Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Personal versus collective responsibility

In yesterday's blog entry, I shared my regrets about my past mistakes, with a focus on my parenting style when my children were young. Although I take responsibility for missing the mark, I also believe that the society in which I lived supported me in some ways and thwarted me in other ways.

Recently I chose to join Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community. There were many things about it that attracted me, but one of them was the fact that a cohousing community would create an environment that would support me in living the way I wanted to live.

Because British Columbia is in the midst of a provincial election campaign, I am noticing more than ever the balance between personal and collective responsibility at broader levels -- municipally, provincially, nationally, and internationally.

Yes, people are responsible for what they put in their own mouths and what goes into their children's mouths. But the larger society can either reinforce or defeat parents in their attempts to keep their children's diets healthy. For example, it's difficult for an individual parent to ensure that his or her kid eats healthily if school vending machines tempt the kid with sugar-laden beverages.

At every turn, the infrastructure that the larger society has created either helps or hinders people's efforts to be well.

Most people in my circle of friends in Nanaimo care about British Columbia's provincial election on May 12th, 2009. But, when I am out campaigning for the Green Party, some of the people whom I encounter seem apathetic.

I wonder about the reasons for their apathy. It seems to me that some of them might include:

  • They don't believe that government makes much difference in their lives. If that is the case, I wonder how I can share with them my perception that it does.

  • They believe that government has the power to influence their lives, but they don't have faith that they have the power to influence the government. I believe that our first-past-the-post electoral system contributes to individual people's sense of powerlessness in their relationship with their government. I believe that proportional representation would give individual people a greater sense of power. For that reason, I am supporting the Yes side in the referendum about introducing the Single Transferable Vote (STV).

  • They are very busy working and raising children. They don't feel as if they have the time or energy to research and assess different political parties' platforms. If that is the case, I sympathize with them. Again, that leads me to wonder what I can do to make it more feasible for them to access information about the political choices available to them. How can I reach them where they are, and how can I deliver the information in a way that feels helpful to them? Instead of condemning them for their apathy, how about providing services that would make it easier for them to get information? For example, I could suggest to the local branches of the various political parties that we club together to provide child care at all candidates' forums. Hmmm ....... That has given me an idea. It is too late for this election, but it's something I will suggest to local political campaign volunteers for future reference.
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