Sunday, October 30, 2016

Brian Jean can shove his tunnel vision of 'out-of-touch elites' where the sun don't shine

Updated: 20 Nov. 2016 
Sometimes I read something that's so ludicrous I decide to blog about it. The latest example follows. 

During his speech to the WRP's annual general meeting in Red Deer, the Edmonton Journal's Graham Thomson wrote:
'He [Jean] didn’t talk about building a wall but there was plenty of talk about “corruption,” “out-of-touch elites” and “disastrous” government policies. And he painted a picture of Alberta as bleak as that of Trump’s United States.'
Jean is also quoted as saying
'We see crime skyrocketing and poverty increasing. We see a growing number of young people being trafficked into a sex trade against their will. We see dangerous drugs like fentanyl and other opioids killing Albertans and ripping families apart. This must stop. And we continue to see the rights of criminals put above the rights of victims.'
All presumably because of Rachel Notley's NDP 18-month government. What utter nonsense. Who could buy such tripe? Apparently many WRP supporters, as Jean was feeding 'red meat' to his base.

ELITES
This blog focuses mainly on the “out-of-touch elites” bit. I'm not sure what Jean means by 'elites' but one OED definition of 'elite' follows.
ELITES AS EDUCATED AND SKILLED:
A select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society.‘the elite of Britain's armed forces’[as modifier] ‘an elite athlete’‘an elite commando unit’
Let's examine the definition that elites are people who are superior in terms of ability or qualities,e.g., elite athletes. Over 39 years of residing in Alberta, I have heard people who vote right-wing provincially or federally (Progressive Conservative, old Reform Party, Harper Conservatives, etc.) speak of those who work at the University of Alberta (UA) as 'out-of-touch with the real world', more or less elite 'ivory tower' know-nothings.
A state of privileged seclusion or separation from the facts and practicalities of the real world.‘the ivory tower of academia’
In other words, many right-wing Albertans, evidenced by Jean's 'firing up the base' rhetoric, view having an education as making you both elite and dumb. And Jean encourages it. Even worse, being educated and working at a healthcare facility or a university, teaching at any level, i.e., working in any public sector, is akin to living in some sort of fantasy world. You're apparently out-of-touch, unlike a dude or dudette who works in any private sector job. Hmmm...

First, this viewpoint pisses me off (sorry, but 'urinates me off' doesn't cut it). Yes, I take Jean's slander, directed at the NDP government, personally. Why? 
  • Well, when you diss MLAs who achieved an education and have a background of working in public sector jobs, you diss us all.
  • Yes, I have a professional qualification from a national health profession organization (CSMLSand two university degrees. Plus I worked full-time in the public sector for Canada's blood supplier, and in Med Lab Sci at UA for ~22 years. 
  • And, surprise! I've never considered myself to be out-of-touch with the real world or an elite, pampered ivory tower know-nothing. 
  • Nor are the MLAs in the NDP caucus.
  • When you go down the road of turning folks against each other, you foster division and hate. It's we versus 'the other' territory. And that's what WRP's Brian Jean is spawning.
Let me expand on this theme by a closer look at my experience. Discussing the particular is always more effective than speaking in generalities. I'd bet my background is similar to those of most folks who Jean sees as out-of-touch elites - those of us with backgrounds in education and public service such as working in healthcare. Really, his out-of-touch elite slander is laughable. 

For 22 years at UA I taught culturally diverse students from all walks of life and backgrounds. The field was one where making a mistake had serious consequences, e.g., errors in the hospital transfusion service laboratory (TS) could result in patient harm, including death. Indeed, I once had a student whose error while interning in the TS and being supervised by an excellent medical laboratory technologist hastened the death of an elderly patient (Severe hemolytic transfusion reaction involving a student). 

As both a clinical instructor for the UAH transfusion service and a prof, I got to see students up close and personal in good times and bad, watch them grow and mature, and was privileged to be a part of their life for 3+ years, including discussing and counselling them on many issues. Face-to-face talks to discuss marks, explain and encourage how to improve, often involved tear-filled sessions. 

In some cases students were devastated by low or failing grades because parents in foreign lands had saved and sacrificed to fund their Canadian education. To fail would be disastrous, the end of their world. Worrying that they might do something drastic was a real concern. 
  • I suspect this is different from business folks firing employees because what's key in business is the bottom line (profits). In education and similar public sector professions, humans and their well being are key. Yet Jean & his Wildrose cronies ridicule the work we do as out-of-touch elites.
For one course, I was with 4 students all day long for weeks. Having 8 eyes on your every move for hours, week after week, asking 'Why?' is stressful. There was no place to hide, no calming space to feel tired or 'down'. You had to be 'on' 100% of the time. Every minute of every day was 'Showtime!' where you had to come prepared to give your best. 
  • This is not a lot different from servers in restaurants or clerks in stores.  I respect their work. Wish Jean & his Wildrose cronies did mine. 
A typical workday averaged maybe 12 hours, sometimes longer. Reading journals on the weekend was the norm. Keeping up-to-date with both theory and practice were critical to maintaining respect. On holidays time was often spent thinking of improved ways to enhance student learning and love of the subject. Many relatives worked long, hard, exhausting hours for low wages, including my Mom and others. 
  • I respect their work. Wish Jean & his Wildrose cronies did mine. 
Honestly, my healthcare career working for Canada's blood supplier and my university teaching career were the most fun I ever had  - and  the most rewarding - but were they an elite, pampered, out-of-touch existence? If they were, I paid for them with long years of study and dedication and discovered that sacrificing leisure hours to lifelong learning never ends.

I'll skip the rest of the sidebar about what it's like to work in the public sector, whether a medical laboratory technologist, nurse, physician, social worker, teacher, professor, clinical instructor, etc. In all cases, such work is not a pampered out-of-touch life. Trust me, it ain't. 

If I'd run a business, according to Brian Jean I wouldn't be elite and out-of-touch, eh? Well, I have run one for 16 years now, including hiring others for specific projects. There's no difference, I'm the same person. I haven't suddenly become in-touch and down-to-earth. 

Also, people don't emerge from a vacuum when they enter a profession or gain employment. My grandparents on both sides were dirt-poor farmers. I was raised by maternal grandparents for my first 5 years and later spent many summers at their Fisher Branch MB farm. Driving the John Deere tractor, fetching water from the well, helping Gran wash clothes using a tub with attached clothes ringer, and riding on a stone boat loaded with manure are treasured memories.
My Grandmother and Mom, Fisher Branch MB

My Mom and her brother with their one gift, Christmas ~1926
My Dad (grade11) worked as a gold miner, aircraft mechanic, aircraft inspector. Mom (grade 8) worked as a presser in a dry cleaners, waitress in a diner, and slung beer at a veterans' club. Other close relatives have included postal carrier, garage owner, insurance sales rep, long haul trucker, nurse, office clerk, landscaper, miner, Mountie, manual labourer in the oil patch.
Me ~1949 where we lived in bush, middle of nowhere, at Laverty ~1.5 km outside Red Lake ON
Moreover, professionals are invariably curious about life and often travel widely. Attending conferences and collaborative work exposes people to colleagues from many countries. Having significant knowledge of people working in diverse jobs in different cultures is the norm. 
  • Your life and world view expand, they don't contract as Brian Jean would have his gullible fans believe.
ALBERTA'S NDP GOVERNMENT
Back to Brian Jean. Why would he slander NDP government MLAs as “out-of-touch elites”? Your guess is a good as mine but I suspect he's pandering to those with less education who've learned much in the 'school of hard knocks' and work in the private sector.  

Folks who tend to see the educated as living a pampered life, specifically those working in the public sector (e.g., diagnostic imaging technologists, med lab technologists, nurses, social workers, teachers, etc.). 

I'll pick a few NDP MLAs and you assess if they are out-of-touch with Alberta's reality, the elites that Brian Jean disdains. Not included are the 'kids' who won in 2015 because Albertans had finally had it with the 44-year PC government.
I wonder if Brian Jean prefers a legislature populated with less educated MLAs. That would be weird because many in his WRP caucus hold university degrees. 

Or are you only 'out-of-touch elites' if you're NDP? Or is it NDP with degrees in helping professions who are Jean's scorned upon elites? 

Or maybe you're elite only if you hold liberal and progressive views? Apparently conservatives, even those in power for 44 years, are not elites. Even though they ran everything and had all kinds of Albertans AND Alberta institutions kissing their well greased tushes
Perhaps Jean more highly values MLAs with experience as business men, entrepreneurs, farmers, who are really small business men and women, anyone working in the private sector? If so, does he see them as being in-touch and not elite?

Of course, governments have many experts in the civil service and may also obtain outside advice. Two NDP examples: 
  • David Dodge, to help it draft a multi-year plan to build roads, schools and hospitals;
  • Andrew Leach on climate change.
BOTTOM LINE 
Legislatures need folks from all walks of life. They need to represent the folks they govern. However, the larger issue is that you don't run government like a for-profit business where the bottom line is being in the black. 

Business types are NOT MORE desirable MLAs than those in helping professions. Their life experience is not broader than others who Jean demeans, indeed it may even be more limited for some, perhaps many.

The rest of us with job experience caring for people from every walk of life, in every area of life, are out-of-touch elites? No. That's WRP Brian Jean pandering to his base.

It's great if you can balance budgets, as when oil prices are high, but government first and foremost exists to serve all the people, especially the most vulnerable in society who need a helping hand. When you raise them up, you raise everyone up. 

Governments set priorities according to their principles and belief systems. Like the PCs, Jean believes that business types know reality best and will implement the discredited ideology of 'trickle down economics'.

Moreover, Jean seems a proponent of 'raise yourself up by your bootstraps' dogma. 'If I did it, then all you other folks should be able to do it too.' Therefore, minimal government is best government. 

Jean would not know or care that many of the NDP MLAs he carelessly disses for political advantage, preying on the ignorance of the WRP's base, are both formally and informally educated with broad experience. 

Jean spews nonsense such as: “Since the NDP has taken power, our unemployment rate has nearly doubled. They’ve waged a war on business, taxed companies out of existence and sent jobs out of province and out of country.” 

Who can spout such BS to followers? Surely only a politician who thinks his followers are ignorant and can be easily manipulated.

LEARNING POINTS
Alberta's right-wing in the form of the PCs controlled our government for decades. They were the elites who ruled Alberta for 44 years. Conservative elites. To Jean, it seems only progressives are elites.

What to say to his drivel on the NDP. One is that Brian Jean sure as hell won't 'make Alberta great again' whatever that means. To Jean it probably means channeling King Ralph by making cuts to health and education and other people-focused programs so that the government can run a balanced budget. 

If oil prices rise, and they will eventually, whichever party is in power will try to take credit. 

Jean's world view is a negative one. It's funny that he calls the governing NDP 'out-of-touch' elites (meaning with knowledge beyond bean-counter business?). Clearly, Jean and his WRP are out-of-touch with global events and new realities. 

Jean and the WRP don't realize that 
  • Alberta's economy needs to gradually transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy or we'll forever be captive to Saudi/OPEC manipulation and it should have happened decades ago. And yes, we need to help those trapped in dead-end jobs in the coal industry. 
  • Alberta must fight climate change with real measures or forever be seen as a pariah that ignored, even denied, global warming.
  • Most of all, that change (not only maths) is hard. A get-out-of-jail-free card doesn't exist. Citizens will need to pay more to combat climate change, develop renewable energy sources, upgrade infrastructure, improve education, spend more on healthcare, especially assisted living for seniors, and much more after decades of PC neglect. 
Albertans who whine about what change will do to them need to suck it up. Whatever happened to the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps rugged individuals that Alberta prides itself on? 

Instead of proposing detailed constructive alternatives, Jean pontificates to the gullible that the NDP represents corruption, out-of-touch elites and disastrous policies. He's challenging Trump for what Bill Maher calls being a 'whiny little bitch'. Yes, it's harsh and I don't like the 'bitch' part, but it fits.

Well, Brian Jean can shove his tunnel vision of Alberta's realities where the sun don't shine. I hope a man with such a negative, alternative universe, Trumpian view of the world will never form a government in Alberta.  I hope there's too many 'out-of-touch elites', in urban and rural centres, anywhere in Alberta, to prevent that disaster.

As always comments are most welcome.