No doubt you were as surprised as I at the amazing concern shown all across our country yesterday afternoon when the shooting at Montreal's Dawson College took place. CBC broke into regular programming with news updates and the talk shows all switched to the topic. Similarly, CBC's morning show in Regina and the Current both focused on the event and how it affected both the people there and here alike. It was puzzling at first, but what we have to realise, is that our world had changed and we may not have noticed.
In years gone by, we have as a country lost members of our armed forces in United Nations peace keeping operations and we have had Mounties killed while on duty, but these have been duely reported in the press, or the national news, but now an event that takes the life of a Canadian soldier, or a policeman, is carried nationally on radio and television and the flags are half mast and the national media cover the funerals, processions and memorial services. What has changed?
Well it is pretty important to understand that we all have changed. Canada, when I was a boy, had twelve million people spread out across this vast land on farms, in villages and few in cities. We now are more than thirty million, with almost all of us living in cities and bigger towns, but that is not what has changed.
University of Toronto communications guru Marshall MacLuhan wrote and lectured about what he called the "global village" and he did that twenty years before there was even a hint of the Internet becoming a reality, he did it in the early days of network television and he correctly predicted that people everywhere would share experience more and more so they would be involved and take remote incidents, as person ones. This has come to pass in your lifetime.
It is important for you to understand the village, not just the global village but the village as it once was, in order to understand the way we are today. In a village there is little news, not because things do not happpen, for indeed they do, but in a village the basic facts of an incident are often witnessed by most of the people and retold first-hand, to those who did not see it themselves. The really important communications in a village is the emotions. How do you as a member of the village feel about an event, how does it affect you, your family and your future?
I really don't know where the negative reputation was given to gossip, because that is one of the most serious and incorrect errors of modern society. We somehow have come to believe that gossip is by itself and of itself, evil. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are the ground rules about gossip;
- skip the content the emotions are the issue. When you hear a piece of gossip, ignore the story line, the details are merely embellishments of the facts of some event and often they are misleading, in most cases they are developed only to support the emotions about the event and have little, or nothing to do with the facts of the incident.
- all gossip is good. No matter what is said and passed on from person to person, the purpose of gossip is not to inform about something, it is to deal with the emotional context of a situation.
- bad gossip is no gossip. This is the most difficult concept to understand, but in a society where privacy is suprreme and people guard against all rumors and stories about each other, the society is basically steril and people who live in such a society couldn't give a hoot about one another.
I realise that as you read this you will have had a lifetime of teaching and preaching that contradicts the three basic premises I have stated, but take your time and let these sink in. Once you realise that when someone tells you the latest gossip and you ignore the details, the so-called facts, and consider only the emotion and moral context of what they are telling you, then you are ready to live in the village.
You will remember in school that your teacher would go through a lesson, then have some activity for you, as a student, to do, in order for you to apply the new knowledge, or new skill, to which you have just been exposed. This comes from one of the fathers of modern education, John Dewey set for the prrinciple that learning is accomplished when behaviour is changed. Once you have learned something, you will think and perceive things differently. In a modern context, we talk about this as we internalise a situation.
If you have been involved in an incident that was significant to you, the most important thing to do is tell others about your experience. In reality, you are not telling them at all, but by telling the story, you are really telling yourself what happened. Your discussion and talk about something, makes it your experience, helps you clarify your feelings about it, and lets you have some perspective, that will let that new event in your life, fit in and become a part of you.
Now let us consider the event yesterday. We no longer are isolated from one another. Modern communications have made almost the most trivial parts of all our lives, something that is shared and a gunman randomly shooting twenty people at a senior high school in Montreal is not a remote thing, it is something we all can have no alternative, but to deal with it and what we each have to do, is so simple, we have to talk about the event. Some people, like myself, are in the position, where we can write about it, which amounts to the same thing, one way or another, the emotional content of the event is shared and we must take out our own feelings, examine them before others, so that we can internalise that event and make it part of our village experience.
Once again, be it news or just your friend spouting off about the event, it does not matter, the facts are not the issue, in a real world, facts rarely are the issue, the real thing to be concerned about, is the emotional feelings conveyed about the situation.
In this event, the shooter is an anti-social person who talks openly on a blog about his violent feelings toward others and toward himself, then dressed in anti-social get up, he takes a gun and shoots people. The facts are of little consequence, the emotional part of the story is, that it is not good to be anti-social, it is not good to wear a mohawk hair cut and wear a black trench coat, being that different, identifies a person as not part of the people, but set apart and therefore disconnected, killing innocent high school people is not a moral issue for someone who thinks of themselves as almost another species.
Though this discussion could go on much more, you have read about enough, as you need to, in order to recess and consider what you have read. You need to talk about this, to make it part of your awareness. That's what being a social being is all about, we humans do not act alone, but we are part of a society, a society in which we have to look after one another, abide by rules to ensure safety and security for each other, and we need to care about each other, so we need to talk about this.