02 August 2011

Localness Promotes Accountability

[B]ecause of the immediate and tangible nature of the results achieved (or not achieved) at the local level, councillors are the politicians least able to merely coast along on a narrative.
-J. Goldsbie, in this article

This is the main reason that I’m more interested in local politics than provincial, federal, or global politics: The more local, the less nebulous politics can be. Not only does localness facilitate accountability in politicians, though, but I also think it concomitantly encourages a more active sort of activism, motivated less by stultifyingly broad issues and more by concrete problems. Though there is usually more at stake in broader issues, and they are more dramatic and viscerally compelling, this allows some activists to drift aimlessly in the romance of evocative generalities from afar instead of doing what they can in their immediate surroundings.*

I think this correlation between small-scaleness and responsibility also applies to ethical considerations in general, which is partly why I’m passionate about minding details that many people dismiss as insignificant. Verbal reform is an example: Eschewing male-normative pronouns – as in writing she/he instead of he in reference to a hypothetical person – is important despite there being wars and starvation in other parts of the world. It’s like if you were to ignore that your brother is drowning right in front of you in the interest of saving a hundred people across the lake, who are nearly impossible to save from your position. It seems absurd to step over an immediate cause while pursuing a much longer-term cause. And if you can’t get the easy things right, how can you fix the big things?

*Not to imply that discourse and philosophy are less important, but that they are not sufficient alone.

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