Under the Influence:
Politicians & Gangs (Sept 12/11)
Under the Influence: UTI explores the relationships between various elements, musical, personal, spiritual, implied, literal, sampled, political or any other random influence that is observed. ‘Nothing about me is original; I am the combined sum of everyone I have ever known’ - MC T-Shirt
In my community, we have a gang problem. Come to think of it, in many communities across Manitoba, and indeed Canada and Turtle Island…we have a gang problem. And let’s face it; people are afraid. They are afraid that our young people are choosing to involve themselves in these illegal activities and dangerous associations. They are afraid that these groups will continue to recruit our communities’ children, and are afraid of the violence that inevitably arises from having multiple gangs located within the same geographical area. The people are afraid and they should be. There is little hope for this situation to improve by ineffective government policies alone. The problem is THE EXAMPLE that is being set in government that causes our young people to see no other option than to join a gang to feel heard, but also, to lose faith in the current system of governing our communities.
First, lets take a look at the example that is being set for our youth, by our politicians, specifically … THE PARTY SYSTEM. Canada is governed by a series of parties, each one with a differing perspective on how best to operate, regulate and maintain order in Canada.
- They each have colours
- They each fight over control of patches of land.
- They engage in word-bashing behaviour to their opponents.
- Their priorities appear to be self serving instead of community serving
- They each have valid perspectives to be heard* (future blog post coming)
I believe that this example that Canadian Society has set, since the creation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867 is the reason why today, in 2011, we have such a gang/youth/crime challenges in so many of our communities. Our governments often present themselves and communicate in such a way that makes me believe they care more about being in power and having the most coloured chairs at the end of the race than it is about providing solutions and services to their electorate. This ‘me first’ attitude is causing damage to the youth of our nation. They see it as acceptable to push their own agendas, because that is the example that has been set. They see it as acceptable to engage in violence and coercion, because that’s the example that’s been set.
Let’s take a minute and look at Gangs, and speculate about some of the reasons why they do exist. Gangs begin to pop up when young people need a place of safety and don’t have it at home. Many of the communities that have gangs are low income, with a multitude of other challenges. In the North End of Winnipeg (and all of Manitoba for that matter), we have a high Aboriginal population that comes with an additional set of challenges that must be examined honestly, and approached respectfully. In fact, in Manitoba, by 2020, over 40% of the elementary aged students will be Aboriginal. So the youth I work with every day face the following realities
- Low income homes
- Challenged family circumstances
- Dealing with inter-generational effects of residential school/colonization
- Not feeling safe in their own neighbourhood
- Lack of recreational opportunities
- Lack of self esteem building opportunities
- Lack of cultural identity
For all those reasons and more, our young people need help. They need the support and the love from the adults in their lives, the communities they live in and the governments that regulate the conditions. How do governments expect young people to behave considering the example that has been set by the politicians themselves?! When we look at root causes, lets start taking a look at the example we ourselves are setting for the people we are trying to help, work with, or influence.
I work for my community
In the last few days PC and NDP have both released announcements and advertisements that talk about safety/crime/gangs. There are some good ideas and some not so good ones, but the point is both parties can agree that this is a challenge that must be addressed. For our current government: why are you wasting time on attack ads, instead of telling us how we can build on past lessons and move forward, together?! For opponents of the current government; why are you proposing that we throw away some initiatives that could potentially give value to communities that could be built upon? I am ashamed of the state of current politics and have yet to endorse any political party. Why? Because to me, I work for my community and I refuse to start trying to rep some party flag, as a priority over the people that I love in my own community. I believe that we should do away with this party system in Canada and replace it with one where the candidates are accountable to the people that elect them, instead of loyal to the party (or gang) that they represent.
And so, instead of acting self serving, I would advise the candidates for government to endeavour to reach out, connect with and engage with its electorate. Ask the young people what they need. Be flexible and cooperative in your approaches. And remember, this isn’t a one-sided thing here, we the people will choose to put someone into office, and if we do not feel represented, we the people will remove them from office. Why?
OUR COMMUNITY DESERVES BETTER
I mean it.