People are strange when you're a stranger Faces look ugly when you're alone Women seem wicked when you're unwanted Streets are uneven when you're down
For those who enjoy my writing when I'm feeling testy, buckle in.
What do Rob Ford, Jian Ghomeshi, Chris Mazza, Dean del Mastro, Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, etc. have in common?
They're all individuals. They've all come from positions of privilege. Each has engaged in socially unacceptable behaviour, and largely gotten away with it - despite there always being people who knew they were engaging in inappropriate behavior.
Each one was enabled by folk who saw the personal advantage in looking the other way at bad stuff so as to benefit from the good stuff which largely was about profit and political wins.
What about Michael Zehaf Bibeau, Sammy Yatim, Ashley Smith, etc?
These were individuals who's lives unraveled without appropriate interventions, largely because folk like this have no money nor political power and, as a result, are seen as societal problems to be swept under the carpet or kicked down the field. It was their own responsibility to get their act together, right? And yet they didn't, and ended up losing their lives and scarring the nation in the process.
What of all the people in Community Housing, angry and helpless at the poor state of their lives but without resources or confidence or brand to do anything much about it? Or the marginalized youth enticed by crime because it offers them community, money and power in ways the rest of society actively denies, unless they "hustle"? Or those who are enticed by radicalism because they're angry and have no internal mechanisms for self-regulation?
Of course, you can't talk about any of these groups without talking about the folk with money and power who like it that way, who find it convenient to reference the wonders of a laissez-faire capitalist system that embraces the Horatio Alger myth. There is zero responsibility for those who have been successful (or had success handed to them) to do anything empowering for others; that's a bit too much like rewarding failure.
People have to want to succeed under the current model, and hey, it's the job of those at the top to make it hard for others to compete with them, like the card game asshole, because that's how you make sure the toughest players rise to the top, right?
Yet when this model produces criminals at the top who cause harm to others (with the support of enablers) and does nothing to stop criminals at other levels (because there's insufficient intervention on the way up) we ended up with increased polarization, marginalization, need for crime/punishment intervention, which costs losts, leads to increased marginalization and polarization, and it just spirals from there.
The comfortable elite look at their stats and say "hey, my spreadsheet says jobs are recovering and the economy is moving, so it's business as usual." Meanwhile, underground economies grow; there are more and more begging on subways or practicing the little cons we're more used to seeing on the streets and transportation grid in countries like Ecuador or Bolivia. There are more undisclosed deals around housing repairs, property sales, etc., that are untaxed, unregulated and potentially dangerous.
This is to say nothing of the growing underground labour market - people unable to get jobs the old-fashioned way have no choice but to find cash where they can, sometimes from employers content to work off the grid.
That means less tax dollars, less safety, more bitterness.
I've written about all this before - slowly, painfully, the dots are starting to connect for the people with clout enough to do something about it.
The race is on - not between us and competitors, but between our own entrenched belief that responsibility is someone else's problem and the burning platform of our ignorance.
We are not strangers, we are not silos, we are not independent. We are part of a greater whole - until we recognize that and act accordingly, the cancer of social decline will spread.
Forget the nuts and bolts of the economy; focus instead on the organic connectivity of our societal system and the environments we create that are fuelling illness.
It's the culture, stupid.