Saturday, January 29, 2011
Civic Engagement: What Can Residents Do? An Introduction
Currently less than 40% of eligible voters exercise their franchise in municipal elections.
My take on the general tenor of Hamiltonians is that there's quite a 'tally of cynicism'. That people are cynical of elected officials, cynical of City Hall, cynical of the process of local governance. (Not all Hamiltonians feel this way. And not all that do would necessarily score their cynicism high on the scale. But it's there.)
'A body at rest tends to remain at rest.'
'It's easier to maintain than it is to attain.'
'Inertia is a bitch.'
My personal feeling...as expressed here and on numerous occasions over at Raise the Hammer over the years...is that positive change in a modern world generally happens only as a result of either a crisis...or something 'sexier' being presented. (I'm generalizing here, I'm being wildly vague as to what 'positive change' is, and I'm not addressing slow degradations to a 'worse' state.)
One way we could see a sea change in how people regard their place in their own governance locally is for a crisis to unfold. A 'revolution', if you will.
A 'sexier' way? Well, because we live in a market-based, media-rich society, a 'sexier' option would be wrapped up in presenting the idea of civic involvement as something that provided something of benefit to the resident. Allowed them to feel more worth, as if they were contributing to something, that they actually mattered in the overall scheme of things. Something that resonated within them. Something that tapped into pride. Into respect.
I see the current situation of cynicism and apathy and detachment from the municipal political process as being akin to someone who is overweight, out of shape, drinks too much, smokes, has hugh blood pressure, who exhibits signs of early-onset Type II Diabetes and arthritis: there's so much room for improvement that the notion of 'making progress' isn't daunting as much as its potential is dizzying.