This documentary investigates how stories from an oppressed public can affect a democracy if voices that were silenced are facilitated and heard. It is a non-partisan directed documentary work that combines film and new media to “simulate a democracy” by giving people a voice who are otherwise silenced.
The website, blakout.ca, serves both as a public archive and as a conduit to collect stories from people who have been bullied and silenced by employees of democratic organizations, including: government workers, lawyers, judges, politicians, leaders of publicly held corporations, religious organizations, and so on.
The intended outcome is to inform, educate and empower Canadians to use their vote as an effective means to create social justice change. This work assumes that Canadians care and that they’re not apathetic by choice. It assumes crimes against social justice persist in a democracy because the victims are not heard and the ruling public is uninformed.
Fear silences and annuls the workings of a democracy. When elected politicians and public authority figures silence the electorate, a stark contradiction emerges between the intent of a democracy and its outcome – an oppressive and corrupt dictatorship, which condones poverty and bullies, silences, and exploits the public.
An elected official’s implicit role includes accountability to the public, for managing employees who are paid with public money (collected through taxes, registeration fees, and so on). Public servants are mandated to enforce the laws that govern its society.
If a public servant abuses the law’s intent, often using money as leverage to bully, silence and threaten individuals unfairly (fairness is defined by what is fair to the affected person), the result is a dysfunctional democracy, which does not reflect its governing precepts. This issue is common to any model – including business, government and religion – where the source of power is distilled to money.
In a society that endeavors to promote equality (an essential component toward insuring a functioning democracy), it is not about how much money is required, but how that money is spent. A financial model that supports equality and empowers each individual to claim his or her democratic rights is an efficient one.
Poverty prevents people from claiming the rights they are entitled to by law. In Canada, claiming these rights is an expensive endeavor, which requires a personal investment most people can’t afford (starting with a lawyer). Thus, only the very wealthiest could actually afford to claim their rights (individuals who are wealthier than the people with the power to oppress). The ultimate price to society is tenfold versus the cost of underwriting equality and individual empowerment.
The abuse of power and exploitation transforms a democracy into a dictatorship because the public is not empowered to actively participate. An oppressed public proliferates poverty, which then costs society even more tax dollars to maintain (greater investment into police, prisons, education, healthcare, social welfare programs, the courts, and so on).
A functioning democracy gives the right to individuals to speak out and actively participate in resolving issues that violate human rights and cause unfair and extraordinary distress to individuals. Advocacy and speaking out are important entitlements, as is exercising the right to vote during an election.
Most public servants and corporate workers are well meaning, honest and hard working individuals who are often coerced to behave badly by a ‘hungry’ elite. “The elite” are high-level individuals who financially profit the most from an abuse of power. They encourage employees (or those they influence) to behave in ways that exploit the poor (poorer than the organization exploiting them) for self-interested profit, and will lie and twist laws to justify their actions. They may even mask their corruption behind noble causes, which allows them to act uninhibited and unchecked.
The elite will offer their staff financial incentives, including promotions and pay hikes for acting unethically. If they don’t conform and turn a blind eye to their better judgement, these employees are bullied, harassed, intimidated and even fired for unjust reasons. If public outcry checks their behaviour, the elite find ways to silence their voices. When lower level public workers abuse their power, it is imperative to follow the chain of command to its source else the area of abuse will not be substantially resolved.
This work argues that crimes against social justice are not resolved because the ruling public either fails to hold politicians accountable for a system they’re elected to manage, or else it fails to understand the impact of these crimes on its economic well being, or both. Consequently, Canadians who cannot afford to fight for their rights are discarded to the fringes of society in a wash of apathy, helplessness and disappointment. A democratic society that is characteristically apathetic as a whole, such as Canada, has a bloated counter-public that outnumbers the ruling electorate. There are more people who have been affected by its dysfunction, than there are oppressors. (Picture a fat donut with a small hole in the middle.)
When the source of fear is rooted in a system that is not affected by the electoral process, many of its victims become indifferent and apathetic to leadership changes, which adversely affects voter participation at the ballot. This work encourages people to vote for public officials, who are competent, diligent, and responsible executives, and who endeavor to promote the rights of individuals, in a society that aspires to function as a democracy.
By documenting voices that are silenced by fear, this work seeks to demonstrate that the ruling public (people who elect its leaders) are collectively responsible for whether or not their society functions as a democracy or an oppressive dictatorship, which violates human rights laws and condemns the lives of its people.
Blakout.ca is a Masters thesis for the Documentary Media program at Ryerson University. It is approved by Ryerson’s Ethics Review Committee and conforms to the University’s ethics guidelines.