Cricket and ProrogationWednesday, December 03, 2008
While I may be a Nationalized Canadian I have lived almost as many years as I have been in Canada in places like my native Argentina and my adopted Mexico. I am alien to the concept of a parliamentary democracy. My attempt to understand it has never gone past the concept of "losing confidence". On the other hand if parliamentary democracy is a British invention (English, perhaps?) how is it that the French and the Italians seem to have lots of governments going up and down with no-confidence votes.
My concept of no confidence is simpler.
1. It can be a statement by a four-star general reading a decree, "Our country has lost all confidence in this government's ability to govern. We feel that unless we intervene to impose order our homeland will fall into chaos."
2. The simpler no confidence vote is a bullet in the head of the failing leader.
As I grapple to understand what is happening to my Canada I have come to the conclusion that understanding politics of the parliamentary kind is no different from trying to figure out the rules (and even the purpose) of cricket. I often say that the French figured out their grammar after inventing wine (four times twenty plus six to say eighty six?) and the Germans did the same but with beer. My guess is that parliamentary democracy came to being during a primitive cricket game in which the players were tipsy on meade.
As I read about a coalition of three parties and a possible prorogation I was confused by the term. I looked it up and found the English meaning to mean this in Wikipedia:
A prorogation is the period between two sessions of a legislative body. When a legislature or parliament is prorogued, it is still constituted (that is, all members remain as members and a general election is not necessary), but all orders of the body (bills, motions, etc.) are expunged.
In the British and Canadian parliamentary systems, this is usually due to the completion of the agenda set forth in the Speech from the Throne (in the UK, called the legislative programme, and also "the Queen's Speech"). Legislatures and parliaments, once prorogued, remain in recess until summoned again by the Queen, Governor General, or Lieutenant Governor, and a new session is begun with the State Opening of Parliament and the Speech from the Throne.
My confusion lay in that in Spanish to "prorrogar" means to extend not to delay as in English. I looked it up in my RAE Dictionary and was surprised that while both the English and Spanish words come from the same Latin root, it is the secondary meaning in Spanish that is the same as in English which is to delay or suspend. But knowing that does not mean I understand parliamentary democracy any better.
I remember taking the portrait of an interesting politician, Mel Hurtig(above, left) in 1993 who was heading the National Party. In elections that year Prime Minister Kim Campbell lost to Chrétien. Part of Hurtig's party platform is imbedded in my brain as he explained it to me in a most excited manner gesticulating with his hands as if here were a Latin American. It was this:
An important platform in the National Party's campaign was the idea that electoral campaigns should be funded by individual Canadians each contributing a small amount each year, thus taking away what the National Party considered was the undue influence of large, multinational corporations funding political campaigns.
For years after I kept receiving mail from Hurtig. I have always remembered him fondly as a good man, no better and no worse that some of the other Canadian politicians that have faced my camera. But I suspect that he would not have approved of any of the current shenanigans. But whatever these shananigans will bring I am now, confidently, a Canadian and I know there will be no bullet to anybody's head.
Below is part of Chapter One of one of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels, The Fortune of War . It is about a cricket match played by Captain Jack Aubrey, R.N. and his crew of the Leopard against the Admriral Drury's Cumberlands on the port of Pulo Batang in the Dutch East Indies in 1812. The match is initially won by the Cumberlands but in the end an inexperienced Doctor Stephen Maturin (Captain Aubrey's surgeon and a great Irish hurler) saves the day. Most of the chapter is alien to me and I have never understood exactly how it is that Doctor Maturin comes to save that day!
The match began precisely on the hour, by Admiral Drury's watch: Jack won the toss, and elected to go in. The game was democratic, to be sure; but democracy was not anarchy; certain decencies were to be preserved; and the Captain of the Leopard , with his first lieutenant, led the way, while the Admiral opened the proceedings, bowling downhill to Babbington. He took the ball from his chaplain and polished it for a while, fixing the lieutenant with a steely glare; then taking a skip, he bowled a wicked lob. It pitched well up outside the off stump, and Babbington played back, but as he played, so the ball broke in towards his vitals, and jerking back further still he spooned the ball neatly into the Admiral's hands, to a roar of applause from the assembled Cumberlands.
'How is that?'said the Admiral to the chaplain.
'Very pretty, sir,'said the chaplain. 'That is to say, Out.'
Babbington returned, downcast. 'You want to watch the Admiral,' he said to Captain Moore, of the Leopard's Marines, who succeeded him. 'It was the most devilish twister you ever saw.'
'I shall play safe for the first hour or so, and wear him out,' said Moore...
The Leopards are losing so Midshipman Forshaw comes to summon Stephen Maturin who is working in a nearby hospital:
'Oh pray sir, come on, 'cried Forshaw over his shoulder. 'The Admiral is skipping up and down: and we are in a dreadful way. Mind the branch, sir. Nine wickets down, and only forty-six. Mr. Byron got a duck, and so did old Holles.'...
...Jack [Aubrey]came to meet him, and said in a low voice, 'Just keep your end up, Stephen, until your eye is in; and watch out for the Admiral's twisters,' and then as they neared the Admiral, 'Sir, allow me to name my particular friend Dr. Maturin, surgeon of the Leopard.'
'How d'ye do, Doctor'?' said the Admiral.
'I must beg your pardon, sir, for my late apperance; I was called away on-'
'No ceremony, Doctor, I beg,' said the Admiral, smiling: the Leopard's hundred pounds were practically in his pocket, and this man of theirs did not look very dangerous.
'Shall we begin?'
'By all means,' said Stephen.
'You go down to the other end, 'murmured Jack, a chill coming over him in spite of the torrid sun.
'Should you like to be given a middle, sir?' called the umpire, when Stephen had walked down the pitch.
'Thank you, sir,' said Stephen, hitching up his waistband and gazing round the field, 'I already have one.'
A rapacious grin ran round the Cumberlands: they moved much closer in crouching, their huge crab-like hands spread wide. The Admiral held the ball to his nose for a long moment, fixing his adversary, and then delivered a lob that hummed as it flew. Stephen watched is course, danced out to take it as it touched the ground, checked its bounce, dribbled the ball towards the astonished coverpoint and running still he scooped it into the hollow of his hurly, raced on with twinkling steps to mid-off, there checked his run admist the stark silent amazement, flicked the ball into his hand, tossed it high, and with a screech drove it straight at Jack's wicket, shattering the near stump and sending its upper half in a long, graceful trajectory that reached the ground just as the first of La Fleche's guns, saluting the flag, echoed across the field.