Eighteen months ago, I lost my head: I admit it freely. I gave money to a political party. What was I thinking?
Dear New Contributor:
We greatly appreciate your contribution to our just cause. We promise not to hound you for more money. Of course, if you could see your way clear to making even a small additional payment, perhaps doubling what you’ve already sent, we’d be ever so grateful.
Respectfully yours, Your Political Party
I can’t reconstruct my reasoning process, if reason even entered into it. Was I unusually annoyed with the snippiness of the other parties? Was I seduced by the promise of a rebate on my income taxes? Was I worn down by repeated calls? I can’t say. But if the precipitating factors are obscure, the fallout is all too clear and, of course, all too predictable: a deluge of mail, asking for more money.
Dear Once-and-Future Contributor:
We were so happy with your contribution. We’re sure that your abject failure to send more money reflects only how busy you are, rather than any intention to disappoint us. But disappoint us it has. Please send another similar contribution soon, so that we can continue to faithfully represent Canadians just like you.
Confidently yours, Your Political Party
And, of course, it never rains but it pours: the calls and emails keep coming in, too, in addition to the snail-mail letters. Party events, talks by (ahem) sitting Senators, supposed surveys . . . The fun never stops in Political Land.
Dear Wise Contributor:
We are writing to solicit your opinions on the weighty matters of the day. Do you unreservedly support everything our inerrant leader has ever done, or do you side with those who would callously destroy our economy and the future of our beloved children? Do you agree that people should behave with a modicum of self-control, or do you support the complete breakdown of societal mores that our opponents are promoting? Although this is not a fund-raising effort per se, if you do include a donation with your reply to this statistically valid and balanced survey, we certainly won’t turn it down.
Condescendingly yours, Your Political Party
Nor does the Christmas season offer any respite.
Dear Friend and Contributor:
This time of year is all about friends and family, and that’s why I’m writing to you personally. Please accept this gift of a mass-produced calendar that I send to only my closest friends. Many of my more committed friends use pre-authorized withdrawals as a convenient way to make monthly contributions. Friend, you, too, can avail yourself of this environmentally friendly option by completing the biodegradable form attached to this letter.
Festively yours, Your Political Party Leader
Not that the tone is always quite so, well, friendly.
Dear Inexplicably Recalcitrant Contributor:
We believe that people are either completely for us or completely against us. So that you can identify yourself as a right-thinking Canadian, we have enclosed your unasked-for party membership card for the coming year. To activate it, send the designated fee. Although we’re a little hurt by your silence since last year, if you just send in your remittance in the enclosed pre-addressed envelope, all will be forgiven.
Unreasonably generously yours, Your Political Party
Familiarity breeds contempt, or so they say. I don’t generally find that to be so, but here it’s definitely ringing true. The more I see of this lowest-common-denominator political communication, the less I like it and all who engage in it, of whatever political stripe.
Dear In-default Contributor:
Our country faces cataclysmic challenges in the months ahead: we need your support to stymie the nefarious plots hatched by our nogoodnik opponents. Nothing comes cheap these days: neither solutions to what ails us, nor communications aimed at making us think things ail us. The sky is falling, so use the enclosed pre-addressed envelope to send money quickly!
Alarmedly yours, Your Political Party
During the Vietnam War, activists talked about getting every rebellious twenty-something in the USA to call the Pentagon at the same time, thereby overloading their telephone exchanges and shutting down (albeit briefly) the so-called military-industrial complex. Power to the people!
Dear Faithless Contributor:
It’s been eighteen months since we last heard from you. We’ve tried politeness, cajolery, flattery, guilt-tripping, and fear-mongering to no avail. We can’t keep on sending you this valuable material without some sign of support. We are, therefore, moving your name to our Last-chance Mailing List. Unless you donate in the meantime, you will stop receiving monthly mailings in just two more years.
Persistently yours, Your Political Party
If you are a right-thinking Canadian—someone who is dismayed by the tone and content of our political discourse these days—feel free to pick up that phone and jam that telephone exchange, metaphorically speaking. Join me in sending fifty bucks to every political party—and then steadfastly refusing to give any of them another dime. Doing a quick calculation on the back of one of several pre-addressed envelopes I just happen to have handy, I figure they will all bankrupt themselves within five years, spending many multiples of our original contributions to try to get us to contribute more.
What happens after the bankruptcy proceedings? I don’t know. Maybe we can proceed to start again. Power to the people!
Just one niggly little thought concerns me. It’s all well and good to take the power away from the people who send these damned letters, but will any of that repatriated power go to the people who send in money in response to them? Yikes. Maybe this needs some more thought.