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Saturday, 26 February 2011

Our Very Own Sacred Cow

Everyone is familiar with the term "sacred cow." Of course it comes from a culture where the customs and belief systems treat those of the bovine persuasion with a great deal of respect and they certainly wouldn't think of dropping a thick strip loin on the grill. In the case of NL we have our very own version, and no it isn't the fishery. It is rural NL.

If anything the recent release of the latest report on fishery rationalization, available here, has shown that there are people out there who are willing to talk about ways to cut back the size but ramp up the sustainability and the quality. We have thankfully reached a point where we don't scream bloody murder when someone mentions cuts to the fishery. Well most of us anyway. No, now we scream bloody murder if anyone "threatens" our dear old idea of rural NL.

Evidence of this can be found in abundance in this weekends edition(February 26th) of The Telegram where there are three letters to the editor specifically related to the issue of how rural NL should not be criticized, or referred to as dying or dead. One is very critical of a recent CBC Radio piece on The Current about the community of Garnish, that you can hear with an accompanying slide show here. The spot wasn't overly negative and in fact pointed out some pretty interesting positive aspects about living in Garnish. Yet the author of the letter(Mayor Reuben Noseworthy) was "totally discusted" with the story as it aired. I'm not all that familiar with Garnish, I've only driven by, but listening to the story made me think of many other communities that I know very well, and am quite fond of. It sounds like a great place to live, where the residents share a true sense of community, and unfortunately there is an issue of a seriously aging population. I have no place to comment on the quality of the piece but it looks and sounds like a pretty typical rural community to me. Does it do us any good to deny the issues, like an aging population?

Another letter is very critical of people expressing even the opinion that rural NL is in trouble. The idea being that talking about the demise of rural communities will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. While I admit that the opinion of Randy Simms carries a fair weight in this province I think that may be an overestimation of his influence. How will be ever expect to address the issues if we don't talk seriously about them?

The next letter of mention is a pointed attack on the two part article carried by The Telegram titled "Political Myth-Busting." Up front I have to say I found the two articles interesting, wether I agree with the MUN professors quoted or not, is not important to the point here. What I find interesting is not that there has been a response, but that the response has been swift, and sharply points at the pair of CFA Profs who dare to comment on our rural communities. It was only one part of their comments but they did say that rural NL no longer had a reason for being (see related post Raison D'ĂȘtre) since the collapse of the fishery in 1992. The Letter in this weekends edition specifically rebuts the accusation made by Marland and Kerby that the NL fishery is subsidized, and the letter does provide some arguments  to that effect. But the author can't quite finish up without calling the Profs ignorant. This letter is but a tame version of other letters and online comments that have been posted over the last week attacking the Poli-Sci duo of knowing nothing about NL because they aren't from here. How does attacking the messenger(s) help address the issue being raised?

We managed to get over it with regard to the fishery and we have to do the same when it comes to our rural communities. We need to discuss the issues in an open and honest way without being afraid to realize that rural NL is suffering. Sticking our collective heads in the sand isn't going to help. We have to get beyond the idea of our rural existence being some sacred cow that can never be touched. I for one say fire up the BBQ and lets all sit down for a good feed of steak and figure out how we can make rural NL a sustainable place to live while maintaining the roots of our culture that we rightfully hold so dear.

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Post Script
I was listening to Open Line this morning (Feb 28th) and Wilfred Bartlett called in to comment on the NL myths story. Specifically he wanted to refute the claim that the two MUN profs had made: that the damage to the fishery was not to be blamed on foreign overfishing, as the common myth states. Captain (Ret.) Bartlett launched into a raft of numbers referring to the actual fishing catches off the coast of NL indicating that indeed the myth had solid ground. Randy pointed out that the numbers indicated that the foreign tonnage outmatched the domestic hauls by a two to one ratio. That sounds like myth confirmed to me. But here's the important part, Bartlett didn't even mention the two Profs. He launched into his evidence that they myth was well founded and left it at that. He delt with the information and left the messengers out of the picture. We could all learn a lesson from Captain (Ret.) Bartlett.

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