Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Politely Opinionated

I observed early in my online journey that the Internet was a magnet for rabblerousers who wanted to proclaim their views from the safety of anonymity.  Just visit the comment section of even a semi-controversial news story and you'll still find herds of bare knuckled, knock-em-down cyberphantom street brawlers that make Joe Fraser and Mohamed Ali look like partners in Dancing With the Stars.

I appreciate that Canadians lean toward politeness and tolerance in these situations. We have a similar disposition to the Japanese mosquito, which bites like its North American cousins, but folds its hands and says "please" first . . . giving the intended victim time to swat before being bitten (unlike the Japanese black fly, which is just as rudely ferocious as ours).

Perhaps this is why the online discussions I've seen on the Meaford story haven't degenerated into virtual fist fights of opinions. There is no lack of variance in opinion on the matter in the fire service, but so far we have been able to keep it civil for the most part. If there was ever a need to project a solid, unified voice, now is the time.

Speaking of Meaford, the trial is on hold until the presiding justice of the peace decides whether there is enough evidence to proceed with the charges. You can read an article by Laura King about the most recent developments here, and an update on the Firefighting in Canada blog here.

I was glad to find that I'm not the only one to question the Ministry of Labour's choice to prosecute a fire department for decisions made during an act of service. Defense attorney Norman Keith said that "if emergency-service personnel, including a firefighter, is injured because of uncontrolled or unforeseen circumstances, it’s disturbing to think that the Ministry of Labour might point the finger of blame" at someone who is working in the public interest.

Unpredictability makes the fireground different from any other work place. We counter that unpredictability with operational guidelines, but no one can write a guideline that foresees every situation. Put firefighters in a dangerous mix that includes trapped occupants, a narrow window of opportunity to rescue them, and few resources, and the "right" choice is not simple. As the well-known maxim goes, we have to make decisions in seconds that others will have the luxury of picking apart over the course of years.

 In my December 5, 2010 post I talk more about the part operational guidelines play at emergency scenes.

Taking a brief pause in this diatribe, Ontario Vol FF is a new blog about the Ontario volunteer fire service. Here is a link. Knuckles, as he calls himself, offers another perspective on the volunteer service. Add this to Jennifer Mabee's blog on the Firefighting in Canada site, and it's good news all around. The more voices we have out there, the better.
 The down side of Canadian politeness is the danger of slipping into apathy. We don't like to rock the boat. Without delving into the mysteries of psychology, I think it isn't that we don't care, we just don't care enough to stir up trouble about things that we feel are none of our business.

I'm all about keeping our noses out of places they don't belong, and treating our opponents with polite civility . . . as long as they don't see our niceness as an opportunity to slap us like a mosquito.

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