Our closest, most important social and economic neighbour is having a rough time right now. As Canadians and members of the agriculture sector, we need to pay closer attention to it.
That doesn’t mean speculating on how we might be economically impacted either. We need to watch the United States and learn what happens when too many people stop thinking about how they think.
Critical thinking. Taking the time to reason with oneself. Considering why you have the opinions you do, and whether the reasons for those opinions are founded on shallow or flawed premises. These should be habits we act on every day.
Employing these skills lets a person make more level-headed decisions, while increasing one’s understanding of other points of view.
What’s happening in the United States right now is in many ways tragic.
While the historical reasons for the country’s political circumstances are numerous and multi-faceted, it’s clear the increasingly divisive rhetoric and lack of care for the well-being of other groups are exacerbating the problem.
There are increasing numbers of angry people with too many different ideas on who is to blame. That anger is being pandered to by politicians, marketers, and others. People are forming opinions and goals, but not being introspective about why they are doing so. The entire United States political system, flawed as it may be, is suffering — and that could have devastating impacts for all.
Increasing segmentation. Infighting. Shallow marketing. Do any of these things sound familiar to you, member of the ag sector?
The problems seen south of the border are a more acute example of what I’ve seen in our own native land, including in agriculture.
From competing commodity organizations to producers disregarding the (very legitimate) climate change concerns of a younger generation, critical thinking and the understanding it engenders is what can build or destroy prosperity.
We’re seeing this in the United States. We see it domestically when farm groups can’t agree enough to pursue mutually beneficial public policies. We see it when the public turns on us for practices they don’t understand — and from ourselves when we defend practices just because that’s how we’re used to doing things.
Critical thinking and mutual respect are the bedrock of successful, free societies.
We don’t have to agree all the time, just understand when we can, and ways to get around when we can’t. This applies at every level — from your local farm club to the relationships between nations.
I challenge you, member of the agriculture sector, to use more critical thinking in your day-to-day life. When you have an opinion, take a minute and consider why you have it. Do it often enough and it will become a habit. Doing so won’t rid the world of problems, but it does help prevent them.
Do it for your own well-being, the well-being of our sector, and your fellow Canadians. Maybe then we can help the United States.
Matt McIntosh works on the family grain farm in southern Ontario and writes regularly for Glacier FarmMedia.