The Parallel Parliament

Glen Pearson

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Citizenship – “Blessed Are The Learners”

Posted on August 31, 2011

Jodi and Shawn are on something of a journey. Young professionals, they have been community leaders in their own right for the last number of years, but as part of the group of 10 that met a couple of weeks ago, I’ve watched them become more animated in their desire to make citizenship meaningful. This week the two of them were tweeting relentlessly from the city council chamber as our local politicians debated on whether to launch a green bin pilot project to dispose of compostable material. Like other Canadian cities, ours is getting squeezed and funds are hard to come by. While local officials, mindful of a city freeze on tax hikes, fret about the eventual costs of such a program, it remains…

Citizenship – “Not Leaders, But Leadership”

Posted on August 30, 2011

People are programmed to avoid painful decisions, and these days it appears as though many politicians are as well, for obvious reasons. Basic choices force people to analyze their deepest motives. As long as politics is around, and political representatives say that are willing to make those choices on our behalf, we put off having to make such judgments.  That all changes with citizen politics, and the shifting of responsibility from a political task to one of politicians and citizens deliberating together. A group of citizens coming together to consider the larger issues of their community life must understand that getting an education is job one. If we’re going to be making those difficult decisions then we have to know what the issues truly…

Citizenship – “For the Believers”

Posted on August 29, 2011

So we commence the last week of posts, recognizing that the task before Canadians today is a formidable one.  Citizenship as a useful political concept is in danger of being torn into many parts. By a bitter twist of historical fate, the concept which evolved to provide a sense of identity and community is on the verge of becoming a source of communal dissension. Yet we are not without our means. Centuries of development have provided us with instinctive skills that could better equip us for self-government than we might think. When speaking to average citizens one discovers a deeper sense of value and solidarity that often stands in direct contrast to prevailing attitudes. Whatever their persuasions, talk long enough and you’ll discover a…

Citizenship – “Tocqueville’s Mistake”

Posted on August 26, 2011

You may never have heard of Alexis de Tocqueville before, but for students of democracy he’s essential reading.  A young political thinker from France, he toured America for two years in the 1830s, arrived back home and immediately published his Democracy in America. It was readily apparent that he had the knack for understanding American citizenry and its institutions like few others. His book became an instant classic and is still essential reading in universities today. His insights were brilliant, full of candor, with a delightful tone of optimism. His observations have gone virtually unchallenged, but I’m thinking he might have been wrong, at least in part. Enthralled as he was with America, he worried that democracy might not survive because citizens seemed to…

Citizenship – “Above All Else”

Posted on August 25, 2011

I had never met most of the individuals before, but following an evening of conversation I began to see again what a powerful force citizens could be should they come together for the common good. About 10 people had gathered at a downtown setting to discuss a number of pertinent subjects, some of which I have covered in the blog these past few weeks. It was our first time together, so naturally the subjects were diverse and we struggled to channel them into a constructive dialogue. I was immediately impressed with a couple of things. First was their candor. They were honest and forthright about their frustration with previous community attempts to draw citizens together. Second, they were highly respectful of points of view…

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