The wisdom of crowds

Nick Taylor-Vaisey considers the public response to Jack Layton’s passing.

Each of these campaigns was driven by the crowd, and each memorial, or tribute, saw authorities of some kind reacting to that crowd. It’s not what we’re used to. Often, when we hear news about crowds doing things, it skews negative. They’re rioting in Vancouver or, more recently, some parts of the United Kingdom. They’re irrational, or at least ill-meaning. Left to their own devices, they’re not to be trusted. They’re why we have authority figures, elected or otherwise, in the first place, right? Don’t we need them at times like these? Isn’t that why we have protocol? So that people can follow direction?

The last few days at least make the case that it doesn’t have to be so. The crowd that lined up on Parliament Hill to pay respects to Layton was sombre, and patient. They joined hundreds of strangers in that line, and advanced forward in unison. The sea of people set the tone. They took control of their Parliament, peacefully and respectfully, and then gave it back.

The Prime Minister commented on the reaction yesterday.

“Part of the reason I declared this to be a state funeral is my belief that Mr. Layton is an important political figure. Obviously very well known and liked, widely liked by the Canadian people – including by people who did not vote for him,” he said.

“In a sense, as happy as you can be under these circumstances, I’m delighted to see that Canadians are taking this opportunity to express their gratitude and to honour Mr Layton’s contribution and his passing.”

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