For good or ill, the oil industry has not only been central to Edmonton's economy, but also to its social imagination.
Not only do the oil industry and its principal symbol, the oil rig, occupy a defining position in Edmonton's economy, it also occupies a defining position in Edmonton's civic culture.
The reality of the oil industry is not as predominant in the local media, because it is bad for business for Albertans to disagree with the worlds most important industry.
The iconography of the oil derrick is hugely pervasive in the evertyday lives of Edmontonians. From education to culture, down to the basic economics, the symbolism of the Oil Derrick can reach near religious proportions. As the volatility of the price of oil continues, we the people begin to see our dependence on our primary resource.
When one sees one wearing such a pendant, such as the one pictured left, it is often assumed that the wearer is a Christian. For Christians, the crucifix (simplified as a cross) embodies the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the clemency earned for mankind by Christ's martyrdom.
Crucifix pendants come in a variety of forms, from simple crosses to the more elaborate rosaries famously associated with the Catholic church. Moreover, specialized rosaries for particular beliefs are available -- such as the rosary of the unborn, described as "the most powerful and ultimate weapon to end abortion".
The crucifix doesn't hold the same symbolism for everyone. Some groups consider the crucifix to be a symbol of oppression. More pointedly, some have treated Catholic rosaries as symbols of the oppression of women, or the sexual abuse of children.
These drill bit pendants are popular with those who work on rigs -- both drilling rigs that typically use these drill bits, and well servicing rigs that typically do not.
These pendants identify their wearer as part of a particular community -- the rig working community. As with crucifix pendants, more elaborate versions of these pendants can be purchased. Just as more elaborate crucifixes can often denote certain beliefs or values, more elaborate -- often gem-encrusted -- pendants at least suggest one has attained a greater level of achievement.
Moreover, these pendants can have different meanings to different people. Environmentalists, for example, may consider these pendants to be symbolic of the wearer's complicity in environmental destruction.
Simply put, the oil industry and its symbols don't hold the same meaning for everyone. It is very different things to very different people.
George, Roland. “ Alberta’s energy future: Focus on Oil.” National Energy Board.
Pallanik, Kyle. “The Oil Sands Project and the Battle that Threatens Canadian Unity.” Digital Journal.
Winton, Ezra. “Alberta tar sands documentary raises questions about the newest bonanza.” Art Threat Culture+Politics.
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