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  • Reforming ailing social structures starts with conversation

    Gordon Bailey

    Whether it's the problem with pipelines, police, or public subsidies, we need to have a back-and-forth dialogue to initiate change.


    ONE OF THE MOST OVER-WORKED, yet fundamentally necessary words in our language is conversation. It’s not only significant interpersonally but inter-culturally. We’re at a time in our history that conversations with authentic intent and understanding are crucial to clearing the debris so evident in many domains in our society. 

    Communication means back and forth—a dialogue, not a monologue. But, also, back and forth again and again. 

    Things that happen over-and-over-again build structures and systems in a society.  Over-and-over-again-ness, to coin a phrase, takes place at many levels and layers within society. It can also destroy intelligent, careful, important structures—even those that are taken for granted. Lies told over-and-over-again become false “truths.”

    Over 200 people have been arrested attempting to stop the Trans-Mountain Pipeline bringing bitumen oil from near Edmonton to Burnaby. I was one of them—and did 240 hours of community service here in Victoria—mostly as a volunteer at Our Place. Recently, many people involved have gone to jail for their actions. The justice system wasn’t interested in a conversation; it began by assisting a long discredited American corporation with a court injunction to stop democratic protests. Ecological illiteracy is devastating in our courts and in our governments. Our federal government exhibited this illiteracy in buying an unnecessary, indeed dangerous pipeline—dangerous to our environment and a healthy future for our children and beyond.

    There needs to be a strong, resonant, conversation about this federally-subsidized encroachment into our province. The evidence is so overwhelming that one needn’t read endlessly—the Trans-Mountain Pipeline project is neither ecologically nor economically viable. What does that mean? The project is a wrong-headed endeavour as argued by all expert evidence-based perspectives. 

    But, there’s also a need for a strong conversation with the police. Police structures and systems are based on taken-for-granted Over-and-over-again-ness as well. These systems and structures need discussion and action—strong conversations with the citizens of our communities. 

    The notion of defunding the police is foolish in my view. Defunding the medical system, or the educational system, or the correctional system, seem foolish as well. A strong restructuring of all these systems is needed. 

    However, defunding corporate subsidies from our governments at all levels actually makes a good deal of sense.

    But, again, that demands a conversation. How many people have been part of the conversation that has plied taxpayers dollars into the oil and gas private sector? Our provincial government has an errant track record around fracking, LNG pipelines and production, in addition to a completely equally errant relationship with our Indigenous people. All this needs to be remedied—and it begins with dialogue, conversation, openness.

    Why now—this desire to communicate with the police? Citizens have begun to realize that we need to join hands—across previous chasms—to become participants as defenders of democracy. The alternative to this conversation is incipient fascism as we are witnessing in many parts of the world. Openness can close gaps or wounds. We all need to take responsibility—not simply take orders!

    I’ve delivered a letter to the Victoria Police (Community Relations Department) and the Regional RCMP offices and requested an interview so that we could begin an open conversation regarding our equally important parts in citizen resistance to fear-inducing corporate or government endeavours such as the Trans-Mountain Pipeline.  Among the topics I want to discuss with them are the fact that both the Canadian National Railway and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway police (both American owned and operated) have served tickets upon participants observing the on-going pipeline clear-cutting at Brunette Creek in Burnaby.  

    Let’s be excited about new avenues for conversation as we all attempt to build new structures—over and over again, i.e. keeping our future going with robust intent. Please invite your local police to begin this conversation with you and your community. 

    Gordon A. Bailey, Ph.D. has taught at both Capilano University and the University of Victoria. He has published books and articles on social theory, ideology and education, as well as written a mystery series. He lives in Victoria, BC. www.gordonabailey.com

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