Painful Truth: I’m not against columns, but…

I am weary, tired down to my soul of people saying, “I’m not against development, but…”

Right now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Hey, I said that to this reporter last week! He’s talking about me.”

No. Last week, you were one of seven or eight people who spoke this phrase, about three separate issues, in three different neighbourhoods. You can join the ranks of literally hundreds of people who have said it either to me or in my presence in the past 15 years.

I am so thoroughly sick of this phrase that I want it expunged from the English language.

“I’m not against development, but…” is an attempt to position the speaker as a moderate, as someone who is not a NIMBY, as someone who supports the status quo as a good producer-consumer. It’s a way of staking out a certain cultural space while still objecting to a government policy or corporate decision.

It implies there are some people (probably dirty hippies) who are against development. The speaker is not one of those benighted, filthy sub-humans! No, they are a shining member of enlightened, capitalist society. They just have a specific, singular grievance with one little project…

“I’m not against development, but I don’t want condos in this neighbourhood.”

“I’m not against development, but I worry there won’t be enough parking.”

“I’m not against development, but should that python ranch really be built on top of the seniors centre?”

Please, everyone who reads this column, I am begging of you, please say you really are against development.

Yes, it might be hypocritical.

Yes, it might lead to you being called a NIMBY, a communist, a tree-hugger, a luddite. Do it anyway.

I have yet to meet anyone who started a sentence with the opposite construction.

“I am against development, and…”

It would be so refreshing to hear just once.

It would also, for most of us, be true.

If we are very lucky in our lives, we will find ourselves living in a place where we can be, wholeheartedly, against development. Being against development means that you love your neighbourhood the way it is. It means you have found the place where you belong.

Every crack in the sidewalk is as familiar as the lines on the palms of your hands. The cinder-block corner store is exactly the right distance away for a walk to get an ice cream bar on a summer’s day. The empty lot is so overgrown, it’s no longer an eyesore and is now a place where you can spot rabbits.

You recognize the kids who pass by on bikes, the seniors out walking their dogs.

It is entirely reasonable to never want this to change.

What sort of person looks at their neighbourhood and only wishes for change and growth and greater density?

Is it possible to stop change? No. The corner store will close, the kids on bikes will graduate to cars, the neighbours will move, someone will eventually build a house on that vacant lot.

That doesn’t mean we can’t revel in our love of place. It doesn’t mean we have to accept the mantra that progress is inevitable and inevitably good.

It is not morally wrong to feel content with the way things are at this moment in time.

So please, when next you are speaking to your politicians or your local reporter, drop this empty phrase. Maybe you are for development, maybe you wish you could preserve your neighbourhood in amber, inviolate.

Either way, don’t bring development into it. Tell me instead why you love the way things are in the place you call home.

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