Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Response to last night's shooting...

Cue the outrage. Cue the anger. Cue the sadness, despair, confusion, loss of words.

While I see most people on various social media outlets responding all sorts of ways, I find myself comparatively indifferent in my reaction to last night's tragic shooting in Scarborough. It's not because I'm callous, cold, or even cynical - I'm simply not that surprised that it happened. I think it’s terrible, I am sad that it happened, and my prayers go out to the victims, their families and their friends. And I’m not surprised.

What most people don't seem to understand is that we live in a world where what happened last night is actually not that uncommon. Shootings with this many victims at once, in one place at one time, yes, do not happen often in Toronto. We’re quite fortunate that for a city our size, we have a relatively low violent crime rate compared to most major cities in the world. Why I’m not surprised, however, has little to do with the geographical location or particular circumstances surrounding this incident; it has to do with where we’re at as a society, and more broadly as a race.

Let’s get a few things out of the way: this isn’t the police’s fault. This isn’t the government’s fault. It’s not white people’s fault, it’s not black people’s fault, it’s not Rob Ford’s fault. If people insist on putting blame on someone, put it on the person or people who pulled the triggers. They are responsible for their actions, regardless of whom or what drove them to the point of wanting to kill other people. That being said, I don’t think that assigning blame is going to get us anywhere.

We have this persistent delusion that if justice is served and we lock the shooters behind bars, everything will be OK again. The truth is that things are not going to be OK for the victims, their families, or their communities no matter what happens to the shooters. Dispensing justice will not prevent future acts of violence like this from occurring. The most constructive way to view last night’s shooting is that is was a symptom of much greater problems in our world, problems that we (for the most part) ignore in our daily lives and do little to nothing about in most of our lifetimes. The greatest of these problems that we need to confront is ourselves.

I believe that we are responsible for last night’s shooting – every single one of us. Not in the sense of being culpable for the crimes committed, but rather I am saying that we are responsible for the kind of world we live in. The kind of world I’m referring to is one in which it’s quite normal for people to die needlessly every day. It’s quite commonplace for atrocities to occur all around the globe and have nobody do anything about it. It’s become normal for people to have their egos so bruised or their feelings so hurt that they feel justified in picking up a gun blasting holes their fellow human beings. These things aren’t right, they aren’t good, and I don’t believe they should happen, but they do, and they happen because, on some level, we allow them to happen.

This idea of responsibility isn’t going to be easy for most people to get their heads around. It’s going to take a level of thinking that most people don’t think on in their daily lives and frankly most people don’t want to think on because it’s not easy. It’s not comfortable – it takes effort to step out of our isolated little shells of lives and circle of friends to think of who we are and what our lives are about on a societal level, and furthermore on a global scale. It’s necessary, however, to begin to think of ourselves as integral parts of this world in a very real sense if we want these kinds of horrible events to stop. We are literally connected to each other. The way we choose to be in the world has an impact on the way the world is. What we say and do, and what we don’t say and don’t do, all have causal consequences that reach far beyond anything we can measure. That kind of power, the power we have to influence each other’s lives and affect our world as a whole, is precisely the thing that we as individuals do not want to take responsibility for (I could write an entire book on the things about us that stop us from accepting our power and responsibility, but that is beyond the scope of this paper).

I believe that last night’s shooting, at its root causes, is about how we relate to ourselves as human beings and how we treat each other. It’s about what work (if any) we’ve done to take stock of the kind of people we are, what we’ve done to really gain true knowledge of ourselves. It’s about the people that we are committed to being in this life. It’s about how we raise our kids, how we educate our youth, and what we tolerate in ourselves and each other. It’s about more than seeing the problems around us, it’s about relating to ourselves as the people who are here to do something about them.

I didn’t pick up a gun last night and shoot anybody and (unless you are the shooter/shooters reading this) neither did you. If we want to know what we can do, if we really want to take responsibility for these acts of violence happening in our world, we need to ask ourselves how we’re living. We need to start asking ourselves the hardest of questions: What is my life about? Am I here just for myself or am I here to make a difference? What difference am I actually making? What kind of person am I being in the world? It’s a shift in consciousness that needs to occur, transformations that need to occur within ourselves, before we are going to see lasting, sustainable changes happening in our society and in our world as a whole.

There is no one right way to go about transforming ourselves and in turn transforming the world. I’ve used readings on various philosophical and spiritual traditions, creative self-expression thorugh hip hop music and culture, writing (poetry, prose, songs, essays, etc.), direct mentorship, volunteer work, and more traditional education systems as some of ways to gain knowledge of myself. I don’t care what methods people choose to use (as long as they don’t harm anybody) to see the truths about themselves, but we need to start somewhere. It starts with each one of us acknowledging who we truly are – the good, the bad, and the ugly. We can’t grow from where we’re not. From where we are, from a place of honesty and humility, we can begin to have access to our greatest power as human beings: the freedom to consciously choose.

Choose who you are going to be in the world. Choose to build and create. Choose to make a difference with your life and impact the world for the better.


  1. What a great read man, terrific piece of work.

  2. Beautifully conceived and written, FUBB. It should be read side by side with every single media article currently being written about the incident.

  3. This is the self examination that has made me who I am. This is important Fubb

  4. These are the words everyone of us should live by!