friendly & inclusive?

What kind of community do you want to live in?

I wish I lived in a community where people treated each other with respect, even if they each hold contrasting opinions. I wish I lived in a community where those differences were approached with curiosity: an interest in learning the reason for the difference, an effort to empathize and see things from the perspectives of others.

Instead, as evidenced by last week’s public meeting regarding a development proposal at Victoria and Vidal, it seems I live in a community where differences in opinion are something to be feared and approached with anger. The meeting was a room full of bullies, each group attempting to intimidate the other and council, as if the decision at hand would be made by applause-o-meter.

In their comments, it was abundantly clear that very few from either side were truly listening to what the other was trying to say. And very few people in the room even understood what the meeting was about. They were effective at communicating little besides their fear and anger.

In April, I quoted from Emotional Intelligence about how stress and anger affect intelligence and rational thought. I believe that’s what was witnessed last week. Had the neighbourhood been more open-minded, they might have realized that most of their fears were irrational, or at least been able to focus on the source of their concern rather than get paranoid and distracted, wasting energy on all the peripheral issues.

They refused to accept that the proposed building would not impact their views, then they challenged the legality of the proposed height, then demanded that the way height is calculated in the city be changed.

Strip away all the rude heckling, personal attacks, and intimidation-by-applause competition, what they were really trying to say is that the building looked massive and that was totally out of character with the current neighbourhood and “seaside village atmosphere” that is envisaged for that area. And on that, I agreed with them.

I just wish I lived in a community that was less fearful of other people’s ideas. That fear short-circuits rational thought. I wish I lived in a community that was less angry. It doesn’t allow for empathy and truly understanding the perspectives and intentions of others.

If your vision of White Rock is a community that is friendly and inclusive, we can make that happen now. It shouldn’t be a goal for the distant future. And it has nothing to do with how tall the heights will be in 20 years. It is determined by how we treat each other now.

Friendly open-mindedness will allow for constructive dialogue and debate without the defensiveness, fear and anger. How we engage in the debate itself — seeking to understand, looking for points of consensus — can reflect the kind of community we want to live in — friendly and inclusive — and in that very process, be it.

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