Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Full text: Sussex Can't Afford Intolerance

Here't the text of my editorial as it appeared in the July 14th edition of the King's County Record.
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Most recent population data shows that New Brunswick is the fastest shrinking province in Canada.

Compound this fact with the province’s increasing urbanization, and uncertainty forebodes Sussex’ future. Economic geography cannot be ignored if Sussex is to stand the test of time.

Two indisputable facts from economic geography need to underscore Sussex’ approach to social planning. First, indefinite existence is the primary goal of all politics. Second, people, not money, are the basis of economies. The movement of people is of particular interest to planning efforts. We must concern ourselves with how Sussex can retain and recruit citizens that will sustain a healthy community for the foreseeable future. To address this concern, we must consider the area’s specific push and pull factors, which encourage departure from and immigration to the community respectively.

Unfortunately, intolerance is an easily observable push factor in Sussex. Since the 1990’s release of Richard Florida’s paradigm-shifting Cities and the Creative Class, diversity has been understood as an indicator of economic strength. Heeding this wisdom, municipal, provincial, and federal laws have been rewritten to encourage the free expression of difference and diversity, but Sussex has been slow to meaningfully adopt this cultural shift. Sussex is place where the discouragement of difference and diversity is too common.

By no means is Reverend Phillip Hutchings unique in his behaviour - his antics serve as the perfect case study to illustrate the impact of extreme opinion on a community. Hutchings gained national attention for posting misogynist musings about breasties, selfies that prominently feature women’s beasts, on Facebook. Most recently, Hutchings audaciously took to Facebook the day of Toronto’s Annual Pride Parade to celebrate the conversion of a queer congregation member, who through religious practice found their way to heterosexuality. When Sussex’s presence in mainstream and social media articulates the town as unwelcoming to women and queer people, diversity and difference are actively discouraged. This representation of the area acts as a push factor for our youth and as a barrier for those considering moving here.

The phenomenon of brain drain plagues the entire province, but rural areas are the hardest hit. Our best home-grown talent flows west for the white collar jobs in Ontario and Quebec and skilled labour positions in Alberta. Our youth grow wings instead of roots, while intolerance salts our earth.

This trend must not go unchallenged. While we can’t manipulate job prospects to prevent or reverse brain drain, we can create a more inclusive culture in Sussex. If Sussex is to survive, we need to take meaningful steps to make the community more inclusive of diversity and difference. Among these steps: reconsidering how intolerant leadership is supported and celebrated, making time for teaching and learning about diversity in the community, not just in schools, breaking the stigma of mental illness and addiction, and embracing a live and let live ethos. Maritimers are recognized nationally for our kindness, and it’s time that we embrace that label of kindness as a political mandate to build a more inclusive Sussex.
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Just in case you're curious about newspaper editing, here's the original text submission. Only one paragraph really got edited. The edits seem to have made the highlighted paragraph both more and less incendiary. My zinger "Sussex' most famous purveyor of intolerance" got deleted, but the editors went ahead and rewrote Hutching's intolerant behaviour as "extreme opinion". The article wasn't about extreme opinion; it was about intolerance. For the record, I hold several (arguably) extreme opinions, they just aren't problematic. (Ex. free university, legalization of all recreational drugs, abolition of public institutions of binary gender)
_________________________________________________________________________________

Most recent population data shows that New Brunswick is the fastest shrinking province in Canada. Compound this fact with the province’s increasing urbanization, and uncertainty forebodes Sussex’ future. Economic geography cannot be ignored if Sussex is to stand the test of time.

Two indisputable facts from economic geography need to underscore Sussex’ approach to social planning. First, indefinite existence is the primary goal of all politics. Second, people, not money, are the basis of economies. The movement of people is of particular interest to planning efforts. We must concern ourselves with how Sussex can retain and recruit citizens that will sustain a healthy community for the foreseeable future. To address this concern, we must consider the area’s specific push and pull factors, which encourage departure from and immigration to the community respectively.

Unfortunately, intolerance is an easily observable push factor in Sussex. Since the 1990’s release of Richard Florida’s paradigm-shifting Cities and the Creative Class, diversity has been understood as an indicator of economic strength. Heeding this wisdom, municipal, provincial, and federal laws have been rewritten to encourage the free expression of difference and diversity, but Sussex has been slow to meaningfully adopt this cultural shift. Sussex is place where the discouragement of difference and diversity is too common.

By no means is Reverend Phillip Hutchings unique in his behaviour but as Sussex’s most famous purveyor of intolerance, his antics serve as the perfect case study to illustrate intolerance as a push factor. Hutchings gained national attention for posting misogynist musings about breasties, selfies that prominently feature women’s beasts, on Facebook. Most recently, Hutchings audaciously took to Facebook the day of Toronto’s Annual Pride Parade to celebrate the conversion of a queer congregation member, who through religious practice found their way to heterosexuality.

When Sussex’ presence in mainstream and social media articulates the town as unwelcoming to women and queer people, diversity and difference are actively discouraged. This representation of the area acts as a push factor for our youth and as a barrier for those considering moving here.

The phenomenon of brain drain plagues the entire province, but rural areas are the hardest hit. Our best home-grown talent flows west for the white collar jobs in Ontario and Quebec and skilled labour positions in Alberta. Our youth grow wings instead of roots, while intolerance salts our earth.

This trend must not go unchallenged. While we can’t manipulate job prospects to prevent or reverse brain drain, we can create a more inclusive culture in Sussex. If Sussex is to survive, we need to take meaningful steps to make the community more inclusive of diversity and difference. Among these steps: reconsidering how intolerant leadership is supported and celebrated, making time for teaching and learning about diversity in the community, not just in schools, breaking the stigma of mental illness and addiction, and embracing a live and let live ethos. Maritimers are recognized nationally for our kindness, and it’s time that we embrace that label of kindness as a political mandate to build a more inclusive Sussex.


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