Much ado about dogs…

John Devitt

Should we talk about dogs this week?  Should dogs be allowed at the market, or even downtown if they are known to be aggressive?  Should children be taught not to approach strange dogs at a young age?  Should all dog owners be forced to abide by the “on-leash” bylaw regardless of dog behaviour?  Can we agree that leashes are like car insurance: you may be a good driver, your dog might be a good dog, but insurance, or leashes are for all the other bad drivers/dogs/kids/chemical pheromone reactions between a dog and everything else?  Can we spray paint some more signs around downtown to explain this to everyone?

It was incredible the amount of commentary on the Stoke List earlier this week about the market dog attack, with everyone weighing in.  Granted it was a terrifying event for the child and its parents, possibly also for the dog given its defensive reaction.  We’re not here to further debate that one.  What’s remarkable is our shared ability as Revelstokians to make mountains out of molehills.  Everything seems like the end of the world all the time.

If there’s one thing that we all know, it’s that we know it all.  Nothing can happen in Revelstoke without all of us knowing precisely what should or shouldn’t have happened and how it could have been done better.  We are masters at blowing things out of proportion into absolute extremes of black and white.  Discussions occur with less and less frequency, making way for increased debate.

Debate:  To argue about (a subject)

Discuss: To talk or write about (a subject in detail, taking into account different ideas and opinions

When did we develop a fear of acknowledging or even accepting opposing points of view?  Is this a natural outgrowth of the locals vs. newbies debate?  Do locals feel the need to assert and defend themselves against a fear of being irrelevant in a changing community?  Do newbies feel threatened by their new and perceived ‘rookie’ status and believe there is a need to dominate and control discourse about the best ways of doing things?  We are all guilty of doing this in a variety of circumstances; whether it is arguing about the best place to pick mushrooms, the amount of snowfall in a given winter or whether or not dogs and children can intermingle in peace and harmony.

There are certainly outliers to this suggestion that Revelstoke no longer accepts differing points of view.  There are many people who can have a conversation, disagree with each other and still meet for coffee the following day.  Unfortunately, this seems to no longer be the norm, but the exception.  If you do not conform to the popular thought in Revelstoke, then the explanation is that you don’t fit in, we don’t need you, and you should just pack up and move away anyway.

Just because things have always been done a certain way, does not make them right.  Nor is every new idea a good idea.  Our political and technological systems have served in the past several years to teach us that polarized thought is the only way to think.  There is no longer a middle ground, where one can take the moral high ground and acknowledge all sides of issues by asking questions.  There exist simple extremes of black and white, is or is not, can or cannot.  If you are for one side, then you must automatically be against the other.  If you are a dog lover then you must clearly hate children and not have any of your own since your point of view is so completely invalid.  As your neighbour I choose not to understand you, but simply to march forward with a single minded perspective that does not allow for intelligent discourse.  Why is it so threatening to our perceptions to accept that we are not always right, that perhaps asking questions and fostering a real discussion is not so scary after all?

If we can have more open discussions about the pros and cons of the things going on around us that concern us then maybe more of us will participate in the process.  The trick is to have an open mind, listen to what’s being said without simply waiting for your turn to speak, and then following up with something other than “No” or “Okay, but…”

These sorts of new age conversations take place in the public domain.  On street corners and coffee shops, pubs and public gatherings, not over email, text, or witty status posts on social media and anonymous web comments.  In order to efficiently use any tool, we need to have a thorough understanding of its limitations, and accept that it is not the solution for every problem.   Yes, I’m looking at you Internet.

It is time to revisit the long lost art of conversation.  It is time for us all to become ‘conversationalists’ and reintegrate some neighbourly love and understanding into those dialogues.