This has been a bit of a week, but here I am and it’s Friday and I’m leaving the city in a few hours to go back to Gabriola Island where I will work on a recording project with my husband and others for the next few days. You know, in that other life where I am also a musician.
Yesterday was my union AGM, where I was re-elected president of my union local, and also facilitated the election of a full slate of other union officers. I have a love-hate relationship with this role, but at the moment there aren’t a lot of takers for such roles. We ran elections for seven positions yesterday and every one of them was acclaimed (no one ran against any of the candidates who put their names forward). Such is true of all voluntary organizations these days.
I woke up to hear the body count in the mosque killings in New Zealand this morning and I am really heavy about that at the moment. Such a loss of life at the hands of white-supremacy is shocking, not to mention the despicable nature of shooting people in prayer. Compounding that is what it exposes in a country generally regarded as moderate (I speak as a Canadian here). That is, though we have a surface culture that is polite, educated, and gun-controlling, there are other identities and behaviours seeping around the edges. This is not unlike attacks we’ve seen in Canada – mosque shootings, incel attacks on pedestrians, and the like. To those of us raised in the mores of a liberal and educated population, it feels fundamentally as though it comes from elsewhere. But when we reckon with it, of course we know that it doesn’t.
Working in my union capacity, I encounter people all the time who are struggling. Perhaps they have a pay issue, or a sick kid, are going through a divorce, or have a boss who is harassing them. All of these things arrive at my desk because ultimately they all impact how people generally show up in the world, and that includes work. Almost always I can do a little thing, even if its just lending an ear or providing a bit of advocacy support. Sometimes I can do a bigger thing like save someone’s job. But what I have mostly come to understand in this role is that *everyone* needs help at some point. The people I represent are unionized, have health benefits, and decent-paying jobs – we are privileged in all of those senses – and yet still we struggle, because everyone does. Whenever I get a really sad or difficult case I wonder, “what would happen to this person if they had no advocate, no good job, no extended health benefits to get them through this?” Because that’s most people. Most people don’t have these things and they suffer just the same hurts, but also bear the burden of poverty, social marginalization, exclusion from dignified work and so on.
The level of social alienation that must exist out there is staggering, and its precisely there that hateful and dangerous ideologies take root. Of course, not always, and not even mostly – but when alienation blossoms, it can bear a poisonous fruit. In some way it’s no wonder that these angry white shooters so often attack places of social cohesion – religious centres, schools, etc. While at first glance these attacks are motivated by anti-Muslim feeling (and I don’t want to downplay the racial dimension of this attack), but I wonder how much these are really sprung from a deep lack of connection to anyone else – a sickness born out of profound isolation fueled by Internet rage.
I wish I could end this post with some kind of an answer, a suggestion of where we look to fix this broken thing. Of course it’s not one thing, and it’s not that simple. It’s heavy right now. It’s intense. It’s a world we don’t quite understand anymore. All I can do is keep opening my door to people – my union door, my house door, my creative door, my religious door – and invite them in. There isn’t much I can do about these young men raised on porn and video games, growing up into adults who squirrel themselves away in their bedroom caves only to emerge in self-pity infused rampages. I suppose the rest of us have to become more numerous, more welcoming, and more open – if only so that we can be a majority in loving this world. Easier said than done.
All my love to those suffering this tragedy. I stand with Muslim people everywhere in opposition to Islamophobia and hatred.