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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

The Lone Gunman, Crime Prevention and Committing Sociology

Of course not.  How on earth could firing a gun in anger and a history of disrespecting authority possibly hint at the potential for firing a gun in anger in contempt of people?  The fact of the matter is that this massacre could have been prevented is proper intervention had happened proactively.  The problem is, nobody had the conviction or foresight to act until it was already too late.

The same holds true for the murders of people like Chantel Dunn and Jane Creba.  We'll stick to the Creba case which, oddly enough, more people will be familiar with - there were plenty of moments in the lives of the youth who shot Creba, including Jorrell Simpson-Rowe, where intervention could have happened.  Where kids on an almost unavoidable collision course with gangs, guns and violence could have been redirected.

But nobody did.  There were no positive role-models, no firm-but fair lessons of discipline, empathy and social etiquette.  No one ever invested in Simpson-Rowe - is it any surprise that "his attitude through most of his teenaged years appears to have been very much one of not just 'me first,' but one of 'me only.'  This attitude emerges still."?  When  in his life did anyone provide an in-person example that wasn't "me only?"   

Here in Canada, we have a policy focus from multiple levels of governments that zeroes in on monitoring and punishment, but never intervention.  In the words of Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

We see it again and again - tough reactions and calls for justice and punishment after a crime has been committed.   Meanwhile, the mounting evidence-based recommendations of early intervention (in both cases of mental health and social access), social services and parental supports get dismissed as thug-hugging.  

At the same time, these kids are embodying the overarching lessons we're drumming into youth - to get ahead in life, you have to look out for number one, you have to be confident and play elbows-up to best competition and you have to take risks to be successful.

Governments and businesses are all reaching for the low-hanging fruit - the quick policy wins, the immediate cost-saving service or labour cuts, so on and so forth.  

Criminals are doing the exact same thing - you get greater ROI for robbing a store or selling drugs than for slogging through the drafting and dropping off CVs for interviews that will never materialize.  If some folk get hurt along the way, that's the cost of doing business.  The difference between callous firing of employees or using personal attack ads against competitors and simply shooting your rivals is merely one of degrees.

Naturally, successful people like Mike Duffy and Bruce Carson will take great offense to this.  After all, they are neither murders or criminals.  They simply work the system they live in to their advantage.  By the same token, Mike Harris didn't kill Dudley George, nor did Bill Blair shoot Sammy Yatim; bullets and the fall killed them.

"They have a choice," conservative policy makers keep telling us about the hardened criminals in our society.  They could seek out mentors on their own, persevere through hiring discrimination and racial profiling by service providers and pull their bootstraps up, just like everyone else is supposed to do.  So what if it's harder for them, if the challenges that for us are hills for them are mountains?  That's their problem, not ours.

Society doesn't put guns in the hands of these lone gunmen and give them licence to shoot innocents in selfish battles for power and prestige.  But we clearly aren't doing enough to open up alternative paths for marginalized people, either.

See, we have a choice, too.  Our policy makers have a choice.

We can continue to say "it's up to them, we're not their parents" and when they are parents, "they need to a better job of raising their kids."  We can ignore all the warning signs of mental illness or anti-social behaviour, hoping someone else will deal with it or simply not caring.  

We can continue to take funding out of social intervention and support programs, redirecting it instead towards building more prisons and hiring more police.  Punishing people after the crime does nothing to prevent them from happening - and as many have warned, repeatedly, Canada's rapidly growing minority populations are over-represented in the prison system.  

If the trend continues, you'll see a social cleavage between defended haves and rebellious have-nots that is in no one's best interests.  You might not care about their lack of social access, but believe me, they do.  Of such conflicts of interest are revolutions made.

Committing sociology isn't about paternalism or pandering to criminals - its about proactively avoiding problems by understanding and addressing their causes before it's too late.  

We can continue to treat lead poisoning, or we can take the lead out of the pipes.  For that, ultimately, is the God-given choice and responsibility we all face - every man for himself or do unto others as you'd have them do unto you.  Whichever choice we make, we will all live with the consequences.

I shouted out,
Who killed the Kennedys?
When after all
It was you and me.

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