Saturday, September 16, 2006

Blaming Hollywood & Videogames is Not Enough

My heart goes out to all the families who suffered the tragedy of the Dawson College shootings. All the families and all the children. When we suffer we tend to think with our hearts, but we must be careful. We must also think with our minds.

We need to dig deeper. To simply blame Hollywood , TV and video game violence is not enough. We must realize that these modes of expression are only a reflection of a bigger and more complicated puzzle.

If Kimveer Gill hadn’t listened to metal, played video games and watched violent movies he would have found another outlet. He didn’t stop at DVDs and CDs. He bought weapons. Hollywood doesn’t make weapons. Marilyn Manson doesn’t kill people, just pisses them off.

War, greed and fear. They are the root of the problem. Mankind’s lust for power, his fear and eventual hatred of the unknown, be it another culture or religious belief. These are the underlying problems. As society and technology advance, we are exposed to new avenues of experience; music, theatre, movies, computers, internet, virtual reality, space travel and so on. These paths can and will be traveled by our darkest impulses, producing unimaginable behavior. People who were teenagers in the 50s and 60s would think it was the work of a deranged mind if they were told that people will commit shootings in schools in the future. Who knows what atrocities await our children and their children? It is the root of the problem we need to face, not the branches, and we need to find solutions now or things will get worse.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Dawson College Shootings

The Dawson College Shootings

I’ve always had faith in the number 13. I rail against the popular belief that it’s bad luck. I have a black cat, I love a full moon. I long to hang out in a graveyard on a Friday the 13th during a full moon and jam with folk as crazy as I am. But now my faith is shaken.

At approximately 1:30pm on Wednesday September 13th 2006, I was on the corner of Sherbrooke & Guy in Montreal Quebec waiting to catch the 24 bus when a police car blocked off westbound access. I tried to ask him what was going on but he wasn’t havin’ it. Snubbed by the cop. I decided to see for myself as I noticed a helicopter hovering over-from my perspective-Marianopolis College.

Seeing a couple unmarked cars with sirens whiz by, I though there had been a hostage situation. I also noticed droves of students on cell phones. Half way to Dawson I asked a couple kids what had happened and heard the worst: there had been a shooting. My first instinct was to hope it wasn’t a couple of rowdy black kids fighting over girls and bling. Sad to say, but it’s happened before.

When I got to Sherbrooke & Atwater, it was cordoned off. Students milled about in various levels of stress on cell phones. Lambert Closse & Maisonneuve and St-Catherine & Atwater became hubs of concern full of students and parents and staff. The police were holding it down. Being a former student at Dawson, this was particularly painful to see this happen. People had been shot in the atrium, where some of my best memories of school with Dominoes and card games and jokes had taken place.

I was concerned for two people in particular, my aunt and the father of my best friend. They are staff at Dawson college. I made a sign with the names of them both on a large piece of card stock and walked around, rather surprised that no one else thought of it. I got a lot more attention than I bargained for, but it helped because people came up to me to let me know that my aunt was okay. But I didn’t hear anything about my friend’s father. My friend showed up at the scene and we eventually discovered that his father had driven home and had no access to a phone. Today I found out that by some grace of god, karma or whatever energy force you care to believe in, he left the building at almost the same time things started to happen.

To re-park his car.

Minutes before he left, he was talking to the girl who got shot in the leg. Holy shit.

My aunt on the other hand was inside while it happened and bravo for her as she ushered students into her office and locked the door. I commend the staff and students of Dawson College for their sense of community and bravery, the fantastic work of the Montreal Police Department and the students of Concordia for setting up a place where parents, students and staff could meet with food and information waiting for them.
My heart goes out to the wounded,. The parents and the parents of the young girl who was killed. My heart also goes out to the parents of the maniac responsible for this horror. Could they have known? Were the warning signs evident? Who’s to know for sure, but the shock of knowing that your offspring is responsible for so much death and pain is something no parent should know. Still, this is their burden and like all parents they should have taken the best care of their child they could have given. It is unjust that lack of responsibility, respect and love at home should result in the suffering of thousands. Again.

City of Shootings.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened in our great city. Marc Lepine killed 14 women at Ecole Polytechnique in 1989, literally blocks from my house. His hatred for women fueled his actions and the inaction of the police-trained to section off the area and wait for SWAT while he continued to kill-has resulted in their lightning-quick response to yesterday’s events.

In 1992, three years after the atrocity at Ecole Polytechnique,
Mechanical Engineering Professor Valery Fabrikant opened fire on his colleagues killing three of them. Now Dawson College, the largest English college in the province of Quebec, the home of great memories, excellent staff and happy students from around the world.

Although this may be considered as an isolated incident, the problem of school shootings is not. Lest we forget the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999 and the shootings a week later at W.R. Myers High School in Taber, Alberta, and several more around the world.

The Columbine and Taber shootings were the result of isolation and teasing by peers. It is not quite known what the motivations were for the shooter at Dawson, but the disturbing incidents point to a horrible cancer within our competitive society. The unfair treatment of those who are considered losers, outsiders, nerds and freaks. Some of us have found avenues to channel this pain, many don not and a few lash out, with fatal results. Back in the day, shootings just didn’t happen. Twenty and thirtsy=somethings, ask your parents.

But as we are exposed to more and more violence-and more importantly the flippant attitude towards it and its repercussions through media-it only stands to reason that there will be those who are numbed to it. Worse yet that they would use violence as their only means of communication.

These are dangerous times. Video games, movies and television are tightening the noose on entertainment and violence. Soldiers listen to rock and roll as they invade neighbourhoods overseas. Cool weapons and endless lives to killer soundtracks can be found in videogames at your local Futureshop. A healthy mind can deal with these games and movies, but what about those who fall into the cracks?

Government has also taken advantage of this phenomenon in their recruiting campaigns for the army. just look at their ads. But as a creator of grimy stories I also feel responsible. Who will think I’m glorifying death and violence? What effect will the dark themes I explore through text and visual art have on those who are isolated and feel they have no other way to communicate?

These topics have to be face with frank discussion. Let us hope that recent events can help us come together and find solutions.

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