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Know the West

'All of us feel we don't have ...'


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, Nevada's ugly tug-of war.

"All of us feel we don't have the impact, the ability to make changes we had 20 years ago." - Bonnie Whalen

Bonnie Whalen is a computer supervisor who grew up on a ranch north of town and has worked for the Forest Service in Elko for 25 years.

"I can't really separate myself from the Forest Service or the community. Has Elko changed much? I remember 20 years ago, a miner stuck his finger in my face and said, 'These new mining regulations are going to get somebody killed.'

"We always had people who disagreed with what we're doing. With the old miner, I could give him the name of somebody to talk to. Now, there's not so much personal contact, and it's battled out through the courts. All of us feel we don't have the impact, the ability to make changes we had 20 years ago.

"Some 'they' up there makes the decisions and it's real hard to get a handle on who 'they' are.

"I've been thinking about what M. Scott Peck, the author and psychiatrist, says about communities, that they go through different stages of development. The first stage is 'pseudocommunity' in which folks are super polite; they make sure they're being heard; but they're being very judgmental.

"The next stage is 'chaos' in which people move away from being super polite; they figure out how to act in their own interests; they may agree to disagree. Most of us get stuck in chaos or go back to pseudocommunity because we're uncomfortable with conflict.

"The next stage is 'emptiness,' in which people expose themselves and give up their own ideas. Only then can they move on to 'real community,' where people with different ideas can work to common goals and they don't have to be carbon copies of each other.

"Like most places, Elko vacillates between pseudocommunity and chaos. Maybe if we can all figure out how to listen to people ... I think that's happening. I'm seeing folks trying to move past the perception the media's put out there and find some commonality they can build on.

"God, I hope that's true."