Thomas Friedman, a columnist for the New York Times , was recently asked by an Arab associate if there really was a Jewish conspiracy within the media to make the Arab world look bad. Friedman, of course, said there wasnt, but then went on to explore how such an assumption could be made by intelligent people. He concluded that part of the problem was a failure within the Arab world to encourage open debate.
"Only in a society that embraces self-criticism can the political process produce real facts to cope with real problems," Friedman wrote. "Look at the excruciating process of analysis, self-criticism and accountability that America went through after Vietnam."
The Western world doesnt really have a lot to show the Arab world in terms of accountability right now. The concept has been lost on people such as former Enron CEO Ken Lay who exercised his constitutional rights to keep his mouth shut rather than tell Congress how his company collapsed, leaving thousands of employees with worthless retirement savings plans and him with millions.
Accountability also seems to have been lost on the company whose five tonne commercial truck slid into a bus south of Function Junction last week during a snow storm. Traffic on Highway 99 was tied up for hours. The driver of the truck was issued a ticket for having defective tires, an $86 fine.
But self-criticism and analysis is plentiful. Whistler, as it often seems to be, is going through a process of analysis and self-criticism with the Olympic bid, the World Economic Forum, its Comprehensive Sustainability Plan, and several other projects.
Is there enough analysis? Is the level of debate as high as it should be? And is the discussion focused on the correct questions?
The Olympics, the World Economic Forum and the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan are major issues facing Whistler, but perhaps a bigger issue, encompassing all of the above, is: Where is Whistler going?
That fundamental question was supposed to have been addressed in the Vision 2002 document, but Mondays debate among councillors over the choice of a consulting team to help draft Whistlers Comprehensive Sustainability Plan indicated the answer is open to interpretation.
Councillor Ken Melamed, in advocating the merits of the GBH consulting firm, said Whistler had committed itself to the sustainability model rather than the growth model. Councillor Nick Davies, who favoured the CRM team, said the fundamental issue in his mind was addressed in Caroline Lamonts story in last weeks issue of Pique : the issues that arise with growth and no-growth scenarios, such as rising prices and narrowing opportunities. "Is there a limit and how do we determine it," Davies said.
Growth/no growth and sustainability have always been issues fundamental to Whistler but its been some time since theyve really been explored in a public debate. Virtually everyone agrees on the need to limit physical growth, but other than referring to the bed unit cap there hasnt been much discussion about it. Its Whistlers sacred cow; uncouth to discuss it.
Sustainability is likewise a vague concept that can mean different things to different people, although presumably the consulting firm that is hired will help us to define the term.
What we need, particularly once the consultants who will draft the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan have been hired, is more self-criticism, analysis and discussion about where Whistler is going and how it is going to get there.
We are all accountable for what Whistler becomes.