Friday, November 28, 2014

The Space Between

We put a lot of trust in systems, yes we do. Police officers, MP's, public broadcasters, celebrities, schools and universities, governments.

And when all of these things let us down, as they so very often do and as they have over the past short while, we like to blame certain things, like ticking checkboxes. We talk about cultures that protect abusers, and systemic racism, and lack of due process and consultation. All of this is very, very much in vogue these days.

What we can't do is see the flaw in ourselves. There's Jian Ghomeshi, and there's us. There's Mike Brown, and there's us. There's a nice little separation there. Very clean.

Once we have allegations of sexual abuse or a police officer shooting someone or a government blowing it hugely, then the door is opened and we can have a big important public conversation about the issue. Not before. Sure, we may feel like things are not right beforehand, but it's not the right time to say anything.

Then the next disaster happens, and the time for having conversations is over and everyone scrambles to take the next position and hold it. There might not even be enough time to have consistent positions. You can emerge from Ghomeshigate promising to believe each and every single allegation of sexual assault, no matter how trivial, and still believe that the allegations made by the as-yet unnamed NDP MP against Massimo Pacetti are baseless and that he's a victim. Gotta be appropriately concerned about abuse in the one case because we have a face to put the allegations to, but it's OK to want to wait for more evidence in the other.

I guess I shouldn't judge too harshly, After all, nobody has the first ever loving clue what to do in any of these situations. You can be a police officer with the full weight of the law behind you, or you can be one of this country's elected officials, and suddenly you discover that, whoopsy-doodle, there's no "procedure" in place for the sticky situation you find yourself in, even though it might be something that happens all the damn time as a consequence of the job you do. So you panic and do something really stupid. Then everyone else around you panics until they can find a talking point that everyone can stick to or until someone emerges who doesn't have their head up their ass.

I shudder to think what would happen that day if Kevin Vickers hadn't been functional enough that day on Parliament Hill. Too damn close. So let's give Mr. Vickers every honour we can throw at him, and justifiably so. But let's just take a step back and think for a minute what it means that he, and he alone, had the stones to draw his weapon and kill when the head of state was in danger. You probably wouldn't have done it. You would have defaulted to some other type of primitive state, fashioning spears out of flagpoles against a man with a gun, praying, falling to the floor in the fetal position.

We are so ridiculously close to doing unspeakable things to others or falling apart completely that it  is absolutely terrifying. Once we turn Big Ears Teddy's head to face the wall so he can't see what's happening, all bets are off.

The truth of life is fundamentally, deeply conservative. It is everyone for themselves. And the rallying points, the institutions we build, the cultures we maintain, are distractions from that truth.  That's why, despite the knowledge that institutions can't protect us most of the time, we maintain our belief in their sanctity. Stand up for the CBC. Support the troops. #NeverRapedNeverReported. Signals and symbols and hashtags is all that's keeping this species together. It's far, far too hard to accept the truth about human beings and how we need scripts, written for us by others who look like they know what they're doing.

Don't ask people to educate themselves or dig themselves out of their ruts. It's too damn hard. You're asking way, way too much. Only the very rare and the very strong can and do divest themselves from this closed loop and live free, on their terms.

1 comment:

  1. Kevin Vickers is responsible for Hill security. Clearly the security failed for the attacker to penetrate so deep into the House Of Commons that the Prime Minister hid in a closet for 15 minutes. Vickers and other cops shooting the victim at the library door was necessary because of the initial security failures. Vickers may be brave but the security apparatus failed that day. The PM was needlessly humiliated.