The View from The Niagara Guide

General observations and musings on how we can make Niagara a better place.

Thoughts About Getting Along

Mark Kawabe - Monday, October 17, 2016

Working together for the common good

I'm wondering if you're observing the same thing I am. Public discourse is continuing to deteriorate. Negativity, insults and anger are becoming more and more prevalent.

It's understandable, I think, because in general, people are angry and scared.

Angry because things aren't going their way. Angry because things are changing. Angry because things that don't matter to them matter a LOT to other people, and it doesn't make sense to them. And, scared because if the other people "get their way", there will be change from "the way things were".

Others are angry because they're on "the other side". They're the ones who've been oppressed and marginalized. Attitudes are shifting, acceptance is starting to come, but it's not coming fast enough because things that matter to them don't matter to a lot of other people, and it doesn't make sense to them. Scared because if the movement starts to fizzle, things will potentially go back to "the way things were".

Fear and anger are also combined with a societal trend towards individualism. Everyone has rights as an individual. While this is true, I think many of us have forgotten our responsibilities to ourselves and society.

We need each other in order to survive and thrive. Out of a population of 7 billion, the number of people who could survive on their own with no help from any other human is incredibly low. Do you run a business? You need customers. Do you eat? You need a farmer.

While we are interdependent, we are not well interconnected. We organize ourselves into communities based on religion, race, orientation, socio-economic status and more. In general, our communities don't mix, and as a result, our ability to understand each other is limited.

Don't understand the "black lives matter" movement? It's probably because you're not black, don't have black friends, don't live in areas where many black people live, and don't experience policing the way black people do.

Are you having trouble understanding why indigenous activists would prefer we not refer to Cleveland's baseball team by their name or show their logo in the media? I'll take a guess then that you're not indigenous, don't have any friends who are, and don't experience discrimination and negative cultural stereotypes the way indigenous people do.

Perhaps you're annoyed at our government. Fair enough. Most people are. The Liberal party happens to be in power in Ontario and Canada. You can disagree with their policies and approach, but insulting Liberal leaders and those who voted Liberal simply polarizes the discussion rather than leading to a productive solution. Building a society where we all work together means learning how to listen, empathize, and if we choose to disagree, to disagree with understanding. 

If we collectively all want to live in peace and harmony, we need to become more integrated into each other's communities. This is not an easy task. It can be uncomfortable. That discomfort gives us an excuse to avoid taking the steps needed to foster better understanding between people.

We have a right to be angry and scared, but we also have a responsibility to ourselves and to our children and to all those we are interdependent with to make this world a better place. Mutual respect, understanding and compassion are required to move our society forward. Improving our society means improving our discourse with each other.

It starts with me, and it starts with you.

 



Litmus Test

Mark Kawabe - Monday, September 19, 2016

A litmus test for social justiceThere are lots of "marginalized" people in our society. What makes someone marginalized? In general, if people are part of society but aren't welcome by the majority, they are considered marginalized.

If you think about the news headlines, you'll probably be able to think of many marginalized groups in our society. Women. Visible minorities. People with disabilities. Indigenous people. The LGBTQ+ community. The list goes on, and on, and on.

There are those who've said that marginalized groups should just "get over it" and get on with bettering their lives. It's easy to say, but it doesn't recognize the reality that the structures of society weren't created to give those groups equal opportunities. This is why we often hear discussions about institutionalized racism, sexism, rape culture etc.

I watched an interesting video about racism that I think applies to many of societal issues. Here's the link to the video. In short, the audience (predominantly "white Americans") was asked to stand up if they would be happy to receive the same treatment as the black population is generally treated. Nobody stood. The question was repeated, yet nobody stood up.

It was then pointed out that every audience member obviously knew African-Americans are treated worse than white people in American society. The question was then asked why everyone was willing to accept the situation and allow others to be treated that way. Silence.

If you find yourself wondering why a group is complaining of how they're being treated, you can ask yourself a similar question.

Are you willing to be treated the same way women are treated in society?

Are you willing to be treated the same way the poor are treated in society?

Are you willing to be treated the same way indigenous people are treated in society?

Are you willing to be treated the same way people with disabilities are treated in society?

Are you willing to be treated the same way LGTBQ people are treated in society?

And, if you're not willing to be treated that way, are you working to change the status quo for everyone's betterment?

 



Interconnected

Mark Kawabe - Sunday, September 18, 2016

We are interconnectedEvery action has a consequence. The smallest act not taken can have a huge ripple effect. We are interconnected in ways we don't often think about, yet exploring and understanding those connections are essential for our individual and collective benefit.

I'm fascinated with how our society is transforming. There are heated discussions around every topic imaginable. From the environment, to race, gender, technology, economics, food, culture, politics, energy, transportation, it seems that every facet of our society is undergoing change. It can be overwhelming to try and comprehend all that's happening.

My desire is to begin exploring these connections as they relate to Niagara. I hope to increase awareness of and discussion about these issues from an open and welcoming perspective, while weaving in information about what's going on in Niagara from a business and cultural view. This fits with my vision for the Niagara Guide to "Bring Niagara Together". It's kind of a grand, muddy vision, and I don't know where it's going to take me, but then again, it kind of reminds me of life in general. It's grand. It's not easy, neat or tidy. But at the end of the day, I'm grateful to have lived another day and appreciate the opportunity to have new experiences tomorrow.

I hope you'll enjoy the journey. More importantly, I hope you'll participate in the discussion and exploration of topics. All voices are welcome on the journey.




Comment


No Very





Captcha Image
You can list your business for free, or we can help you share your story.
Let us help you get the word out.