Saturday, December 15, 2012

Be the Change

I find myself unable to shake a deep sadness today.  I woke up thinking about the school shooting in CT.  Maybe it's because I'm a teacher.  Every semester, one of my first thoughts as I settle into the classroom focuses on how I would get my students out of the building, if I had to.  Because I would do whatever I could to keep them safe.

Maybe it's because I believe so deeply that our society is on the brink of change.  What that change looks like is up to all of us.  Not just the people in power, but all of us.
It's been a rough week here in Michigan for civil rights.  A lame duck legislature enacted laws that restrict women's rights, enacted city and school managers, made MI a right to work state (which is shown to reduce wages and worker protections), and sent a bill to the governor that would make it possible to conceal-carry weapons into public places.  Private gun transactions would also not require background checks.

No, I don't think the world is going to end in a few days.  But I do think that any time a large amount of energy is focused on change, change happens.  Let's face it, even if it's subliminally, everyone is aware of the calendar counting down and marks an end.  Of something.

What if we, as a culture, decided to change the culture of violence that we live in?  What if we started by listening to each other?  Instead of continual debates have long, on-going discussions with multiple voices, in the spirit of "harm none" or "do unto others as you would have done to yourself."

Our respective congressional delegates - state and federal - may have forgotten how to do this, but we, the people haven't.  We know that continual exposure to violence creates a more violent culture.  That limiting civil rights/jobs/access to health care/etc..., creates desperation and disconnect.

The loss - it's so unnecessary.  Especially if we, as a society, learn nothing from it.


  1. Very true that adversarial "debates" are very different from constructive discussions. And yes I agree we all have a responsibility to keep talking about how our society could change for the better - whether by legislation, changing the culture, or both. At least in my country (the UK) this has been working for smoking - we have laws now to restrict smoking in public places and, in parallel, it's rapidly become socially unacceptable to inflict your tobacco smoke on chlidren or pregnant women. Why not the same for violence?

    Arguably, over the last 100 years violence has certainly become much less socially acceptable -look at the shocking accounts of seemingly casual violence in the Bible, in traditional fairy tales and in folk tales. Look at Hillaire Belloc's "cautionary tales" for small children from the 19th century, and Roald Dahl's stories from the late 20th century, and contrast with contemporary books/TV programmes targeted at the 7-8yrs age group. On the news (the BBC, at least!) they even warn us in advance when they are about to show shots of people injured in battle.

    But what's odd is that films, computer games, pornography and other media primarily consumed by/targeted at young men are increasingly and distressingly violent, despite this general "civilising" trend of wider society. As if young men, at least in their inner fantasy life, are somehow exempt from common 21st-century ethical values. This compartmentalisation is not good, I think, but understandably we are all very wary of any hint of "thought police" and we are very protective of our freedoms and human rights. How do we reconcile personal freedom with non-violence? Only by making this a discussion we all take part in. Only by involving everyone in the discussion and setting aside party politics. Only by making sure all voices are heard.

  2. Exactly, Sarah. In my Gender & Women's Studies classes, I show films that problematize the violence in music videos, which has spread into mainstream TV here in the US. My students are horrified when comparisons are drawn between the screen and real life.

    We all have to take responsibility for making a change - citizens, corporations, legislators. That's the conversation I want to have.