Categories: Commentary

Culture of fear

Have you ever known anyone to be successful in a job interview by telling their potential employer that their current manager is terrible, that they are in trouble if they do not hire them immediately? The answer is most likely ‘no’, so why do our politicians insist on doing this very act? Possibly because this approach has worked in the past, creating a sense of unrest, sowing those seeds of doubt and fear, because, as Richard Nixon once noted, fear is a better motivator than love or hope (Barry Glassner).

For the past two years, we have faced an onslaught of negativity regarding our economy in Alberta, as if we were facing imminent disaster, with little evidence of an alternative plan. But now we learn that Alberta is once again poised to become the economic leader within Canada. How can such incongruences persist? Simply answered, the parties in question solely want power, the egoistic ideal of being in control, and so they have leveled such accusations to meet their ambitions.

The reality of the modern economy is that no government is truly in control. Our economy is thus at the mercy of far too many external, anomalous variables to offer any real governance to. Though we hope our government can step in to protect us from the more adverse aspects of a free market economy, we know that there is little they can do but maintain a sense of trust. Should they lose that, they are in political trouble.

This is where the culture of fear becomes a nasty, dangerous tool, because it is being used to manipulate us, to undermine our sense of trust. It is propaganda in its truest form, designed to do little more than erode our confidences, vilifying one party while offering themselves as a heroic figure to save our poor economic souls, as we are the weak, helpless victim in this Shakespearean ‘tragedy’.

The problem with such contrived scripts is that they are designed to dictate to the audience, the people, what we want and need, while feigning grassroots populism, which is quite cancerous, as it divides and polarizes a society. This in turn weakens our province, our economy, and has the threat of then becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, as a fearful society becomes more economically conservative, investing and spending less.

These political actors have received their feedback in the form of elections, which led to a rejection of their past performances. Maybe it is time to change from this position of fear and to start promoting a more positive and hopeful story. Maybe it is time for them to start trusting us, offering us some practical insights on how we might go forward, meeting the needs and interests of Albertans. Otherwise, why should we consider them for the job when they are eminently not qualified to play the lead? For, “[in]politics, what begins in fear usually ends in failure.” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge).

John Kennair is an international consultant and doctor of laws who lives in St. Albert.

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