Recently I attended a panel discussion on violence at a meeting of UBC alumnae. Many views were offered as to why there is violence in our society and what can be done about it.
The next day I saw the photo in the New York post about the man called Han who was pushed into the subway and killed by an oncoming train. The man who took the picture claims he hoped the flashes would warn the conductor and the train would stop. Many people, including myself were offended that the photographer took the pictures at all, and that they appeared in the paper. The photographer states he had been pushed against the wall and had 22 seconds to help. He claims that other people who were closer just stood by. Apparently, many people took pictures with their cell phones when the doctor was trying to perform CPR.
Why did people react this way? Our panel at the evening I attended on violence told the audience that people today want instant gratification. Such things as twitter encourage this attitude. “We need filters to stop us from acting on impulse,” one of the speakers said. I wondered what one of these filters might be. I pondered that question over refreshments afte the programme had ended. Someone said that the speaker meant that people need motivation to do something other than take pictures. Where might that motivation come from?
We used to be taught in churches the story of the Good Samaritan, the tale about a foreigner who was the only one on the highway who stopped to help a man who had been robbed and lay unconscious on the desert road. But children or their parents don’t hear those stories any more. They don’t attend church. Many in our society don’t know the beautiful narratives in the sacred literature of any of the enduring religions that speak of the need for compassion.
If values are not taught in the church, synagogue or mosque because they are empty, where will they be taught?
Surely the family nurtures children and teaches them to be caring individuals. But our panelists stated that violence is born and bred in many home environments. Domestic violence begets more violence. There are long waiting lists for children and families to get help. Schools in vulnerable communities need more counselors. Low self-esteem is a major factor in violent behavior. We need more services that facilitate empathy and the making of emotional bonds.
Instead of building more jails, we need to invest in children.
These were only some of the thoughts I gleaned in the fascinating evening that focused on the problem of violence in our society.