Still that old Groucho Marx joke…

I tend to let myself live in a isolated community where Question Period is a common topic of conversation and policy amendments are debated on the level of “sexiness” the issue has potential to become. In that world, it is an easy belief that everyone is interested in political games, in outcomes, in process.

Although I can see through the crack in the door to where the outside world begins, I often chose to believe that their light is as bright as mine and that we cannot be alone in outrage and interest. Sometimes I am grossly disappointed, but sometimes I am blinded with surprise.

Bill 44. Many people *much brighter and more insightful then myself have written thoughts and potential consequences on the recently proposed amendment to the Human Rights Commission by the Alberta Government.

While I do strongly believe (and have been vocal about in other venues) that there is much to be concerned about with this amendment; such as the confusion within PC’s own caucus on how the amendment can be interpreted within the current Alberta curriculum, questions on individual school boards autonomy within notification of parents, the lack of support from the ATA and lastly, the underlying motivation for this less then popular amendment.

There are many people entering the discussion of this particular amendment. Not just people in the proverbial ‘circle’, but people who have little or nothing to gain themselves. People who don’t use, need, or care about political capitol, people who are for the most part left out of the decision making process.

Twitterverse has been active on this issue, with private citizens engaging MLA’s       (noticeably Lindsay Blackett and Dave Hancock themselves engaging back), bloggers being incredibly active in updating the public sphere on new ideas  (ie. daveberta) and discussion points and Facebook notes and groups springing up on a daily basis.

In all the blogs, in all the tweets, in all the bar room discussions I have had regarding political events I have been struck suddenly, taken aback and set to pause, truly appreciating what public engagement really is.

A anti Bill 44 Facebook group stopped me dead in my tracks. Using the same arguments that many others have, there is no radical reform ideas which caused me to pay attention. What caused me to pause and too appreciate is that this group was created by a student, a high school student, a high school student from my High School Alma Mater in fact. Declaring their indignation at a very certain and very distinct piece of legislation. With a mere 205 members (at this evenings count) this group is small in the social networking scheme but the discussion wall is active and there is real discourse there. Void of the usual political rhetoric and with no QP style name calling, this is what public engagement aspires to be.

Social media, with its networking sites and lists of interests you fill out to attract like minded people, can be good. Facebook reinvented the way marketers look at advertising, it stimulated the growth of the worst industry known to man, “cool hunters” and it suddenly did what forums and chat sites have been desiring to do for oh-so long. It created acceptable and use able web space. Regardless of the social site used, each and every one exists as firmly as any idea or thought or spoken sentence can.

This is the conversation needed to be brought in to truly understand where any community is on issues. Lets stop relaying on the tried and true methods, because they have been tried but are no longer true.

When Blackett tweeted “LindsayBlackett wants Albertans to know that their arte 30,000 inquiriese to the Human Right Commission each year and 900 are deemed to have merit.” this evening at app. 10:20 this evening, he was speaking to the people and likely he was responding to a the earlier tweets today about Bill 44. He was using twitter as a legitimate form of political discussion and policy process.

Despite the ban on twitter use in the house during QP by our long standing Speaker, this medium is being used to influence decisions, or at the very least openly question them.

Not to endorse cyber communication as the be all and end all of our public debate, but let us not close the door to it. All too many of the influential decision makers still scoff at these communication methods, and in their caged thinking they lose what they have been looking for.

Want youth to participate? Well, they are. Demanding that anyone participate on your playing Field only is not representation in any sense, it is arrogance and it is a sure sign of blind folded defeat.

*There are many who have provided me with much to think on in regards to this bill, notably Ken Chapman and Paula Simons.

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