Seldom do we get the opportunity to witness a dichotomy so profound, it creates a new threshold but in the Markham Council Chamber last Tuesday evening, our mayor tried desperately to stretch a bunt into a triple while hostile taxpayers tagged him out at 1st base!
As so eloquently phrased by taxpayer Toinette Bezant, of the Bayview Glen Residents Association, public participation with a private partner where the profits are privatized and the losses are socialized will be "carried by Markham taxpayers for many years to come" while Donna Bush of the Markham Village City Ratepayers Association demanded that council do their due diligence on all proposed arena private partners!
Yes, on October 24, 2012, our Council Chamber was overflowing with vociferous taxpayers. Folks were standing up and speaking their minds to our mayor and council while a dubious arena promoter with his supporters in tow sat on their collective hands and frowned every time the crowd erupted in support of each and every taxpayer as they begged our Councillors for a fully privatized arena.
To digress, a year ago, I was covering the Provincial election riding of Oak Ridges/Markham as a blogger for Speak Your Mind, a Toronto Star initiative and despite fine work by many folks doing their best to get their message out, on election day, apathy received a majority, again! So, fearing that council had already made up their minds and this latest public meeting was just about 'optics', what was unfolding in the Council Chamber reminded me of an old story...
In 1887, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years prior:
"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship."
"The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage."
If our mayor is correct in saying that "95% of the people he’s talked to agree with him" about his Arena, as reported by Amanda Persico in the Markham Economist & Sun the next day despite the obvious signs of voter unrest present in council chambers, could we be past the 'apathy' phase of Professor Tyler's definition of democracy and moving quickly toward 'bondage'?