As I try to comment on the unfolding election campaign, I’m faced with the challenge that I don’t actually have a clue what messages the party leaders want me to hear. This is probably my fault, because I have intentionally crafted a lifestyle that is as free as from corporate and political communication. I rarely watch television, I switch radio channels as soon as a commercial comes on, I use email spam filtering, and I do this for a reason. I don’t want my mental environment to be dominated by messages that tell me that I’m nothing more than a consumer of goods and services, that my value is directly tied to the amount that I consume, and that the only valuable decisions I can make in life are picking between competing brands.
The flip side of this is that at the moment, I have no idea what Harper, or Ignatieff, or Layton, want me to hear. I’ve so far not seen or heard a political ad, or received a campaign phone call.
In general, I’m happy about this. I’m not inspired by the same-old approach to electioneering; the lawn signs, the commercials, the robo-dialers and the tired game of tightly controlled political ‘messages. I’m not inspired by the so-called ‘debates’ that are more about posturing, scoring points, reassuring the base and spreading fear and doubt about the opposition than about a genuine, honest exchange of ideas.
There seem to be very few politicians that are willing to engage in a real discussion with the electorate; although occasionally I witness a counter-example. A few weeks ago on the popular internet discussion site Reddit.com Anthony Weiner, answered questions in the “Ask Me Anything” section. Instead of getting a staffer to post pre-packaged soundbites, he actually engaged with the argumentative, sometimes rowdy commentators. I think this is a hopeful development, and one I’d like to see more of. Candidates are asking to be allowed to represent the people, and if they choose to present monologues rather than engage in dialogue with the electorate, then they are not worth our support.