From the Editor:

In the quest for quiet, the times when we find ourselves in the minority occur all too often. I suspect that most of us have, at one time or another been on the receiving end of a sentence similar to the following: "But MOST people like (...fill in the obnoxious noise here...)." There are times when only one or two will be bothered by a particular noise. This can happen through geographical isolation, type of surrounding neighbours, and statistical fluctuations in the sensitivity of people in a particular neighbourhood. Some find, to their delight, that the "luck of the draw" has given them neighbours who will back them up and join them in fighting a noise. Others are not so fortunate and are up against apathy, oblivion, or outright hostility.

The most noble souls this world has known have attempted to mitigate suffering, whether one, twenty, or two million are affected.

In my experience working with the Right to Quiet Society and on the Quiet-List, I have gained the impression that a good many, if not most noise sufferers have been extremely tolerant toward the noisemakers who torment them, sometimes for years, and have exhausted such avenues as tolerance, attempts at communication, and attempts to get noise ordinances enforced by apathetic authorities, leading to extreme frustration.

One of our Society's ongoing goals is to have the BC Municipal Act revised, as it currently states that a noise must disturb a "neighbourhood" to be deemed objectionable. Courts in BC have ruled that one person and a bylaw officer do not constitute a neighbourhood, therefore the noisemaker is free to continue the torment. Indeed, other ordinances such as illegally posted signs or illegally parked vehicles need only the complaint of one person to trigger enforcement, but illegal dumping of acoustic garbage is treated differently.

As Federico Miyara has aptly pointed out on the Quiet-List, if we regulate just for the "normal", then those of us who aren't "normal" do not enjoy the same rights to quietude as the "normal" majority. This is blatant discrimination against the minority who possess noise sensitivity for whatever reason, whether it be past sensitization, musical training, hyperacusis, or a genetic trait. It facilitates a form of "mob rule" regarding the construction and enforcement of noise bylaws that noisemakers have found exceedingly useful.

Furthermore, whatever "normal" might be fluctuates widely with the era and location of the particular society, making it a rather unreliable yardstick on which to base our legal entitlement to peace and quiet. The natural state which existed before technology provided ever so many ways to disturb the peace is a more absolute standard.

It is shameful that the "tyranny of the majority" can still be used to trample minority rights regarding noise issues. Constitutional protection is built into our Canadian democracy specifically to prevent this, and does so with varying degrees of effectiveness for other minority groups. This will probably be one of the ways in which we eventually successfully advance our cause.

These are very important issues, as we can't all move to a quiet place (wherever that might be...). I have often wished that a group of us could form some sort of collective living arrangement, so that we would have nearby allies to help us overcome institutionalized resistance to our minority rights, putting us in the majority for a change.

-V. D., <editor@quiet.org>

Recommended Reading:
Noise and Health, Thomas H. Fay, Editor, The New York Academy of Medicine, New York, New York, 1991. This 120-page volume contains a wealth of information and references on the detrimental effects of noise on health, and rightly maintains that unwanted sound of whatever type and decibel level can adversely affect health.

Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Fall, 2002

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