Since opportunities for a public response are somewhat limited in Harrison I write prompted by the Winter 2013 Newsletter from the mayor and council of Harrison Hot Springs. I do not challenge the good hearts or intent of council but recollect the words of Thoreau: “There is no odour so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted.”
I detect the aroma of lip service, tokenism and if not paternalism at the very least juvenilization.
This council may accomplish much that appears good but if achieved without following the principles of democracy, which can be contentious and tedious at times, these results are as Thoreau said tainted, and indeed the democracy that we value is threatened.
I am unsure who needs a louder wake-up call, we as citizens or our council. James Madison has said: “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
Or as R.M. Hutchins has said: “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush, it will be a slow extinction from apathy and indifference and undernourishment.”
I believe we all need to wake up, shake our heads and examine what is democracy and are we actively practicing its tenets in Harrison. I suggested that both we as citizens and our council are failing in this most vital task.
I will also quote Abraham Lincoln: “If by mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written right, it might in a moral point of view justify revolution, certainly would if such a right were vital one.”
I see the democratic right to publicly speak even at times in dissent being eroded and many of us as citizens are shirking our democratic responsibility if we remain silent. I am not advocating revolt but if I may paraphrase another of James Madison’s quotes: “a popular government without popular input or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or both.”
I do not wish either of these for Harrison but I fear both if we continue our apathy, indifference and lack of dialogue and transparency and accountability which are the foundations of democracy.