When others make decisions that affect you and do so without serious attempts for your input, I surmise that you become concerned and possibly angry.

It is as if you have been told to shut up and back off. Others know what is best and your thoughts do not matter. Would constructive conversations have altered your reactions to those decisions?

Whether it is gold mining in Nova Scotia, Northern Pulp’s treatment of effluent in Pictou County, a community stadium with a CFL franchise in Halifax, or a proposed airport in Inverness, to name but a few current issues, people’s concerns must be sincerely sought and meaningfully addressed.

I have observed over many years that constructive conversations assist projects to be developed and then to be willingly supported. At the end of the day, almost everything has a dollar value and someone must pay the costs. It is the wrong approach and fosters distrust when projects are pushed ahead with the strong reality that others (taxpayers) will eventually take on their incurred expenses.

In these uncertain times in which we are living, public discourse will provide opportunities for checks and balances. When negative philosophies and combative situations develop, it becomes near impossible to turn back the clocks and increasingly more difficult to right the developing wrongs. Cooperative vigilance from the populace is a guard against societal decline.

To use an extreme example of destructive policies resulting in tragic outcomes, we can reflect on some of the reasons for Remembrance Day. Dealing with World War ll and the deaths of millions throughout Europe, who could have anticipated the horrific outcomes of the Nazis’ fascism policies and its persecution of millions of humans?

I am not stating that the world is at a juncture as it was in the 1930s, but every movement has a beginning with its supporters, scapegoats and exaggerated fears. When people fail to question, fail to speak, and fail to act, trouble follows such inactions.

In Mclean’s magazine Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth wisely stated: “As we look for answers in the modern age, I for one prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view; coming together to seek out the common ground; and never losing sight of the bigger picture. To me, these approaches are timeless, and I commend them to everyone.”

If we do not have conversations and give people opportunities to question, to discuss, and to resolve, how can we possibly hope to follow Her Majesty’s wise words based on her long life of dealing with countless issues? I do not use Facebook, Twitter or other forms of social media as my methods to conduct discussions and reach agreements; I prefer face-to-face gatherings with realistic timelines and doable decisions to enable accepted results.

Open discussions are necessary for productive and democratic societies. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the recipient of numerous awards for her commitment to conflict resolution, ethics and world citizenship stated in her book Nomad: “Free speech is the bedrock of liberty and a free society.” If we do not enable free speech and open conversations, I ask: What awaits our communities, our province or our county, both immediate and distant?

Ray Bates