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A Political Junky Gets a Lesson

I heard the term “political junkies” a lot in my first five years in party politics. I didn’t think it applied to me. I had a business that put me out of town a lot—and business affairs came before politics. I missed a fair number of political meetings, which limited my rise in the party. But when I was in town, I was ready for whatever political meetings that were on my calendar.

I was on the campaign team for my friend Herb, who was running as a candidate for the internal party election. He was one of six people competing for this job.

One of our smaller campaign strategies was working a specific neighborhood to sell party memberships. This was a common practice as it was believed that such memberships usually supported the candidate that sold them the membership. Even then, I wasn’t sure about that axiom, but the party sure got a bigger list from which to find volunteers and donors for the election.

On Day 1 of this campaign, we were dropping off “Herb” and party brochures into mailboxes. We were hoping that the brochures would soften the residents when we came round in the next day or two to personally sell memberships.

I was making my delivery to one house. On the mailbox was a big sticker: “No Flyers, No Religion, and No Politics.” I put the brochures in the box anyways.

A lady opened the door before I could clear her yard: “Hey, didn’t you read the sticker?”

I answered, “Yes, I did. But I thought the future of our country would be important enough for you to read these brochures.”

“You politicians think you are so smart. You cannot change anything! Your printed material is hurting the environment.”

As an experienced canvasser, I knew it was pointless to argue any further. I apologized, took back the brochures, and went on with the rest of my deliveries. If I saw the same sticker, I respected its request.

This lady did not take politics as seriously as I did.

Before that, I had thought that most people spent a lot of time thinking and discussing politics. I was active in my party; I loved politics. But even though most party members were not active, they too discussed politics in their social discourse. Other citizens were members of other parties, and they discussed politics regularly. Even the non-aligned citizens discussed politics. They would read our brochures to help them become more knowledgeable about the parties and the people in those parties to vote more wisely in the next election. Everyone likes politics, right?

Nope, I was living in some kind of illusion that everyone lived and breathed politics. Rather, most people were throwing our brochures in the garbage without reading them. I could now see that, compared most citizens, I was a political junkie.

I was a board member of our local constituency association for several years. When Herb announced his candidacy, part of my function was to ensure that the board was providing a fair set of rules for Herb’s campaign. Boards can tilt the internal election to a preferred candidate if they are not watched and challenged. I enjoyed being a watchdog. I enjoyed watching another candidate trying to manipulate the board. I enjoyed wagging my finger to let people know they were being watched. I had been hooked on the excitement of politics for quite some time. I spent a lot of my free time thinking about politics. I liked watching people move up and down in influence. It was fun to watch. And sometimes I became a participant in the power struggle. It is addicting. I was a political junkie.

There are other kinds of political junkies. For example, political writers and commentators. They may pride themselves that they have a much more detached view than the active party members. But they too like watching the drama. And they enjoy making predictions about the future as the players play their games of acquiring status, influence, and power. The political commentators believe they are shaping society. Even when their predictions are wrong, they still continue with their political fortune telling.

And one more kind of political junkie. Some citizens have no interest in participating in the inner workings of a political party. But they watch and read a lot of politics. They have come to a certain position on how the world should work. And many of their social discussions center around politics. They too are hooked, almost as much as I was.

Sometimes I wonder if I have really shed my addiction!

Political junkies will not be building the Tiered Democratic Governance (TDG), an alternative democracy I have been working on for 24 years. Junkies believe the current system works well enough. Or they have acquired a certain high position in that current system and will not want to let it go. Or they may have built their own political utopia in their minds, which the TDG is not going to support. Or they just like the drama the current system so amply provides. Regardless, political junkies will not give the TDG much attention in its early days. The responsibility for building the TDG will have to come from outside the milieu of political junkies.

The TDG will have its own junkies. But this is a different addiction. There will be some TDG elected members who enjoy the collaborative process of the TDG. Coming to a consultative decision has its own kind of little high. I can see some people looking for more of that. They will want to be re-elected and make more collaborative decisions.

However, all elected TDG representatives will realize that their time in the TDG might be fleeting. All are only one year away from being unelected. They can be replaced; sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for reasons no one really understands. The TDG will have its ways of moving people in and out of governance. But between now and the election, TDG junkies will be giving the same level of service and co-operation as they have previously. The TDG junkies will be accepting when the TDG replaces them with other great people to govern.

And when TDG representatives become unelected, they can bring that same collaborative spirit they have learned in the TDG to other organizations and workplaces.

For sure, the TDG will not produce as much drama as current democracies. Citizens will not need be as vigilant to keep politicians somewhat responsible and accountable. Citizens won’t be hooked on politics as an entertainment—and can put their minds on other things. TDG governance will be more in the background, yet the citizenry will have confidence in their government.

The political junkies will be a lot fewer in this world. That’s a good thing!

I wonder if that lady forcing me to take back the Herb political brochure knows how she contributed to the TDG. 

Published on Medium 2021

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