Can Alberta Avoid a Death Spiral?

The Umair Haque essay on “This Is How a Society Dies” is a dark and direct discussion on the decline of America and Britain. The reasons why are informative to Alberta today.

Albertans are not yet at the crossroads where we have to choose between prosperity and wellness or decline and desperation.  However, we are close enough to that point on our journey that we can see these impending options looming just ahead of us.

We are presently in that liminal stage of ambiguity and disorientation trying to get a grip on our present “new normal” situation.  We are trying to decide what we can actually control in our future.  What struggling with imagining other alternatives and figuring out if we have them already or must we create them? What must we discard from the past so we can move forward?

We Albertans are coming to the harsh realization that we have to make some serious choices as that foreboding fork in the road looms ominously in our minds.  It demands that we make some serious choices that will determine our future direction and destination, whether we are ready for it or not.  What could possibly go wrong?

Our hyperpartisan adversarial binary political culture is only offering us a Left or a Right option.  This arcane political culture is totally inadequate for the complex metamodern world that is overwhelming us.  We really don’t have a functioning democracy in any meaningful sense of that word anymore either as extremists are increasing in control of our political narratives and agenda. Everyday Albertans are increasingly being run by a class of arrogant commercial/industrial elites who really don’t care much about the plight of the average person anymore.

All this is better explained in the essay in the attached link. What I gleaned from my reading is the disturbing foreshadowing the essay has to say for Alberta, politically, economically and socially. The sclerotic regression of the Kenney-controlled UCP option is to go back into the epic failure of the Ralph Klein days and his so-called “Alberta Advantage.”

The NDP, as Opposition; not government, offers an option to accept that we are the end of our energy induced prosperity rope, so we should just tie a knot and try to hold on to what we have, as long as we can.  That implicitly means we are accepting the inevitability of Alberta’s decline and despair.

Alberta is not yet at the stage of willful self-destruction death spirals of Boris’ Britain or Trump’s America, but we are showing early symptoms of their dis-ease.

Alberta has Wexit, it’s re-energized separatists movement, inspired by Britain’s Brexit and intent on blaming the “Other,”  mostly Trudeau Liberals a so-called Laurentian Elites for whatever ails us.  Our separation anxiety is driven by a false fit of naive anger that serves as a convenient cover for our own entitled elite, namely the old-oil oligarchs in the conventional energy business.

Alberta, like America, also has a strong charismatic authoritarian political leader, who is in total personal control of the partisan levers of political power. Kenney, like Trump, has a populist political tribe composed of radical evangelical Christians and economically anxious, angry, aging and non-adaptive workers.  Kenney, unlike Trump, is a professional politician with a capacity for constant campaigning that is exceeded only by his skill at policy execution.

Alberta, like Britain and America, is also showing signs akin to the Soviet Union.  Alberta has suffered through many money-wasting booms and harmful austerity busts.  On average, it’s that imaginary place we pass through as we move from the extremes of booms and busts, we have actually been economically stagnated for decades.

The Alberta middle class has not enjoyed any real growth in standards of living, when adjusted for inflation and other terms, since the 1970s.   In that way, we are all likened to the stagnant Soviet Union.  While Alberta is not yet as cruel and brutal towards vulnerable people as the USA or Britain, we are well on our way there with Kenney’s austere economic policies for everyday Albertans and his enormous tax cuts for the wealthy and powerful.

Do I sound pessimistic?  I’m more skeptical of our political culture’s capacity to do the right thing when ideology and dogma run their mindset and ruin our Alberta.  I know there are serious optimistic Albertans who will spiritedly disagree with me. To them, I simply say the difference between an optimist and a pessimist is the optimists thinks these are the best of times, and the pessimists are afraid they are right.

In closing let me share an insight from Umair Haque’s essay that is a forwarning to Albertans:

“They are in a death spiral now, but no opponent or adversary brought them there. It was their own fault, and yet they still go on choosing it. They don’t know any other way now. Their elites succeeded at making the average person truly, fervently believe that battling perpetually for self-preservation was the only way a society could exist.”

Alberta still has time to correct our course.  It will take seriously engaged active and advocating citizenship for that to happen.  There is some good news and bad news about Alberta’s future prosperity.  The good news is we have great potential to adapt to being a resilient prosperous province.  The bad news is we are going to have to create that future ourselves…with imagination and hard work, not oil prices.

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