By PAT WATSON
A friend lamented that there always seems to be more terrible events coming to light at the same time of year when we most expect to be sharing peace on earth and goodwill toward all.
There is no shortage of events occurring across the planet that carry with them the saddest of human emotions. The procession of acts of violence among and between men bears out the unkindness with which many of us view our own species.
There is no question that to be human is to be perfectly imperfect. Aside from our biological makeup, that description should fairly well cover it. For every positive emotion you can name there is another that reflects the tragic nature of mankind. Love and hate. Faith and fear. Peace and war. Kindness and selfishness.
Coupled with those negative emotions is a strong tendency to look outside ourselves and to blame each other for human shortcomings. For many who carry out acts of violence, whether they target their spouse, child, relative, neighbour or a stranger, those persons lashing out often feel that they have been at some point a victim. People who take on the role of victim can eventually become very volatile.
Over the past weekend, crowds amassed in the Yonge and Bloor business district to raise their voices after the much-publicized shootings that occurred in Paris, France. The acts of terror have now been dubbed France’s 9/11. The shock and anger among the people of France and in other places have turned into emotional public rallies in the aftermath of this violence.
Yet, as terrible as it is to acknowledge it, we all know that the murderous actions of young men in Paris are not an aberration. When people feel hurt, they react, sometimes spontaneously. Sometimes in a planned and organized way. That is why tens of thousands went to Ferguson, Missouri, after a police officer was not charged for shooting and killing an unarmed Black youth. That is why they amassed in New York City.
The burning question is what are we as a species to do about how we function with and among one another?
Religion is meant to be an answer, a way for us to live well with one another. The message of all faiths is universally the same: We should all treat each other with loving-kindness.
Yet, young men and women carrying out these murderous acts are people who are hurt and frightened. People who are carrying emotional pain will find ways to express that hurt; hurt people hurt people.
What we should be noticing with many of the persons who choose to participate in these suicidal acts is that they are considered outsiders. The feeling of not belonging, of social banishment, is an important matter. People who feel detached from society, who feel themselves victims of society, must be rescued and welcomed into the fold. If not, they will find a way to show that they are hurt by society’s rejection.
It cannot have missed observation that many of the people identified as carrying out these actions are racialized youth. Many are well educated but cannot seem to find their place in society, despite following the steps to social acceptability.
The shootings in Paris, in Ottawa, and in the many other places where similar acts have taken place – there was another tragic standoff in Australia only two weeks ago – are the outcome of how society separates some from the pack.
It would be madness to condone what these individuals have done, but it would also be madness not to grasp what is really happening and why. We can look on in shock or we can decide that as a society we need a more humane way to engage with one another. It’s easy to be cordial, or even friendly with people who look or sound like us. But when will we start seeing all people as our brothers and sisters?
A note on a timely film…
The film industry out of Hollywood has never just been about entertainment. Given the current rising tide in confronting racism, it would therefore be worth one’s time to view the film, Selma.
Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through a Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose.