Thursday, 6 March 2008

Alberta Election 2008: it's been hard to stress less in March...

It's taken me a few days to deal with my disappointment, and anger, over the results of the latest Alberta provincial election. Despite all the media hype about the electorate being ready for a big change, nothing really changed. The Conservative party, who have been in power for 37 years, actually increased their majority to the point where they now hold 72 of 83 seats in the Legislative Assembly. Voter turnout was embarrassingly low too, at 41%. Yipee, more 'democracy,' Alberta style.

So I moped around for a few days, muttering discontentedly to who ever would listen, or to myself if there was no one around. My Green Party lawn sign has been taken back inside, to wait for a Federal election, whenever that may be. Yesterday, while I was moping and muttering some more (to myself --it's gone back to business as usual around here everywhere but in my head, I think), I remembered reading something by Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh a month or two ago, about writing "love letters" to our politicians instead of negative protest-type letters. And I figured, we've got (at least) another 4-5 years of this guy and this party--I can't just sit around and mope for 5 years.

So, in the spirit of using what we've got, and making like water that encounters a rock, I've decided to do what I can to try and engage with this Premier and my local MLA, and talk to them in language that they can understand, about the things that matter to me. I'm going to write them yet another letter, and maybe even screw up my courage and make a telephone call or two. I've got to do some serious thinking about how best to phrase things in a way that can get through to these guys, who seem to value The Economy over all other things. I'm open to any and all suggestions on this front, because this isn't a type of writing or talking I'm used to doing.

I encourage everyone to write to their elected representatives too, because when a politician gets one letter each from ten people on a certain topic, it has a much stronger impact than getting ten letters from one person.

In the meantime, I'm glad that Chile's Stress Less in March challenge has given me the kick in the pants I needed to get up earlier in the morning every day this week for some stress-busting meditation and Tai Chi.

Picture of 1970's election coverage courtesy the Glenbow museum, when the government in power was still the same one we have now.


Chile said...

Butt-kicking - it's what I'm good for. ;-)

Theresa said...

But in a very motivational and relaxing fashion! :)

DC said...

I guess the real love letter to politicians that Thầy would have us compose is in our hearts. Gandhi asked us to do the same thing when he said, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” It can be challenging to see great arrogance, greed and cruelty in an individual and remember that beneath it all, there’s a human being that needs to be loved. People are sort of like diamonds covered in dirt. Some have just a little dust on them, and others are caked in mud, but deep down, there’s a pure, untainted brilliance that shines within everyone. John Lennon had it right when said, “We’re all Christ and we’re all Hitler.” There’s light and darkness within each person. Maybe remembering this is the best love letter we could write. We need to write this letter to our representatives, our friends, our enemies and ourselves. Real letters with issues and concepts that are written with sensitivity and intelligence don’t hurt either.

Theresa said...

You're so right about that, dc. That is a good perspective to keep in mind when I write this letter. It's always a good thing to keep in mind of course, but strong emotions can and do push that fact out of my mind more often than not.

Thanks for this - I know what I will be meditating on tomorrow morning :)

DC said...

Many things are worthy of sacrificing to oppose injustice. We may need to give our time, our liberty, and in extreme cases, even our lives to advance a worthy cause. There is, however, one thing that we must not sacrifice under any circumstance: our peace. If we save the planet but lose our peace of mind in the process, it’s not worth it – that’s too great a price to pay.

One may say, “I have no peace to lose. The world has already taken that from me.” But that’s not true. The world can only bring us different experiences – it has no power to give or take peace from us. Peace comes only from within, and it abides there always – it’s our nature. We don’t feel it because we hear the clamor of the world and direct our attention and energy towards it instead of ourselves. Yet peace always remains – behind the veneer of our restless minds – waiting for us to return home.

There was a Polish priest named Maximilian Kolbe who hid 2,000 Jews from the Nazis during World War II. He was eventually caught and sent to a concentration camp. Prisoners in the camp were slowly starved, but Kolbe would always be last in line to get food, and he frequently shared his meager rations with others. He seldom rested – at night, he would go from bunk to bunk comforting others. When he was beaten by guards, he never cried out – instead, he prayed for them. A Protestant doctor who treated the prisoners recalled how Father Kolbe waited until all the others had been treated before seeking treatment for himself. He never asked for anything and never complained. After someone escaped from the camp, the Nazis decided to put ten men in a starvation bunker in reprisal. Kolbe volunteered to take the place of another man who had a family. Kolbe constantly prayed, sang hymns and meditated with the other doomed men. One of the Nazi guards later testified that he saw light emanating from his body when he prayed. After two weeks, only four of the men were still alive, and only Kolbe was still conscious. He was taken from the bunker and executed. Throughout the ordeal at the camp, he pleaded with his fellow prisoners to forgive their persecutors and to meet evil with love.

This is one example of someone who found peace under the most extreme conditions imaginable. With patience, with practice, and through grace, we can do so as well. All of the politicians and others who perpetrate evil on the world are only doing so because they are wrapped in ignorance. No one gets up in the morning and decides to do what they believe is the wrong thing. People may choose to do things that are abhorrent by even the most basic generally accepted standards of morality, but they have convinced themselves that their actions are proper. We are all masters of rationalizing our behavior.

Some people, like Maximilian Kolbe, have great clarity and inner strength. They know what is right and have the willpower to follow their convictions no matter how they are challenged. Other people have a poor grasp of right and wrong, and even when they have an inkling of what they ought to do in a particular circumstance, they don’t have the strength to do it – instead of transcending their lower nature, they succumb to it. We need to have compassion for these people, even when they are in positions of power and cause great harm to others. This is not to say that we shouldn’t oppose them, but we need to try to do so with the spirit of love and reconciliation rather than anger and bitterness.

It's easier to have compassion when we realize that those who intentionally do harm are sowing the seeds of their own misfortune. The universe has a perfect accounting system, and the energy that we send out into the world eventually returns to us, in this life or later. We shouldn’t stand idly by and allow others to destroy the earth, but neither should we let ourselves be overcome by the same darkness that has consumed them. Just as we love our children but don’t allow them to do harm, we can oppose the actions of others without hatred in our hearts.

Our actions are far more powerful when they are taken from the standpoint of love. The inner and outer worlds are connected. When we find peace within ourselves, this has a positive effect on the world around us, even when we are doing nothing. Researchers at MIT have found that the movement of certain subatomic particles is affected by the thought of those observing them. Everything is connected. On the surface, there is discord – beneath it, there is unity. In loving others, we are loving ourselves. In finding peace within ourselves, we bring peace to the world. This is the way.

Theresa said...

I do take comfort in the knowledge that everything is connected. I know when I read Thich Nhat Hanh's book, Peace is Every Step, I felt such hope because there IS peace already and that acting peacefully in our daily can bring more peace to the wider world. Thanks for your beautiful composition here, dc, that has brought peace as well. :)

Hazel Nut said...

I'm glad you are hanging on to your Green party lawn sign. We have to keep trying. A year ago November Elizabeth May ran in my riding of London North, came in second which while an improvement was still very disappointing. (The winner was Liberal Glen Pearson, a really good guy and best friend of my brother ceeb so it could have been worse, much worse!) I know Glen is honestly trying to make a difference and as a leader in the Sudan movement (has adopted 3 Sudanese children and freed slaves) he struggles in parliament - it's a lonely place for 1 guy with a dream.

Theresa said...

Hi Hazel Nut. I agree, we do have to keep trying. The Green Party is definitely gaining ground everywhere, but these things do take time. It's good to hear about the work that your Liberal representative is doing - I really admire people who are willing to step into the political arena and work towards changing things for the better.