It is fascinating to watch what is happening in the world today. The news media often decides for us what is worth reporting and what isn’t. The internet means anything you say or do, can become instant knowledge around the world. The mob mentality is often reinforced by the web as those who agree with you can cheer you on, while disagreement can garner name calling and disrespect.
It seems if you take a controversial position or stand, the thoughts, reflection, and discussions that went into that decision, become moot to some. If you dare disagree, then you’re ill-informed, wrong, or perhaps just stupid.
Some controversy is due to complex issues which defy easy solutions and in some cases measurement. Some are politically charged issues. Others are due to political correctness where some are offended just by the discussion. More and more public issues include elements of all three.
Just bring up the topic of climate change, changing the definition of marriage, or GMO seed in any group and see the variety of opinions. In many cases, you’ll find someone who is passionate about the issue and often you’ll find passion on opposing sides. Some people choose to avoid any topic that engenders controversy in the vain hope of avoiding conflict.
In the Grange, controversy is a good thing as our members are supposed to be willing to listen to the other side. We view differences of opinion as opportunities to learn from each other, to see the issue from different points of view.
Controversy can become a bad thing in an organization. When members don’t have the courage to listen to opposing views, when we call members names or cast doubt upon their character because they have pluck enough to advocate against “our” position, or when members refuse to acknowledge facts that challenge their ideas. We see this negative trait in our society nearly every day.
But it doesn’t have to ever be a bad thing. Science can now measure the world in ways we cannot visualize, we have more data than we can absorb and understand, and many people are worried or frightened about how the world is going to handle technology in the future. Hollywood and Sci-Fi writers have made fortunes with doom and gloom scenarios, yet history shows most advances benefit society and people.
Just as scientists revise their views when new evidence appears, so must we as citizens and Grangers have the courage to engage in civil discussion and debate, keep an open mind, and often have our organization take a thoughtful position that is in the midst of controversy. Without taking positions, we would be like so many other groups that avoid topics that engender passion and action. Yet when we take a position on any topic, we must always be willing to review and reconsider those actions in the face of new information.
In addition, we must have the courage to abide decisions against us and yet work within the broad boundaries of our laws and rules, both in our government and in our organizations to educate others. Controversy can either strengthen the due processes of an organization or government or create great divides between people. The answer is for all to develop the courage to work through the issues while remaining friends.