“Anyone can become angry—that is easy. But to become angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way—this is not easy.” Aristotle 384-322BC
I was reminded of the old philosopher’s thoughts a few days ago when chatting with a gentleman just back from an extended visit to Ottawa and Toronto. He had, he said, never experienced, so much outspoken criticism “of the West—especially Alberta—for its hunger for ever-larger pipelines to export oil.”
While the criticism of “western cowboys who don’t give a damn for the rest of Canada” was irritating, it was the anger with which the words were spoken that really disturbed him. And, it wasn’t just one or two people, he said. “It seems everywhere I went, I ran into the same anger, the same bitterness.” Nasty, and for a Canadian born native westerner, disturbing. “They were angry with me, suggesting we might like to separate from Canada.”
It was back in 1960 that Quebec started talking of splitting from Canada—in anger and because it felt it was getting a bad deal from the rest of the country. The Parti Quebecois was formed, but it took until 1980 before a first vote was held on separation. It failed, and the Parti Quebecois tried again in 1995—and failed again as Quebec voters opted to remain in Canada.
Four months ago, Angus Reid conducted a poll in Alberta to measure how serious the electorate was on burgeoning talk of separation. Fifty percent of those polled were in favour of breaking free from what they regarded as Ottawa’s unjust demands (supported by BC) on the development, sale and shipment of one of Alberta’s natural resources.
Pollster Reid said Albertans felt they were not being listened to; that their interests were being ignored. Many felt it was time to leave the family. But, at the same time, he urged observers to “slow down before drawing parallels” with the old Quebec situation.
I’m sure that appeal included cooling the rhetoric when debating how to best involve Indigenous original landowners in the extraction of natural resources; how to safely ship the product to market; and, how to ensure environment protection, a fossil fuel extraction and shipping issue that tends to inflame Canadians outside Alberta.
Only when we shout “fill ‘er up” at the gas pump do we accord respect to this now cursed natural resource, which a hundred years or so ago brought us freedom of movement we had never dared dream of; it made it possible to stock our grocery stores with the freshest and the finest foods and every other kind of store with everything we need to maintain decent life standards.
The need for fossil fuel to power transportation will pass; indeed, it is diminishing every day. We can urge greater speed to bring an end to the internal combustion engine. But, when we feel a need for angry confrontation, we should make sure we have picked the right target, the right time, right way and right purpose.
And always remember when challenging another’s point of view:
“Non semper ea sunt quae videntur.” Google will translate.