Thursday, April 15, 2010

What do Progressive Albertan's Believe and Why?

The last blog post on the Reboot Alberta Progressive Values survey covered the priority ranking and intensity levels of some 22 values we tracked that relate to a progressive point of view for a 21st century Alberta. If you have not read it yet you should. It will help you to understand this related blog post. Here is a link.

This survey was part of the process to help people get a better understanding of what people in the Reboot Alberta citizen’s movement meant by the term “progressive.” There is more discussion exploring the modern meaning of the term “progressive” in a series of blog posts at at the “What is a Progressive” button.

This post is focused more on how the Reboot Alberta progressive thinking survey participants saw themselves in terms of Paul Ray’s research on Cultural Creative values in the United States. It was research conducted over more than 20 years and included over 100,000 people and hundreds of focus groups. I recommend his book "The Cultural Creatives" if you want to get a better understanding of the rise of powerand influence of this group of citizens.

It is an open question if this research can translate directly into the Alberta context. But for the purposes of getting some insight into what progressive Albertans see as some priority issues and what level of concern they have, the American Cultural Creatives survey results are instructive. Ray says all Cultural Creatives are progressives but not all progressives are necessarily Cultural Creatives. My sense is the same in meeting and working with both types of people for over a decade in Alberta.

Cultural Creative Citizen Movement Rooted in the 60s:
Rebooters and other progressive Albertans need some context on the roots of the current consciousness of Cultural Creatives. For that, Ray takes us back to the struggles in the various social justice and protest movements of the 60’s. The women’s movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, the race issues in the American south, the emergence of the environmental movement, according to Ray, all “…fed the longings and hopes of a vast population.” He notes at the same time there were “…new consciousness movements for spirituality, new forms of psychology, and holistic healing and health” happening.

These earlier movements changed the world views and mindsets, especially of the Baby Boomers who are still dominant the control of weath, opinions and the thoughtscapes of our society and culture today. Some significant progress has been made on these concerns but ironically the cynical indifference and distain for politics by these same people who were at the centre of the 60’s movements have put us back into protesting the same kind of crap today. Our democracy is frail, fragile and disappearing. Power gets more centralized in a reckless and abusive command and control, authority driven, politically expedient governance culture.

This retreat to traditionalist culture represented by the Wildrose Alliance is socially, environmentally and economically unacceptable, especially to progressives. The current government’s modernist mindset based on rapid, unrestricted growth in the consumption of natural resources to feed the short-term brand of success found in the Stelmach government is also being rejected by progressives. That is why Reboot Alberta is resonating with so many people. It is seen as a gathering place to transform the current political culture into something more representative, responsible, sustainable, conservationist, inclusive and participatory than the current conventional institutional models allow.

The Progressive Albertan's Worldview and Mindset:
So what exactly is the Alberta progressive worldview and mindset? One can’t be totally comprehensive in answering that question but the key is a 21st century progressive Albertan does have a different worldview and mindset from the current conventional conservative or the ultra-conservative options being touted today as worthy of our consent to govern us.

From the answers to the Cultural Creatives survey results we have some indication of where the hearts and minds are at of those progressive Albertans who are gathering together in a community and an adventure called Reboot Alberta. Here is a sampling of what they said:

When asked if they wanted Alberta’s politics and government spending to put more emphasis on children’s education and well-being, on rebuilding neighbourhoods and communities, 87% agreed.

Consistent with the enormous commitment of progressive Albertans to engage in helping make Alberta a better place, 86% of survey participants said they wanted to be involved in creating a new and better way of life in our country and province.

There were 85% who said they were concerned about violence and abuse of women and children, including when it happens around the world. There are 80% who volunteer for one or more good causes as well. Some 70% want more priority focused on equality for women in the workplace and more women in leadership roles in business and politics.

Consistent with being Influentials and having many vibrant and active personal networks, 83% said they placed a great deal of importance in developing and maintaining personal relationships. Progressives are very concerned about their relationships with nature, 79% said they love nature and are deeply concerned about its destriction and 76% are stongly aware of problems of the whole planet including concerns over global warming, destruction of forests and the lack of ecological sustainability. Given this ecological concern 76% said they would be prepared to pay more taxes for consumer goods if they were assured the money would go to clean up the environment and stop global warming.

Some 67% of Progressives are unhappy with the old-style left versus right of conventional politics and want to find a new way that is not the “mushy middle.” There were 64% who said they were somewhat optimistic about the future but they distrust the dominant cynical and pessimistic view as perpetrated in the mainstream media.

There are 74% who reject the consumption model of “making it.” This is aptly expressed in the rejection of the bumper sticker philosophy of “He who dies with the most toys wins” mentaility. There are 77% who are also concerned about what big corporations see as success in merely making more and more short-term profits by cutting costs and creating social, safety and environmental problems as a result.

Is it Time to Return to Progressive Citizen Activism?
In conclusion I see progressive Albertans preparing for the 21st century with a potential for a very positive image of the future. But many things will have to change, including citizens returning to active participation in creating that positive future. Without a positive image of the future a culture stagnates, declines and eventually dies. Remember we also found in this survey that Albertans are not as proud of being Albertan as the mythology suggests.

There is nothing inevitable about being an Albertan these days, nor about the kind of future that lies ahead of us. Progressives in Alberta are pretty clear that the future they want for their province and it is not to be alienated or disconnected from Canada and the larger world even with its complex and inter-related issues.

With every single citizen of Alberta holds the ownership benefit and burden of the oilsands our responsbilities are clear. We need to start acting like owners and making demands of our government and industry tenants so that they align with our better Alberta values and citizenship expectations. With the world attention on Alberta and our “world famous” oilsands that means we are under a microscope environmentally, economically, politically, and socially. The chance for Alberta to be an isolated island and aloof from engagement with the planet and its people is nil.

It is Not About Alberta Being the Best Place IN THE WORLD But the Best Place FOR THE WORLD:
Our challenge as Albertans is not to be the best place in the world but rather be the best place for the world. That capacity to realize such an aspiration is within us as a people and a province but we cannot achieve it with the limitations and ineptness of the current political and governing culture. Citizen’s let this happen and citizens have to fix it. Reboot Alberta is one way to get responsible citizenship as a means to regaining responsible representative government in Alberta.

Rebooting Alberta is all about Controls, Alternatives and Deletions. It means we have to return contol of democracy to citizens. The politicians are merely our agents, not our masters. We have to design some new alternative political institutions that are more effective to replace the current atrophied institutions. I think it was Buckminster Fuller who said in effect, you don’t change things by opposing the current realities. You design new models that made the old ways obsolete. Then we have to delete some of the destructive directions, decisions and policy approaches that are inappropriate because they are not responsible, sustainable, accountable, and transparent nor even honest in too many cases.

If this intrigues you and you are a progressive who want to help make a difference to Alberta’s destiny, then go to Sign up, show up and step up as a re-engaged citizen. You will be glad you did and you will find your tribe there too.