Growing up in the South Okanagan, wandering its hills and valleys, a steady degradation of the natural environment from myriad human activity was readily apparent. For that reason, among others, the South Okanagan Similkameen national park proposal gathered much attention. The response to the proposal by the local MLA is puzzling and most disconcerting.
Be especially alert to the use of the strategy of hiding in silence used by elected officials. John Slater, MLA Boundary Similkameen, seems to be hiding in silence regarding questions of serious import with respect to the South Okanagan national park proposal. Such questions were asked of Mr. Slater in response to his comments in the Penticton Western News. When asked, it was noted that a silent response on his part would be taken as tacit agreement with the import of those questions.
Questions of serious import require address in a way that is rigorous and deeply considered. This is in marked contrast to the short-sighted minimalist thinking about trivial issues, vacuous responses and double-speak invoked for the purpose of placation.
In Mr. Slater’s letter, a trivial issue, for example, would include the inference to squabbles over what interest group gets what portion of the (land) pie to indulge their self-interest? Disturbingly, Mr. Slater seems willing to countenance the self-interest of such groups as those with commercial intents which will far and away disrupt and change the ‘unique’ grasslands environment.
In Mr. Slater’s letter, a vacuous response and double-speak would include the rhetorical platitudes used for placation. Mr. Slater employs, for example, a platitudinal flourish by appealing to the remarkable uniqueness of the grassland ecosystem, then stating his government’s withdrawal from the national park initiative, and, further, making a non-substantive comment about continuing to explore its preservation (i.e. exploring but no commitment to informing the public nor acting upon options). The use of rhetorical platitudes act as pushback language toward the farsighted who foresee the serious need of significant grassland preservation, preservation which must supersede the narcissistic behaviour self-interest groups who would, by their presence, harm and unbalance subtle complex ecological processes.
Serious questions asked of Mr. Slater to which there was no response (retreat into silence), and therefore tacit accepted as being of import. It is interesting that, when asked, Mr. Slater did not disagree that these questions of import were within his sphere of attention. So noted his silence might suggest an inability to substantively engage them. Very worrisome, even inexcusable given his participation on the Environment and Land Use Committee. Equally concerning, he was not able it seems to formulate any questions which he felt were of equal or greater import.
How (else) are we to ‘read’ the silence?
It is deeply troubling that Mr. Slater seems quagmired in issues of trivia or given to employing vacuous platitudes and double-speak regarding the South Okanagan Similkameen park (proposal). Our children’s children will cry because of the impotence of the collective will to imagine a future beyond immediate human self-interest. And Mr. Slater is implicated.
Mr. Slater’s political pandering in the article, while attempting to appease all constituents, is essentially an endorsement of the status quo which, arguably, is tantamount to knowingly taking out an unrepayable mortgage on the environment that will lead to the probable foreclosure on the well-being of future generations.
One experiences a sense of profound humility with the realization that the environment will cast the veto vote in its own time and on its own terms.
Dr. D. C. Worthing