Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Change Challenge

Today, around the world, a battle is raging between two powerful and competing themes. While global in nature, the conflict has profound implications for local communities like yours and mine.
The first theme is that change is inevitable and powerful, and that humankind must adapt to new realities. It believes that we will adapt through education and training and by constantly revisiting, reviewing and revising old norms. The desired outcome is an optimistic and egalitarian society in which social and cultural values and norms morph into a more global sense of community citizenship.
The competing theme sees change as a negative force requiring powerful resistance. Change is a threat to traditional social and cultural values, and is an inherently destabilizing force in communities. This view sees comprehensive public education as an agent of that threat, undermining the anointed or appointed community leadership. “Educated elites” are mistrusted and gender separation is encouraged.
That’s the general nature of the opposing forces in this global battle- and it is truly a global conflict. French lawmakers are debating legislation forbidding women from covering their faces in public. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, girls attending school are the targets of acid attacks. Israeli political debate swirls over whether or no there should be forced gender segregation on public transit. The legal code of Saudi Arabia mandates caning for women observed talking to men other than their husbands. In the U.S., recent federal government initiatives to reduce the public health threat posed by the over consumption of salt is being strongly resisted by groups raging about “Elites” trying to regulate and change “the American way of life.”
That’s a snapshot of the nature of this very nasty battle. It’s a war without rules and without boundaries. Canadians– including Albertans– are seeing the opening tussles in our communities. In Quebec and British Columbia’s lower mainland, we have already seen community pushback against the changing face and values brought about by change.
Where does your community stand on the preservation of its’ historic nature? Does it see change as inevitable, manageable and desirable, or is it as seen as a threat to the community value structure? Is the community focus on planning for the evolution of the community, or is it on protecting and preserving tradition and heritage?
Active, committed and engaged communities should thoughtfully prepare their response in this battle for the future direction of their communities. How they respond could well determine their long-term community survival.