Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
September 5, 2005
Wealth begins in an open heart
As Alberta celebrates its 100th anniversary as a province, it has a lot to be proud of. For much of the early decades of that first century, the province was wracked by droughts, crop failures, and physical and economic hardship. One hundred years ago, this province was a frontier where determined men and women cleared the land, broke the soil and eked out a living.
But the moment that changed all that was the discovery of oil at Leduc No. 1 in 1949. Since then, Alberta has been on the path to enormous prosperity, prosperity that has sometimes been broken by sharp falls in petroleum prices, but has mainly been onward and upward.
We have so much for which to be grateful in our past. But we should be looking forward to the next 100 years, not only back at the last. It is perhaps ironic that Alberta's oil revenue bounty should again be a topic of national attention at the very moment we are celebrating our centennial.
What we do with that bounty will determine, in no small part, where this province stands 100 years from now. For if cattle drives are now but a distant memory, so will the petroleum industry be in 2105. What will we do with the resources that give us a high material quality of life? Not only petroleum, but also water, agriculture, forests, and diverse and breathtaking scenery.
Even more importantly, what will we be like as a people? Will our children's children value their own offspring as gifts from God and raise them to be people of responsibility and self-discipline? Will we strive to end the poverty that is still widespread in our midst?
Albertans have many strengths. We are a dynamic people, willing to embrace change and generous to others. We are marked by a spirit of enterprise and initiative, not only in business, but also in the whole gamut of community life. In the face of hardship, Albertans will typically innovate rather than complain and give up.
But if we have strengths, we also have weaknesses. Our prosperity has made many blind to what is most valuable in life. Bigger houses, and faster vehicles sometimes hypnotize us. We sometimes act as though the oil will never run out and we have no need to plan for a different future.
Political and economic power has been unduly centralized within our province. Our low voter turnout at elections betrays a lack of desire to affect the common good. We sometimes ignore the poor or blame them for their own fate.
The cure for such weaknesses and the hope for our future is for Albertans to look beyond the self to the good of others. One can urge our fellow citizens to tap the humanitarian impulse. But humanitarianism is an unattractive option unless one has faith in the divine and the hope of eternal life.
Love is the answer. But the one sure foundation for love is faith and hope.
In 1991, Pope John Paul II wrote about another 100th anniversary, the centennial of Catholic social teaching. In his encyclical Centesimus Annus ( 100 Years), the pope said, "The theological dimension is needed both for interpreting and solving present-day problems in human society." Pope John Paul made that comment specifically in relation to societies that are permissive and consumerist.
If we do not approach social problems with the eyes of faith, those problems will prove intractable. This is not because prayer will automatically make those problems go away. Rather, it is because faith lifts a person and a society out of narcissism. It orients us to others - first, to that Other who is infinite and eternal, but also to those others who are persons created by God for God.
The future of Alberta will ultimately be determined by the extent to which we embrace faith, hope and love. Our current prosperity will count for nothing if we do not do so. Each of us is given but one life, a scant few years, to walk the path of love. If Alberta and Albertans do walk that path, we can be sure that 100 years from now - whether wealthy or impoverished - we will be a people who are truly rich.
- Glen Argan
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