In Canadian Peace Movement Folklore, the story goes that during the Cold War in the 1980s and 90s whenever there was a joint weekend meeting between the federal government, the military and the peace movement, my mother, Dr Mary-Wynne Ashford was seated at the dinner table on the Friday night beside a particular military general.

Over the course of the evening, they would talk about their grandchildren, their love of travel, or admiration for an exceptional journalist. The shared humanity built over dinner took the edge off the inevitable tension as differences of opinion dominated the next two days of meetings.

I was in university when this story and the seed that the power of attraction being stronger than the power of persuasion was planted in my heart. My mother continues to approach change and transformation in the same way and those seeds have multiplied and grown in my own life.

It isn’t easy for me to give up trying to persuade others that my view is the right one. It isn’t easy for my mother either. I think this is a human characteristic we all battle with.

As we struggle to find answers to so many complex challenges facing humanity I try to remember that each one of us holds only one part of the truth. When I remember that, I am more open to listening to opinions different to my own and trying to find a small treasure that could deepen my own understanding.

Addressing Complex Social and Environmental Issues

The approach we are taking at Montville Coffee is to build on points of agreement rather than generating and magnifying points of difference so that we can adopt useful ideas and approaches whatever their source.

We strive to avoid exaggeration which to us means being principled and moderate in our approach, understanding that the issues we are wrestling with are complex and will need multiple people contributing using a variety of ways and approaches.

We believe in the importance of scientific inquiry and look for practical actions we can take and then learn from those as our collective wisdom increases.

We seek to create a culture where we consult rather than contest because the issues humanity is facing are of such urgency that we must be part of the solution, not the problem.


    November 21, 2019 — Karen Barnett