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Traitor to the Cause

One reason why institutions become corrupt is because the members of the institution abandon truth in favour of conformity. The institution decides upon an institutional message, and anybody who defies that message has a limited set of choices: shape up, shut up or leave.

I am feeling that sense of corruption very strongly these days. Fair Vote Canada is an institution that promotes particular voting systems -- primarily those that are proportional. In working on this referendum, it is my job to indoctrinate others (Hi, da_lj!) into believing that proportional representation is good.

Unfortunately, I'm the kind of person who likes to understand things before teaching them. Sometimes that means looking at contraband not authorized by Fair Vote Canada, and once in a blue moon that means thinking through consequences and counterarguments. And sometimes I find evidence that maybe proportional representation is not as rosy as I had envisioned.

Part of the reason this hurts is because I don't really care about proportional representation in itself so much as I care about getting better governments and increasing civic engagement. If PR accomplishes those things, then great! Otherwise, I'm not that interested.

Unfortunately, I am a member of Fair Vote Canada, and I'm supposed to be winning a referendum by promoting a particular mixed-member proportional system. Quite frankly, I sometimes feel censored. As long as I stay on message everything is okay, but under no circumstances am I allowed to promote truth, because truth (with all of its messy complexities) doesn't win political struggles. Soundbites and certainty win political struggles. All attempts at truth are interpreted by our opponents as admissions of weakness, so we have to maintain our confidence even when we know we are saying wrong things. That is so lousy. I hate it so much.

Saying all of this does not mean I have defected. I still have hope that the mixed-member proportional system proposed for Ontario is better than the first-past-the-post alternative. But my faith is not strong. I am a terrible person to have around at referendum time because I am always doubting things, and doubters are traitors. (So why do I always end up doing this stuff? What kind of stupid am I?)

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I am as lousy at activism as I am at everything else in life. It's also a long-winded way of saying that I have drawn some lines in the sand. I'll parrot Fair Vote Canada's message officially, but nothing in this blog should be interpreted as the official position of Fair Vote Canada, because I think I may start exploring some of the messiness here. Secondly, I don't want to parrot talking points that are obviously wrong, which could leave me in an uncomfortable position depending on what the final Fair Vote Canada talking points end up being.

What I have not decided is whether I am willing to quit if I stop believing in the proposed system, or whether I am willing to quit if I sense that Fair Vote Canada has lost its integrity. That's a much harder decision, and I doubt I have the strength to make it with integrity.

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Mood: turncoat