Democracy is produced “as a matter of enterprise not [vision]…is designed to appeal to everyone” and “doesn’t come from any particular place or mark off any particular taste.” It is “not driven by any significant ambition except profit and commercial reward…and, in [ideaological] terms, it is essentially conservative.” It is “provided from on high rather than being made from below…Democracy is not a do-it-yourself political system but is professionally produced and packaged.”
– POP Democracy
There is an election happening in Montréal?
Has anyone else heard this question asked of them? At first it angers me; we are currently in the information age and there is no longer any excuse for ignorance. It is unfortunate that, despite the freedom we have over information, our laziness prevent us from informing ourselves. However, I will admit that something seems to be missing from this year’s electoral campaign.
As most of you know, democracy in Canada has become a vast marketing machine. Politicians don’t give speeches, they generate sound bites. They don’t foster visions, they fabricate photo-ops.
Democracy can now even be boiled down to colour associations:
RED = Liberal
BLUE = PQ and Conservative (strange bedfellows)
ORANGE = NDP
GREEN = Green
Democracy has come to mimic the Wikipedia definition of advertising:
The most important element is not information but suggestion.
« It makes use of associations, emotions and drives dormant in the sub-conscience of people (such as sex drive, herd instinct), of desires (happiness, health, fitness, appearance, self-esteem, reputation, belonging, social status, identity, adventure, distraction, reward), of fears (illness, weaknesses, loneliness, need, uncertainty, security), or of prejudices, learned opinions and comforts. »
In democracy, image is everything. De facto and de jure. Don’t believe me? Ask Robert Stanfield.
Stephen Harper performs at an arts gala in Ottawa, and now everyone thinks he is Ringo, the misunderstood Beatle. The E, F#m, B chord progression has secured the Canadian Prime Minister a future majority government.
If I weren’t so invested in urban affairs in Montréal, I don’t think I would have any idea who was running for what, where and when. If I run to the press for answers, I’m left with questions: Tremblay is crooked? Harel can’t speak English? Bergeron, who? One must also not discount the role Montréal’s fusion-défusion-confusion system of administration has in intensifying the fog of ignorance. Is Ville St-Laurent a city; Montréal-Nord a républik; Mile-End a district of Brooklyn?
Promotional material needs to be hit over the head of the electorate. It needs to be spat in their faces. It needs to be whipped across their backs. Only then, will people wake up and say: Oh! This thing that is happening seems to be very important. Why don’t I take a look into it?
In Montréal, as with the rest of Canada, this task is usually accomplished by two things: wedge issues and election signs. The former is looking a little worse for wear, and the use of the latter has been curtailed for this year’s election.
The reason to reduce signs this year was, on the surface, a noble one. Environmentalism, improving the visual urban landscape; who can complain about these benefits?
However, since democracy is advertising, a lack of advertising is a lack of democracy. It means people do not know their candidates; people don’t know the issues. Research has shown that the electorate is generally conservative – not seeking change – so if presented with the choice between the familiar and the unfamiliar, they will choose the former. Comme disent les Anglais : Better the Devil you know. Fewer election signs only bolster results for incumbent or star-calibre parties.
- a) The only candidate running, or
- b) A local New Wave band.
(p.s. the answer is c) none of the above. However, he is a candidate really worth supporting; unlike some in the political machinery, he doesn’t just espouse vague énocés, he pushes an actual platform)
Municipal parties are trying, though. In Côte-des-Neiges, which, following years of municipal neglect, has become possibly THE most exciting arrondissement in the race thus far, electoral signs exude a stronger presence. So when push comes to shove, « environmentalism » goes out the window.
Maybe certain parties have abandoned certain areas of the city?
Whatever the case may be, I will be voting in the municipal elections this November. Perhaps democracy has more in common with a mentos commercial than any sort of political philosophy. Nevertheless, it is the only option we currently have.
Bonus: SOS Montréal – Design students at the Université du Québec à Montréal and their take on election posters