Tag Archives: violence

trying to understand

it hurt my heart a great deal when i heard the details of the latest school shooting.  to think about such evil being committed against innocent, young lives makes me scared of a world my younger siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews will grow up in.  i want a safe society for them to live in, not one in which there are horrendous acts like this one committed.

i pray and will continue to pray for the families and all those involved.  may healing come upon your homes.

i have a problem with the way the conversations have been phrased after this latest mass shooting in the united states.  i suppose the media is to blame for some of this but i think theres a collective responsibility as well.  with all respect to the victims, both those who lost their lives and the ones left behind, i think theres something a bit off-putting about this story and its not for all the immediately apparent reasons.

is gun reform the biggest issue here, as the media claims it is?

quick fact: it is easier for americans to access guns than mental health services.

it bothers me that the conversation is being had almost exclusively around gun laws and no one seems to be saying much about mental illness.  yes, guns were used to take innocent lives.  yes, if there had been better safeguards in place then this might not have happened.  yes, we need to look at gun laws and reform the necessary parts to protect all of us, but it was a broken human being who used those guns to kill.

broken mentally.

that this young man had a large problem with his mind is so apparent and obvious that it feels redundant to say anything about it, and yet its being placed in a secondary column of interest and concern.

that scares me.

it scares me that our society can be so blind and dumb towards the ugly reality of mental illness all around us.  we are a collective of ostriches hiding our heads in the comforting sand, all the while the proverbial bombs tick down above the surface.

if this isnt a deafening wake up call to us what will it take?

7.1 percent of the american populace accessed mental health services in 2012.  its estimated though that 26.2 percent of americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.  this number is most definitely higher when considering stigmatization of mental disorders and the lack of appropriate mental health services.  nearly 20 percent cant (too expensive) or wont (stigma) access mental health services.  here in halifax, nova scotia, less than 4% of the health budget is directed towards mental health.

what does that tell us about mental health? does it tell us that it is not a problem?

tell that to most of the people i work with on the streets.  of the hundreds of people ive met and/or worked with at street level, maybe a couple of them didnt deal with mental illness.

or try telling that to the almost 1 in 10 of canadians who deal with major depression.

lets ask the canadian mental health association.  heres a few things from their website:

Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.
20% (1 in 5) of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.
About 1% of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”).

im not going to bother mentioning the percentage of mentally ill people occupying our prisons.  a quick google search will give you the staggering stats.

so it IS a big problem.. and its getting worse.

we cant expect things to get better when we keep ignoring the obvious warning signs and refuse to tackle the problem head on.  but with our heads firmly planted in the sand, the likely hood that things are going to get (much) worse before they get better is an unsettling reality.

 

the other thing that bothers me about this is the horrible contrast it shows between western people and other people of our world.

why is that the children in gaza dont get the tears of the world for the latest bombings in palestine?

why dont these children, who live on the wrong side of an apartheid state, gain even a fraction of the tears and prayers the western children get?  i dont want to get weighed down in quantifying senseless deaths against other senseless deaths but there seems to be a particular skew here.

what about the children who have died in pakistan and yemen by american drone attacks?

why dont these children (an estimated 178 of them) get us teary-eyed and mad at their murderers?  why dont we send each other mass facebook prayer letters and doctored pictures with kind and inspiring words for these children?

a car bomb goes off in damascus and 50 people are killed, some of which are innocent children.  the scene is gruesome.  more innocent lives lost to senseless violence.

do we blame the media for this?  surely, they must be most responsible because of their biased opinions, right?  we dont get to decide what news we consume, do we?

do we?

i realize at this point that this post probably wont get me too many fans.  ranting about mental illness is one thing but calling into question our collective moral integrity might be cutting a little too close to some people’s central nerve.

see, it wasnt just gun reform we need, nor mental health funding, nor learning to care more about other people you dont know.  we need a gut check and ask ourselves harder questions.

are all the people of our world weighed on the same scale?

if so, why doesnt it seem like that?  whether its mentally illness or foreign people dying/being killed, its the same story.

can we afford to lie to ourselves any longer?

no, they are not being valued/weighed the same.  some children/women/men are less valuable than others.  its plain as day, isnt it?!  our news media, facebooks, twitters, chats over coffee, supper talks with the family, etc, etc, ad nauseam(!) tell us it is.

there are ‘us’ and there are ‘them’.

(pause)

whats happening to us?!  or, maybe its more apt to ask, what has happened to us?!

(long pause)

are we losing our humanity?

(another long pause)

(still pausing)

or are we just sick and need help?
maybe we need healing from our mental, emotional and spiritual wounds, and help understanding who we really are.

i hope help and healing come soon, because our world really needs it right now.

//end of long rant

RIP all  the children of the world who have died due to war, starvation, poverty, disease and everything else that steals a life too soon.  may your souls rest well in His kingdom.

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nothing like nothing

i had an interesting conversation the other night with an intelligent man who lives on the other side of the world.  well, 13 hours away.  close enough?  anyways, my new korean friend is back visiting family for the holidays and i happen to know his family.  its not too often i get to talk with someone on so many different interesting topics on several different levels.

its a good buzz.

im not even sure how we got started talking about existential things as it came out of left field.  i dont meet too many people who will launch out into deeper waters right away.  most take a considerable amount of time to exchange pleasantries and small talk.  my new korean friend wasted very little time questioning the very existence we both sat within.

ultimately, the course the conversation boiled down to one question: ‘whats it all about?’

life.  reality.  existence.

is there a meaning attached to this life of ours or are our lives without any real meaning?  is there purpose to any of this or are we random atoms formed together to live, eat, breath, sleep, die and become food for worms?

heavy stuff to wrestle with, right?

what about truth?

is there such a thing?

im speaking about the objective kind.  is there absolute truth?

the concept of truth has come up before in conversations with others, whether in philosophy courses at university or late night coffee talks.  those late night coffee talks are unpredictable!  ive spoken with my fair share of people who feel that there isnt such a thing as truth.  ‘everything is relative’ is what i have generally heard.

is it?

this raises (for me at least) a few questions..

are the meanings you place on some thing the same as the meanings i place on it? is the same thing you believe just as true as the thing i believe?  what if they contradict each other – still both true?  are both not true?

what if my truth says yours is a lie – are they both still true?

can math be relative?  could one person say 2+2 = 4 and another that 2+2=7?

what about history?  can world war 2 have been 6 years long and also 106?

i realize this is sounding a bit absurd but thats kind of what im getting at here.  truth must be objective for certain things to exist, like math and history, but also for other more important things like justice and love.  if nothing else the statement ‘everything is relative’ becomes true if all things are relative and then refutes itself.

oops.

if truth is just relative, then what about right and wrong ?  how do we figure out moral behavior?  if one person thinks something is right and another wrong, who is right?  the stronger person?  the more intelligent person?  what if there are two people who believe something is true but one doesnt – majority rules?  that would be a silly way to figure out what is true wouldnt it be?

i think so.

what about justice?

how can one have any justice  at all if truth is relative?  if truth doesnt really exist then who is to tell the criminal who stole your stuff that what he did was wrong?  he thinks he is liberating you from your stuff.  his defense is that hes your liberator.  seems reasonable enough, even if its not his true motive.  who decides?  what about the person who commits (insert really bad crime)?  who is to tell him that what he did was wrong if right and wrong doesnt really exist?

it seems that if truth isnt real, morality can take a large push off the deep end.

take a look at our western culture for one moment:

we are a violent collective.  we abuse everything.  we abuse our children, spouses, friends, selves and the environment, through verbal, physical, spiritual, emotional and psychological ways.  when we arent abusive on the domestic front we are abusive on the foreign front, waging war against other people, usually for reasons of dominance, power and  control.  most of our urban centers are plagued by drugs, crime and poverty (so much for loving ones neighbor).  we lie, cheat and steal, crawl over other peoples backs to the top of the ladder, scorn loyalty and trust, and generally do a bad job of being decent human beings.

if you think im being overdramatic i dare you to read the newspaper or watch the 6 o’clock news.

ok, now that you have done that and are in agreement with me, let me connect a couple of dots:

truth/morality is relative + violent western culture = our current reality

now im not saying that its this simple.  im also not saying that this is the whole picture.  there are certainly other factors involved.  what im trying to figure out in my own mind is how a society can look any different when the generally held belief is that ‘truth is relative.’

ignore for a second that the logical end to the denial of truth is nihilism, which is defined as nothingness; extreme skepticism of any real existence.  ignore for another couple of seconds that all the major philosophers of nihilism wrote how their own philosophy lead them to despair (main theme of nihilistic philosophers).  ignore for one more second that despair destroys lives.  just ask the 4 in 10 north americans who report dealing with a form of despair (eg. depression, anxiety).   thats not counting those who go undiagnosed or unreported because of stigma.  ask the roughly 150 million people what despair has done to their lives and loved ones.

i realize that this is a fairly pessimistic view of things.  i wish it wasnt.

so, what then?

whats the answer?

 

(to be continued)

ps. my apologies for all the rhetorical questions.  i got a bit carried away.

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lust and ted

not much sleep today again.  argh..  zombies sleep better than me.

i woke up this morning and saw it staring me in the face as if to say, ‘are you going to read me now or what?’  a book i promised myself to read has been sitting there collecting mexican dust (or pollution) on the shelf for too long now.  i throw on some clothes, grab the grumpy book and head out into the mexico sun.  i venture into the neighbourhood and find a park bench along one of the walkways.  there i sit under the shade of the trees and, rather excitedly, get back into my book.  however, a problem arises: theres too much foot traffic for a keen people watcher like me.  my eyes are ripped from the page every time a new creature moves by my view of sight.  i say creature and not person because people arent the only things catching my eye.  dogs of all shapes and sizes running up and down the path vie for my attention and im all too happy to oblige.  small lizards dart past my feet and up the nearby tree daring me to chase them.  im more than half tempted.  birds swoop and dive in random fashion singing all the while.  this is far too distracting a place to read for a self-diagnosed add patient.
a pretty girl in a flowery dress passes by.  she darts across the street in front of a few cars and a man on a motorcycle.  its the latter mans reaction that catches mine.  for almost 40 feet his head turns to continue looking at the girl in the flowery dress.  thats 40 feet with his head turned while driving his motorcycle in mexican traffic.  hes either really smitten or nuts, but most likely both.  ive already seen his reaction a million times over since i arrived here two weeks ago.  ive seen it in taxi drivers, bartenders, businessmen, policemen and any other occupation or non-occuptation a man might hold here.  whether they realize it or not, or simply care nothing to hide it, their eyes burn holes through women (not literally).  if lust could burn for real, youd see it here in mexico city.  now, to be fair, canadian men do take in their fair amount of glances on the opposite sex.  its not the same here.  here casual glances are replaced by blatant, in-your-face, lustful stares.

a quick look through the city and its apparent why.  no guess-work needed.  walking by any one of the thousands of magazine stands in the city you are bound to see a lot of two things: sex and violence.  dirty and smutty magazines are plentiful enough to garner their own sections while the most heinous violent acts make front page news, graphic included.  just the other day i saw a woman, her head blown to pieces, on the front page of one of the major newspapers.  sitting close by that picture sat barely clothed bodies of women wrapped in plastic magazine covers.  the two images coupled together.  now im no fancy psychology or political expert (i just pretend to be) but it seems to me that this culture is indoctrinated to objectify the female and desensitize everyone the use of violence.  its scary, really and something im not sure many inside the culture are aware of.  (note: i just arrived two weeks ago so im not sure how valid my experience is)  children growing up in this environment are exposed and forced to accept these sinister characteristics as ‘normal’.  women who dress for comfort because of the heat are subject to demeaning stares and comments.. or worse.  i researched online a bit and found that six in ten women have experienced sexual violence in their lives.  60% seems like a pretty high number, no?  a chilling thought, especially when my girlfriend studies here at the present.  my very pretty girlfriend who unfortunately is at the end of many of the stares described above. i guess i better start practicing my kung fu more.  self note: search craigslist for ‘numchucks’ after writing this blog.

despite that, i really like it here!  all the people ive met have been incredibly friendly and inviting.  even though my spanish isnt what some would call ‘fluent’ (i can count to ten!) people have been patient while i stammer around looking for the right words. i dont want to knock mexico or even mexican people.  not at all.  this is simply an observation from a disturbed foreigner staying in a foreign country with disturbing cultural tendencies.

thats all.

lucas + mexico = awesomeness

ps. theres a spider that lives in my shower.  i named him ted 4 days ago.  its a beautiful friendship.

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