I consider conversations the core of communication and understanding of others viewpoints. How we handle ourselves, and view the other parties in the conversation can have a huge effect on how we are perceived as individuals. Recently there has been a few interesting conversations that I found extremely interesting and I wanted to share some of the thoughts that I was able to gain from them.
First was a conversation I had with an individual where I mentioned Martin Luther King Jr. and how I respected him for his accomplishments and use of nonviolence. The conversation quickly spiraled to everything that was wrong with this country and a statement about having a [derogatory term] for a president. Quite frankly I was a bit shocked; I didn’t know how to respondComments 0
This term is pure racism and is used to dehumanize individuals. It categorizes an entire group of people, strips them of their individual actions, thoughts and rights. It was used for centuries to successfully suppress an entire group of individual’s rights and freedoms. I feel as a society we have worked hard at moving beyond this issue and the focus has moved towards respecting people as individuals based off of their actions and accomplishments.
Fast forward a few days and I begin to hear rumors about a breakfast that several farmers had with a food blogger. She was very clear in her thoughts on large scale agriculture and “factory farms”, and proceeded to tell the farmers she was sitting with that what they did was [derogatory term] evil and compared them to the evil doings of wall street. As you can imagine, they were a bit stunned. But I understand that they were able to remain respectful and handle the situation to the best of their abilities.
While the terminology use and the power of these two words differ greatly in scale and impact, the use of labels like “factory farm”, “industrial farmer”, “big ag”, “hobby farm” and yes even “pink slime” are used to demean others similar to the racial slurs that America has worked so hard to move past. These words break the possibility of having effective conversation between individuals that have differing opinions and are used only do dehumanize individuals, practices and products. Time after time I see these words used when individuals don’t want to recognize the fact that there are people behind the terms. Dehumanizing individuals makes it easier to dismiss that the people being vilified actually may hold and work for the same values as them.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So I am left wondering how agriculture can move past the stereotypes and labels that have been placed on us. Our past efforts to move beyond these points seem to yield poor results. Getting upset, being demanding or using trickery to get others to listen seems to only perpetuate the situation as we come off as defending a system that may seem fundamentally flawed to others.
I think we can learn a lot from the leaders who were successful in promoting change in the past like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. These two individuals were able to control their anger, move past the hate directed towards them and find a way to invoke change in society. Is it possible to use the principles of nonviolence in everyday conversations about agriculture? If so we need to drop the belief that we are at war with a segment of our customers and engage more in efforts to seek common ground and mutual respect for other’s thoughts. With open and honest conversation these stereotypes do begin to degradeand that helps the entire spectrum.