Monday, March 16, 2015

Getting things done

          A lot of the time when discussing politics, particularly in Canada but also elsewhere, political analysts (including political scientists) comment on why something can’t be done.  “Senate reform is impossible”.  “Removing moneyed interests from US Congress is impossible”.  Any number of examples come to mind.

          Those commentators aren’t wrong.  In fact, they’re providing a necessary caution a lot of the time.  But when you constantly hear about how nothing can get done, it risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Things are difficult to get done, so people don’t try, which ensures they never change.

          In the 20th century, the country of Azerbaijan (just try spelling that the right way on the first try) used four different consecutive written scripts.  It changed the script three times.  Three times in 80 years.  They switched from Arabic to a modified Latin script in 1928 to modernized, then were forced to adopt Cyrillic script by Stalin in 1938, then reverted to a modified Latin script after the fall of the Soviet Union as a symbol of de-Russification.  Every time, this involved the government's language of communication as well as the language of written education.

          I was listlessly reading Wikipedia a little while ago when I ran across that fact, and it’s just kind of sat on top of my thoughts since then.  When countries, and the people in them, want to get shit done, shit gets done.  It’s been a long time since many countries have had an issue and a solution clear enough to get major public support, but it’s not impossible.  And, for the most part, it doesn’t happen spontaneously.  It takes careful mobilization.  Some Azerbaijanis started pushing for a switch away from Cyrillic in 1993, for instance.  But that mobilization can’t happen if everyone is convinced that change is impossible, which is probably worth keeping in mind.           

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