Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Elitism and the Decline of the Middle Class in Alberta
Submitted to the Edmonton Journal and SEE Magazine



Edmonton, and Alberta in general, is world class in so many ways: festivals, concerts, mountains, sports, etc. What troubles me is how elitist and beyond the reach of average people these things are becoming. For example, my family and I have done a fair amount of camping this summer in Jasper and Elk Island. But with the price of an annual park pass and roughly $40 per night to pitch a tent, we've felt the pinch in our pocket. As a teacher who works in a low income demographic, I am saddened at how the vast majority of my students and other lower middle class families will never get to enjoy the outside in Alberta. My wife and I both have good jobs, but we are still very limited as to what we are able to take in. I wouldn't even consider considering the purchase of a ticket to an Oilers game - or even an Oil Kings game - as it is beyond our practical/justifiable means. Folk Festival pass? Fringe shows? It all adds up.

There are two factors at play here, and both of them are leading to the erosion of the Canadian middle class.

The first point is that wages are not keeping pace with the rate of inflation and are driven solely by markets. This is why you can have oil rig workers making more than school teachers. I do not mean to be derogatory to rig workers as they provide us with a vital resource that keeps us all moving and warm in the winter. What I am stating is that people are being paid based on what the market can bare, rather than their social contributions. Enter professional athletes and rock stars, to whom I am making a derogatory inference. At the risk of sounding like a Communist, I believe that wages should reflect greater parity. Take out any professional element in our society: teachers, sanitation workers, doctors, truck drivers, engineers, farmers and we all suffer. We seem to want to put some on a pedestal, like doctors, while placing administrative assistants and custodians down below. Our misguided perception is reflected even further in how teachers, the people who prepare individuals for whatever career path they elect to embark upon, are not financially compensated, relatively speaking to other professions, and Education remains poorly funded by governments, proportionate to other things (such as Indy car racing deficits).

The second factor is public apathy and ignorance. Taxes and prices escalate, we whine, and then flick on the plasma big screen HD television. People continue to support the market, driving up demand and, thus, prices. Whether we are talking about Ticketmaster "convenience charges", $8.00 fire permits at camp sites, 20% wages to politicians, Indy car race million dollar deficits, $200.00 tickets to hockey games and so forth, the general populace plods along, paying begrudgingly. Low voter turnouts, the lack of any real political debate/opposition in the province, fully booked campsites and sold out Oilers games are all testaments to this fact. Imagine if we started to say "no"....

In the end we are left with debt and a gulf between the rich and poor. Deficit economies tend to implode. History teaches us that a nation's stability is directly dependent on a healthy, large middle class. As a society and a community, we need to be part of a solution to provoke change. Some Albertans will never see their own province or partake in many of the wonderful things we have available to us. It's truly a shame and a crime to which we are all contributing to in part.

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2 Comments:

  • At 10:31 AM , Blogger Catvibe said...

    Ho! I agree entirely. Great shots of the bear, and I like the bridge on the cliffs too. Some gorgeous mountainage. Where I am the mountains are also beautiful, but almost flat in comparison.

     
  • At 2:57 PM , Blogger Minister of the Masochistic Truth said...

    ...it's an area of frustration for me. Camping, where we get charged to exist outside of our homes in nature, truly emphasises the absurdity of our market economy. It more or less states that there are no legal forms of free lodging, that we are limited in our ability to keep warm based on regulations, and that people are not valued for their importance. People need to say "enough is enough"...

    Your mountains are just as beautiful! They are simply older and have been subjected to more sever climate patterns being near the coast.

     

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