Toban Dyck: These changes are not judgments

They are natural evolutions of a farming operation

Toban Dyck: These changes are not judgments

I was nervous about the change. Change is never an easy thing, especially for me. I was raised in a Mennonite home and my last name, Dyck, is inextricably tied to the tradition.

There is now a garbage dumpster on our farm, and we’ve already filled it once. The whole experience, though small, has been eye opening in that many of the processes on this farm were affected by our previous inability to easily dispose of large waste items. Examples are always helpful. For years, there has been a bent-up stepladder in my workshop. It always got placed with the other ladders, as if it, too, was a functioning and useful item. I didn’t know what to do with it. I wasn’t going to try to burn it and I didn’t feel right about lobbing it into the bush.

I just threw it in the dumpster. That was it. It’s silly, but I would throw $100 on the table right now that if you don’t have a dumpster or any other way for waste to actually and permanently leave your yard, you probably have a few items in your shop that are just there because you don’t know what else to do with them.

Change is always hard because of what it could be perceived to represent to the previous generations witnessing. I can’t control what others think, and this is a mantra I have to repeat to myself regularly. The changes I implement on the farm are not judgments on the way things were done before. Instead, these are natural evolutions of a farming operation.

The mental work that led me to this point also naturally led me to think about the things I am doing now that the next generation will want to change. And to think these thoughts in earnest and without nothing but intellectual curiosity is an interesting exercise. We all have blind spots is a terrible, nearly indigestible but true statement. And it’s one that should lead all of us to judge everyone around us a little less harshly.

This all may seem like a significant departure from me renting a garbage dumpster for our farmyard, but trust me it is not. I don’t want my parents to interpret it as their mistake I felt burdened to fix. Similarly, I am choosing not to consider it a solution to a person’s error in judgment.

COVID has become a divisive topic. I continue to be discerning about with whom I chat openly about the pandemic and the policies that have come in response to it. I have found myself judging people who think differently than me. I do not like the self-image that comes with that.

The concepts of tolerance, acceptance, respect and civility are not the same. They are all tricky, and in this brief era, where partisan attitudes towards what seems like everything are being galvanized in the crucible of COVID, the ability to pause and think about our own thoughts is paramount.

Don’t confuse my ability to express this with my ability to practice it. I am bent a certain way and I have a ready artillery of defenses against those who think differently.

The challenge as I see it, is nearly as old as time. The social contract is a dusty old ethical philosophy concept arguing that we, as people, will abide by a set of tacitly or explicitly understood or stated moral rules in order to survive.

If I was to yell at the person standing behind me at Rona because he’s not wearing a mask and giving staff a hard time for refusing to do so, I may be acting in accordance with the social contract, but not necessarily.

If I were to argue with everyone who thinks differently than me, I would be ripping at the unspoken fabric that holds society together.

I have a lot to say about the strong ideologies that are driving wedges between us, and I’ll argue with someone on the basis of facts and information, but I’m learning to bite my tongue if what I want to say has nothing to do with the specifics and speaks more to a way of thinking that just so happens to be different.

A lot of farms still burn their garbage and dispose of other things in ways not in accordance with current regulations, and that is okay.

About the author

Columnist

Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]

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