There is a lot of anger and angst within the hearts of Albertans these days. It often gets expressed in aggressive social media posts. They range from mean-spirited snarky to downright abusive vileness. They seem to mask our underlying foundational fears and uncertainty and drive emotional triggers.
We have good reasons for our collective sense that things are badly out of balance in Alberta. Our political options seem to be a pendulum swing between either left or right. Most of us are in the center, but that political option is fragmented, disorganized, obscure, and inert.
We feel we are being used as “human capital resources” in service of those who have control of the political, economic, and social fabric narratives. Politics is no longer in the hands of citizens but controlled by political parties. Political power now skews to the 1% who control Alberta’s resource wealth. The radical fundamentalist Dominionists now control Alberta’s social policy. If you are not in the UCP Tribal Base, a dark-money Party or PAC donor, or an Evangelical religious zealot, you don’t count.
SCHOOL REOPENING ANGST AND ANGER
This is a major cause of fear and uncertainty at the personal level. The well-founded concerns of parents, children, teachers, and support staff come from a well-founded sense of insufficient health and safety planning for school re-openings. The Minister of Education has become overt in her apparent indifference to protecting the health and safety of all involved. A rapid reopening the economy is driving her agenda.
Then add in her promotion of radical religious fundamentalism that is showing up as racism, bigotry, and discrimination. She is now embedding these socially destructive approaches into the public education curriculum. The imbalance is obvious and getting worse.
UCP AUTHORITARIAN POLITICAL AGENDA
The next and even greater source of fear and uncertainty is the overall aggressive, abusive, and destructive UCP policy agenda. We see the dire consequences of that in the privatization of healthcare, a diminishing of environmental stewardship, and a cruel and uncaring social policy, amongst other examples.
It is becoming clear that the duly elected Kenney-controlled UPC government is now one part Radical Theocracy, one part Greedy Oligarchy, and one part Fascistic Autocracy. Our Representative Democracy is in danger of extinction because our political culture is broken. The imbalance is getting worse.
ECONOMIC ANGST AND ANGER
Then we have the meta sources of fear and uncertainty where we have no control. That comes from the geopolitical uncertainty of low but still volatile oil prices. Couple that with the political volatility in our only customer, the United States, and we have to wonder what that means for the future of our energy sector, and our prosperity as a Province.
Then overlay the economic and social impacts of the COVID Pandemic. That has the potential to go over a tipping point from potential panic into an actual catastrophe if we let our guard down.
Confidence sentiment in the future of the province is low and flat, at best. Albertan’s trust in government, business, and our institutions is seriously undermined. We could be doing irreparable damage to our Democracy by political indifference.
The anger and angst, driven rants and raves give us a temporary, and perhaps an addictive, adrenaline rush. That is adding to our problems and feelings of imbalance. The real solution to overcoming our fears and uncertainty is to Press for Change in our broken political culture. We have to be more politically active and focused, as citizens, if we are to rebalance the political culture and preserve Democracy in Alberta.
IF NOT THIS THEN WHAT?
The key question we have yet to ask ourselves, individually and collectively, is “Ïf not this, then what?” The answer to that question is important. It will likely be found in the kinds of conversations we have with each other, as well as informed, effectively engaged citizens.
Not every conversation starts a great change but every great change started with a conversation. Otto Scharmer, the author, and designer of the U Theory also has a useful framework about Conversations.
He and Adam Kahane outlined the Four Types of Conversation framework.
They postulate there is a continuum of conversation types that either prefers an integrated approach or a segmented approach to discussions. Conversations either enable the “Enacting of Emerging Futures” or the “Reenact Patterns of the Past.” We need to co-create the Next Alberta by seeking ways to enact our emerging futures. We need to better understand each other’s interests, norms, and values and enable joint learning from such conversations.
TALKING NICE is about downloading information in ways that are polite and cautious for reasons of rule reenacting. You are not saying what you really think when “talking nice.” We listen to hear what we already know and believe without any self-reflection. We are not open to change.
TALKING TOUGH is about debating and self-expression. We do listen, but not to hear what someone else is really saying. We are waiting for them to finish as we “reload” our arguments against the other side of the debate. Conflict and clash are the usual results, but change is not.
REFLECTIVE DIALOGUE is where we actually listen to ourselves subjectively and reflexively. We listen to others empathically and we are open to other views. We internalize what we are saying and hearing as we surface our presumptions and assumptions. We are open to adapting our views.
GENERATIVE DIALOGUE is the level where we slow down, break down barriers, and become more present. We listen to become a better version of our future selves in a whole and integrated systems thinking approach. We are open and eager to change and seek to improve our views through dialogue.
WHAT IS THE ANSWER TO…THEN WHAT?
Reboot Alberta has to move from facilitating the angst and anger stage and begin to leverage the fear and uncertainty. We need to provide a place for Moderate Pragmatic Progressive citizens to engage in meaningful reflective and generative conversations and share our fears and uncertainty.
We need to start gathering together in on-line conversations that are respectful of the COVID realities, and each other. We need to create safe forums where we can learn from each other and apply the Four Types of Conversation model.
That way we may become more effectively engaged and assertively active citizens as we seek to Build a Better Alberta in spite of our fears and uncertainties.