Who holds the world record for the oldest, continuously functioning parliament?
Soon after people made the switch from hunting and gathering to urban life, ways had to be found to make decisions effecting larger and larger populations.
Old wizened ones making their views known around a campfire was no longer good enough.
A very small Babylonian elite probably decided what stone masons hammered into the famous diorite stela now on display at the Louvre.
They then erected, 38 centuries ago, what has come to be called Hammurabi’s Code in front of their main temple.
They probably hoped that the association with Marduk, their nation’s principal thunderbolt-wielding god, would instill a proper fear and respect for the law in the hoi polloi.
Slowly, ever so slowly, a wider circle of people came to exercise law making, not just law-obeying responsibilities.
Arguably the first republic on the planet, the Vaishali, is believed to have been founded in the 6th century BC close to what is now Bihar, India.
The Greek polis and the Roman republic followed, marking humanity’s halting steps toward a greater say in the matters that most affected them.
Now back to our original question, some argue that the Althing, the Icelandic parliament, founded in 930 holds the record.
But its claim to be the world’s oldest continuous parliament is disputed by the Isle of Man’s Tynwald, believed to have been established in the late 800s.
No matter which one is indeed the true title holder, our Yukon legislative assembly can trace its roots back to them.
Did the Icelandic or Manx politicians of old promise a chicken in ever pot or an extra bushel of barley for every family as a way of winning popular support?
It seems that every four years, or so, politicians of every strip enter into a bidding war or promise-derby of sorts to win our votes.
And then once they are in power, we see their real agendas emerge.
Coupled with the often shrill parliamentary bickering we try hard to ignore in the years between elections, it isn’t hard to see why many have become cynical about the whole process.
Building credibility back into our millennium old parliamentary system could start with frank discussion about the real problems Yukoners face.
For years, lip service has been paid to creating a made-in-the-Yukon anti-poverty strategy, but next to nothing has budged particularly welfare rates.
What do we need to do to create the situation wherein those among us who are struggling economically just don’t barely survive but can thrive here?
Already politicians have, hearing our concern about social and environmental issues, started making pledges.
What politician in their right mind, though, would tackle the really hardcore issues if they implied demanding changes to our life style or making our wallets lighter?
Frankly I would appreciate that kind of politician.
Gunther Grass, the Noble Prize winning German author noted “the job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open.”
It is time to voice our opinions on the doorstep and at public forums as our 2006 crop of politicians make their rounds.
Don’t let the ‘chicken in every pot’ promises shut your mouth.
The Yukon Development Education Centre begins its fall speaker series September 27th at 7 p.m. in the meeting room of the l’Association franco-yukonnaise building at Third and Strickland. The first talk will be given by Katherine Johnston.
Titled Partners in the Horn of Africa it will chronicle her experience with Whitehorse-based EBA Engineering in Ethiopia where it has teamed up with a small international aid group doing development work.