I write in response to the recent editorial in the Driftwood entitled Time to Detox. The article refers to a book written by one of our own islanders, James Hoggan, called I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: the Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean it Up. Upon reading the editorial I phoned Salt Spring Books and reserved a copy; it is indeed a worthwhile read.
The editorial suggests that Mr. Hoggan has an important approach to the kind of debates which take place on our island and, in particular, regarding the issue of incorporation.
The editorial also states that “it will take some serious work on the part of many individuals to turn the current toxic ship around.” I do not believe our ship is “toxic” and it is this that I would like to address.
One of the points Mr. Hoggan makes is that repetition can significantly influence attitudes and beliefs, whether based on facts or, as some might say, “alternative facts.” To give the editorial a title including the word “detox” and to reinforce that by referring to a “toxic ship” does not help our community set a healthy collaborative tone for dialogue.
Likewise the oft-quoted phrase, “Salt Spring is an argument surrounded by water,” generally used with a negative connotation, is not helpful. Of course there will be arguments, differences of opinion and discussions on our island; we are a community and we will have our differences, as in any family. And we are passionate about our community.
Differences of opinion are healthy and enrich our society. They are to be welcomed. We all learn from each other. How those differences are handled is what counts. Open and honest dialogue and a willingness to compromise is what leads to constructive agreement.
It is unfortunate that debates and discussions are not always respectful. Some of the discussions we hear and read on the subject of governance for our island might indeed be described as “toxic.” As Mr. Hoggan says, “toxic conversations stall our ability to think collectively.” Such conversations are destructive and damaging. However, they do not make up the norm and represent an approach taken by a very small percentage of our community. There are many discussions taking place on various websites and elsewhere which are, for the most part, respectful and thoughtful.
Having said that, notwithstanding the efforts which have been made to provide our community with accurate and unbiased information, there remain many who are understandably confused. There is a great deal of information to absorb. The incorporation study website (ssiincorporationstudy.com) contains useful materials and information. For current activities and to have any questions answered go to www.latestssiincorporationstudy.com.
There are and will be many opportunities to discuss and debate the options available to our community for its future governance. It now appears we have until the fall before there may be a referendum. We therefore have time to think about how we should proceed as a community.
I urge everyone to participate respectfully and openly; try to understand one another’s points of view; ensure you have the correct information and understand the options. Ask questions. Welcome the conversation. Avoid inflammatory language. This is our community and our future. Whatever the outcome we will remain a supportive and vital community.
The writer is a Salt Spring Local Trust Committee member.