Thursday, September 10, 2015

Calling out a made up "tradition"

I want to do something really unBowen: call something out directly.

Today the Undercurrent published this article: Campaign road signs not 'the Bowen way'.  It describes how there is a tradition on Bowen Island of election campaign signs being restrcited only to the sign corner at the crossroads.  Apparently, it is "Not The Bowen Way" to place them on lawns or in windows and candidates that do "receive a polite phone call" presumably inviting them to do something else.

This makes my skin crawl.  I frankly don;t care one way or the other if you want to have an election sign on your lawn.  In fact there is something about the rambunctious chaos of electioneering that somehow captures the colourful energy of a democracy in full sail.  On the other hand, its dismal when, weeks after elections are over, signs are still littering public spaces.

But what really bothers me is the self-appointed community standards police who enforce this policy year after year.  It is not really a tradition; not like slug races or the Black Sheep marking a store opening, or not telling anyone where Alder Cove beach is, or dropping off Halloween candy in the homes of Deep Bay residents you don't know.

It is a kind of conspiracy hatched by the original candidates in our first municipal election and enforced by some of them and their friends to this day.  Newcomers to our island should know that this is not an official policy of our local municipality - nor could it be, for legislating this kind of thing would probably be unconstitutional, if Elections Canada had any teeth left to fight this kind of thing.  instead it is a policy with a genteel veneer that sometimes has the nasty effect of suppressing the ability for new candidates to indelibly mark your brans with their names, for better or worse.  It serves incumbents and those with name recognition.  In short, a policy like this serves the very people who tend to be most supportive of it (and those who tend to support the workings of free markets except when it comes to promoting democratic choice)

It is quaint, which is very much "the Bowen way."  It is also elitist and exclusionary and that too sometimes is "the Bowen way."   So I'm going on the record, and I know I'm not alone, in objecting to the sometimes sanctimonious way this little tradition - with all of it's nuanced sneakiness and possibly dark sideeffects- is retreaded every time an election comes around.  I fjndamentally distrust people who, through tradition, coercion, influence or otherwise, work against participation in democratic process.  Even if it's a bit messy

If we really want to see if it's "the Bowen way" perhaps leave it alone, stop enforcing it with "polite phone calls" (Those sinister scare quotes) and see if Bowen Islanders, free of the pressure to conform, choose to continue this custom, or evolve something entirely different, and entirely Bowen.