Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Alberta Is A Cargo Cult

There's no other way to explain the political phenomenon in Alberta, the will to one-party statehood of the majority of population in this semi-developed, resource-laden hinterland. There has certainly been political heterogeneity on the edges of Alberta politics in the past - even radical leftist politics - but firmly rooted in the centre is a cultish adoration of all that is small and rural and backwards.
In the present case the "cargo" that provides Albertans with their fetish du jour is, of course, oil. And they think that their god can only be accessed through the anointed priesthood of oil executives and right wing populists. They will destroy the land, pollute their air, deplete their water, all in the service of their god, beside which Jesus (another popular fellow - or at least a cartoon of him) appears as a mere hand-servant to aid the power of the great fetish. Besides the damage cults do to one's mind it's rather embarrassing, to say the least. This is a province in need of a serious intervention.
To be fair, Albertans aren't stupid as the cows they ranch. Nor are they as slimey as the oil they dig. What they are sorely lacking is any demonstrated alternative to the great oily priesthood. This is the province with the lowest unionization rates in the country and, by my guess, the lowest levels of strikes. No, what Alberta needs is some strikes. They need some struggle. They need to discover the horrible truth that the oil barons don't give a flying f**k about whether they live, die or suffer terrible malignancies to them and their children as a result of the polluting practices involved in the oil sands. I don't know how such a watershed will happen but I feel confident that it will - not because workers are inherently geniuses but because the ups and downs of capitalism cause corporations to make choices and low on their list of priorities are workers rights, wages and living conditions. At a certain point the development of Alberta into a modern economy will undermine the consensus as it grows beyond the paternalist boomtown feel and the growing working class in the oil fields, schools, public sector and beyond struggle against the priorities of Alberta capitalism. Sure hope it's soon.
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