Agreeing to Disagree

by Michael McGinnis

The Yukon wolf kill has generated a lot of reaction in the media, mostly from the anti-cull viewpoint, but with also a goodly representation from the pro-kill group. From my point of view, the critical difference in the views of the various parties is NOT whether they are for or against the wolf kill. The most important difference lies in the freedom they are willing to give to those who have different opinions than they do.

Each person or group has a position on this topic that was arrived at, whether by gut feeling, reasoning, reading or research etc. Though the other person's position may not be the same as ours, we should assume that the other man developed his position in good faith, as we did. In practice, most of us manage to do this: we know friends with different opinions on this or some other contentious subject, and don't pressure them to necessarily adopt our view.

This laissez-faire system sometimes breaks down, though, as in this case of wolf culls. Because the cull is going ahead, the NO side is now divided into two parts. Some of the people who think the cull should not proceed, nonetheless recognize that the government biologists and the government itself have a considered opinion on the subject which differs from their own, but they are willing to live with that. They recognize that game management is the proper responsibility of the territorial government, but they will not interfere with that responsibility beyond making a rational case for their position and using facts and logic to shift the government's position.

The other group of wolf-cull opponents don't see room for other views than their own. Programs to physically interfere with the wolf kill, or to persuade tourists to boycott the Yukon are messages that for these people the issue is black and white. Check the newspaper: people in this group often used the word "absolutely" to describe how correct their position is, and how wrong anyone is who has a different opinion.

The point here is not to say that the wolf kill is right, and that wolf kill opponents are wrong. The most important factor here, on either side of the question, is attitude. Are you willing to listen to the other side, and allow for the possibility that their viewpoint is as valid as yours? This attitude is critical because it is impossible ever to have all the information possible about a situation -- clearly so in a case as complex as the ecosystem relationships of a significant part of the Yukon. By keeping an open minded attitude, we are open to new information, instead of having a 'fortress mentality' which refuses to allow change.

The other benefit of an attitude of flexibility is that, whatever the outcome of our actions, whether they -- in retrospect -- were right or not, the attitude in which they were performed is as important as the actions themselves. With an attitude of acceptance it is easier to recover from mistakes and move on to a more productive viewpoint in the future. While an attitude of open-mindedness is helpful in all aspects of life, it is worth commenting on when a lack of this quality causes a media storm close to home.

[Home] [Articles]