The historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari says we’re living in the Age of Bewilderment, the old stories have collapsed and the new stories have not yet been written.
Ms Soapbox thinks some politicians are trying to bridge this gap by pretending it doesn’t exist. They hope to turn this unsettling time into the Age of Nostalgia. Unfortunately, nostalgia is not a satisfactory response to climate change, technological change or cultural change, in fact it is prone to nasty backlash when insecurity and a sense of alienation enflame xenophobia.
We recognize nostalgia politicians, people like Jason Kenney who want to restore the Alberta Advantage (whatever that means) by scrapping the carbon tax, propping up coal companies, and setting up war rooms to beat down oilsands critics with bellicose jargon.
More enlightened politicians, like Rachel Notley, meet uncertainty head on with bold new strategies that make life more stable for those they govern.
Notley kicked off her first term in office with a climate leadership plan intended to transition an economy dependent on fossil fuels to renewables while at the same time generating enough revenue to keep the ship afloat until we got there.
Unfortunately, the economy took a beating when oil prices plummeted and the Notley government reacted by becoming more strident in its support of the energy industry, almost to the exclusion of everything else.
It’s time to regroup.
Yes, the energy industry is important to Alberta, but the industry like everything else is in transition. It will never roar back to its former glory. Albertans know this and are in desperate need of politicians who are prepared to offer a bold, new vision for the future.
A friend once told me if we want Albertans to forgo their conservative ideology we must set out its flaws and then present a superior progressive vision to replace it.*
Notley’s NDP have done a good job of demonstrating the economic and social flaws in Kenney’s conservative ideology, however instead of merely rebutting Kenney’s narrative and becoming trapped in the language of the Age of Nostalgia, it’s time for the NDP to present a bold optimistic vision for Alberta.
This vision should be based on the progressive ideals that shook up the conservative halls of the Legislature in Notley’s first term. It should include providing quality education throughout our lives (how else will the workforce retool to address shifting demands), improving access to quality healthcare, continuing to overhaul taxation (a serious look at a provincial sales tax would be a good start) and strengthening our efforts to mitigate climate change.
Such a vision would be well received by Albertans who recognize that it’s practical optimism not nostalgia that puts bread on the table.
The AOC factor
We’re just a few months away from the next provincial election. Is it too late for Rachel Notley and the NDP (or any progressive party for that matter) to communicate a realistic and optimistic vision for the future?
No, not if our politicians take their cues from politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (or AOC as she’s known on social media).
Ocasio-Cortez is a democratic socialist and the youngest woman to be elected to the US Congress. She supports progressive policies like universal healthcare, free university tuition, job guarantees and gun control. As part of her effort to mitigate climate change, Ocasio-Cortez is co-sponsoring a bill to introduce taxes of up to 70% on incomes of $10 million or more (the top .05% of the population) to fund the Green New Deal.
The Republicans are apoplectic. Not only is it heresy to increase taxes on the super wealthy, but Ocasio-Cortez and some of her college friends were caught on tape doing a dance sequence from The Breakfast Club. Oh, the shame of it all.
Here’s what’s so magnificent about all this: (1) Ocasio-Cortez’s tax proposal is bold and consistent with her progressive beliefs, (2) it’s been endorsed by economists like Nobel prize winner Paul Krugman and (3) she responded to the GOP’s horror at her dance video with another clip of her dancing in the hall outside her congressional office. Take that you dinosaurs.
A compelling new vision presented by smart articulate politicians could lead the NDP to victory this spring; in which case may I be the first to post a video of the Notley crew dancing in the corridors of power?
And if the dance analogy (take that you dinosaurs) doesn’t do it for you, remember what Wayne Gretzky said: Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been.
*With thanks to DD