And yet, sometimes I feel compelled to use the space created by a tragedy to discuss important topics. It seems that the only time these topics come up is in response to tragic events. My post on the Connecticut shooting is still the most popular post on this blog, many months later. Which disheartens me a little bit, because I’ve written on a lot of other things, some equally or more important.
I got into it a little bit today on Twitter with someone on the topic of Justin Trudeau’s initial comments, of the need to examine “root causes” behind these kinds of tragedies, be they terror attacks or lone school gunmen. Apparently a lot of people (government’s included) are content to offer condolences to the victims, condemnation of the perpetrators, and move on as quickly as possible.
I firmly believe that there are no acts of violence, aggression or “evil” without first there being oppression. Whether this oppression is intentional or consequential, it has to be present in these kinds of circumstances. Why else would someone kill another human being? What drives that? The opposite view on this would be that evil is simply inherent in the world, and that some people are going to do crazy, evil and inhumane things for no reason.
Believing the latter is incredibly convenient, for it lets society off the hook. It couldn’t have been something I did (or didn’t do). Be it foreign policy, religious persecution, child abuse, neglect, or marginalizing mental illness (or a host of other oppressive acts)….pretending that there are people in the world that aren’t oppressed, and don’t react to that oppression, is misguided and perpetuates cycles of oppression and reaction.
A common response to questions around “root causes” is that it then justifies the actions of the perpetrator. As if understanding and justifying are synonymous. As if having the real information, the kind of information that can lead to better systems that are less oppressive, is a bad thing.
Unquestionably we need to console the victims, and condemn the acts. But that can’t be the end of the conversation. We can’t shrug our shoulders and say “geez, wish there was something we could have done” and walk on. What if there was? What if there is?
Of course we don’t want to ask questions about root causes of oppression. We might not like the answers.