through an index known as the Gini coefficient, is not only lower in Canada than in the USA, but also much lower in Quebec than the rest of Canada, comparing favourably to that of other industrialized countries (better than France or Germany, but not yet as good as Scandinavian countries, according to a HEC study).

However, the self-managed community created by protester sis a good example of how democratic processes can be reclaimed. For a small group of people, the use of participative assemblies involving all citizens is indeed a good way to gather everyone around a common project.

But see, there is no shortage in Quebec of opportunities to get involved in daily democratic activities. Many cooperatives require the involvement of their members, beginning with Credit Union but including companies such as Mountain Equipment Coop, whose attendance to general assembly is gradually dropping. Not to mention electoral participation, beginning with school board elections and all government levels.

The problem is that we not only shun our cooperatives, the electoral participation rate is also freefalling in Quebec. Only 7,8% of the population voted, for example, during the last school board election.

So beyond the shock value of the event itself, if a clear message has to rise from the current protest in Square Victoria, it should be that democracy is possible, desirable, precious and can easily be organized at all social levels. What remains to be seen is whether participants will carry the flame of social involvement with them during the next elections.

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  • Photographie par Patrick Meunier

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