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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Stages of a Political Relationship & Thoughts for Change

I was recently given a schematic showing a model of the evolution of relationships that was mostly intended to describe personal situations.  When I saw it I was fascinated on how well it worked for the political relationship between citizens and politicians/political parties.

Let me take you on the latter journey in the Alberta political context...knowing that it may also apply to Canada.  As a Reboot Alberta instigator, this diagram helped me get a better appreciation on where we are as Albertans and what options we have before us.  Not all of them are generative.  Some are even tending to the nihilistic.  But in a free will, free speech and democratic society, all options are open to us.

First we have the Romance stage.  Here we get entranced or at least excited about the possibilities of the  relationship.  I know in the early stages after Stelmach's PC leadership win there was lots of romance with Albertans.OK maybe not with the conventional oil patch but they needed a less patronizing way to relate to government anyway.  Too band that never happened as evidenced by the rapid retreat on reasonable royalty rates for the owners of the oil and gas in the ground .

The same romance thing happened with Danielle Smith and the WAP.  The Wildrose romance was especially strong amongst the mainstream media who saw the bright articulate and media-savvy Smith as a real challenge to the tired, tepid and too-long-in-the-tooth Tory government. There is a sleeper relationship issue for the WAP.  The Social Conservative wing of the Wildrose Alliance was badly beaten by Smith in the leadership contest. She humiliated them on a 75-25 leadership vote split.

That dramatic  rejection of a Social Conservative leader was even after another staunch social conservative candidate withdrew from the campaign to stop a vote split.  Will the social conservatives stay quietly within the WAP and let Smith run the show...or will they go away?  If they go away will it be quietly?  I would not take any bet on any odds that the social conservative forces in the WAP stay quiet for long, inside or outside the bosom of the Wildrose Alliance Party.

That WAP sleeper issue segues nicely into the next relationship stage; the Power Struggle.  This stage is the essence of the current right-wing political culture war we see going on in Alberta between the PCs and the WAP.  We are being told we will need an election to sort it out...but the false presumption is that there are only two viable voter options...PCs or WAPs.  So far that seems to be the case as the centre-left alternative parties are not resonating.

If the sense of limited viable election options persists to the next vote and our only choice is between a reactionary right-wing and an extreme right-wing government I will expect an even lower turn out next election and a more vulnerable democracy as a result.

The relationship options coming out of the Power Struggle stage are interesting.  They are Apathy (tell me about it...on second thought - don't bother).  This is where most Albertans seem to be regarding their "engagement" with politics.  In essence the disengagement or who cares what happens politics is the norm.  Government is seen as not listening so why try.

Next is the Transcendence option which shows up as non-engagement.  That non-engagement is were we care what happens but in some sense for some people, they seem themselves above politics.  The passive progressives, indifferent Influentials and the majority of thought-leaders in Alberta are these days seem to fall into this non-engagement category.  They are safe and secure themselves and can afford to disengage and wallow in disillusionment without taking any responsibility to apply their skills and experience to change things.   The reason for non-engagement comes from a past of anti-intellectualism in the provincial government's political class. Arrogant abdication?  Absolutely...by both sides!

We also have Separation that shows up as alternative coming out of a Power Struggle. That leads to a sense of abandonment of hope for the future as social cohesion breaks down and a "we versus they" attitude emerges.  It is seen in the rhetoric of in real political separatist who are still around in Alberta who believe the federal government is expropriating Alberta's wealth and giving it away to others, most notably Quebec.  The Alberta Separatists are below the radar, on the fringes but they appear to be quietly infiltrating the WAP.

There are others who feel separated in their relationship with government and governors.  They have started to abandon hope as they get marginalized and misused.  They are those people who are over-extended, burned out and over-burdened trying to constantly do more with less in the voluntary not-for-profit groups.  These folks are now also being bullied and intimidated by government politically and administratively into alleging a feigned loyalty to the status quo of the current government.  They are particularly vulnerable because they do a lot of work for government and depend on good political relations for fiscal and operational survival.

There are many tragic stories from these people who are now afraid of their own governors but who merely want to serve the greater good and public interest to the best of their abilities.  They are qualified, caring and compassionate people but they are turning into cowering compliant operatives who are abandoning any hope of being effective in their work or in taking truth to power.  This is especially true in these times of a political Power Struggle in a pending election.  Power, it would seem, is not interested in truth.  It has it's own agenda...retain power at all costs.

The more hopeful and generative option coming out of the Power Struggle is Curiosity and that leads to Integration where the struggle is resolve issues or at least mitigate the consequences through Integration.  Integration in a political cultural sense is what progressive Albertans in Reboot Alberta want to see happening in a renewed and revived democracy.  Progressives see Integration as a political and public policy tool to redefine and determine a different destiny for Alberta where control is returned to citizens and citizenship matters again.

The progressive citizen's movement within Reboot Alberta seeks a new trajectory for the province in all aspects from the economy and environment as well as social policy and democratic and political reform.  Integration in these terms would be a renewed governing and political philosophy that would ensure that social, environment, economy and democratic elements are all taken into account in any public policy decisions that were being considered and the best outcomes for each governing element would be accommodated.

Integration simply means; all things considered, consider all things.  Integration and integrity are closely related and would be achieved even if all these elements were embraced in some honest, open, obvious and authentic public policy, political or governance approach.

What emerges out of Integration is a Commitment to a direction and a destination for Alberta that is based on the clear intention as well as the expressed and committed will of the governed (citizens) as well as the governing(politicians and policy operatives).  The consequences of Commitment is action but action that is about being together on achieving a clear intention and goal.  The action step is not to vote or not vote.  It is much more complicated than that, even though voting is key to creating change.

The lawyer in me knows the concept of being together and intentional about a direction and a goal is captured int the Latin phrase "ad idem"  When parties are ad idem, they are of the same mind and spirit.  It helps enormously to be ad idem in reaching agreements and in contracts for example.  When misunderstandings or differing interpretations appear, ad idem parties can return to intent and spirit of the agreement to resolve, reconcile or even revisit the agreement based on going forward towards even more mutual respect and trust.  This is all about being adaptive.  Being able to learn and to create a culture of practical applied wisdom instead of the win-lose adversarial model that merely breeds litigation as the default solution space to settle disagreements or misunderstandings.

What comes out of being ad idem in action and intent is a nice framing for the next relationship stage known as Co-Creativity.   This is were there is a possibility to synergistically change everything but still reaffirm what is important and vital to our society, our sense of self-respect and overall well-being.  I will share in later blogs my sense of the change of everything we need as we strive for as Albertans to integrate all things in a progressive approach.  I will explore how we can ensure we are clear on our political values as we express our individual and inter-dependent intents.  I will look at how we can, as citizens, use our democracy to insist and be assured that our governors act accordingly to our values and align policy decisions with our aspirations.

The outcome of this Co-creativity is described as Renewed Imagination. I can't think of a better working definition of Romance in political cultural terms than "Renewed Imagination."  When this happens we get progress, learning, wisdom and the culture of adaptive change that we want and will benefit from.  This is the path being proud again to be a citizen of  and a co-creator in designing and delivering the next Alberta.  And that stages leads to a new romantic period and starts the whole relationship building process anew.

So my fellow Albertans - it is time to rethink the trajectory we are on as a province and to set another course.  We have to come to grips with the harsh reality that way we are being governed is broken.  We have to fix it by rethinking the decision making criteria we use as citizens when we show up at the ballot box to grant politicians our consent govern us.  We need to become better informed and more engaged in our roles and responsibilities of citizenship.  And then we need to show up to vote in a way where we are least make a conscious positive decision about who we want to run our province instead of a forlorn choice between lesser evils.

We have to insist that we get offered a better choice than picking one set of SOBs instead of another group of SOBs to recklessly abuse their political power for their own ends. Abdication of citizenship is a luxury we Albertans can't afford anymore.  The world is run by those who show up.  Wouldn't it be nice if those who showed up knew what they wanted and had a positive progressive alternative.

That can happen but progressives are going to have to make it happen. Reboot 3.0 is all about starting to make that happen.  It is in early planning stages but it is happening November 5-7 in Edmonton.  You will get time to talk and plan with others who are longing and yearning for a positive progressive political alternative for Alberta. Block off this time to become a citizen again. It is time to revive your love of this province and restore your pride as an Albertan.

Here is a link to an earlier blog post that will give you a sense of what Albertans are thinking about politics and politicians these days. It will give you some context of how other progressives in Alberta are thinking and feeling.

 Join the Reboot progressive citizen's movement  and send a message to the powers that be that the status quo is not good enough - nor are the options that we are currently being offered.  Start making a difference and start making a different Alberta.  Reboot 3.0 is where it will all start.  Plan to be there.