It’s been worrying over the past few weeks to see what has been happening here in Vancouver. Shootings during the day in public areas, brutal murders in the city and tension throughout the city. It is a tough time and certainly a troubling one. Listening to the news provokes feelings in me from years ago not unlike hearing a song on the radio that reminds you of a holiday or someone special. The only problem is that my feelings are neither good or special.
Growing up in Belfast as a child wasn’t a horrible experience, I was a child born in to the violence and had never experienced life without it. I was never in the midst of the troubles either, I lived in the suburbs in a quiet place. I wasn’t allowed to go into Belfast by myself until I was 18. When I did go in to town it was always with my parents and after the various police car checks, parking checks and bag checks you’d manage to get some shopping done amongst the heavy police and army presence. At the back of my mind was always the chance that there would be a shooting, bomb scare or even scarier, a bomb.
It is difficult to imagine what this was like, it was complicated and disruptive but more importantly it was worrying and dangerous but in my head it was ‘just the way it was’.
I always had issues with the word ‘Troubles’ as they were coined by the media. It was as if it wasn’t a religious war with brutal murdering or indiscriminate mass killings, it was just ‘a bit of trouble’ like someone having a fight in the school playground. I wish it had been just a bit of trouble, every city has a bit of trouble but to call a war of this scale ‘trouble’ was an injustice in itself.
When you took away the religious aspect of the ‘Troubles’ it was simply two groups of people (protestant and catholic) who were in a turf war and they were willing to do anything to get their way. The resulting consequence was a fearful public, worried parents and lack of freedom in general.
The way I have been feeling recently living in Downtown Vancouver is that there is a real comparison to the ‘Troubles’ except here it is a gang war, not a religious war. They may not be bombing each other but the people running around using their guns with as little ‘give a shit’ as answering their phone or going to a movie. They are not worried about public bystanders walking along burning their lip on their coffee or the person trying waiting for their dog to do its business. Innocent people seem to be seen as moving obstacles in the way of the gang’s target.
I know that there is a big difference between the two places and the context is completely different but when does it become similar, do the people of Vancouver have to wait until over 5000 people have been killed and 25 years of horrible violence to have the gang war coined as ‘The Troubles’, at what point is innocence lost and violence becomes a way of life?
So what is going to happen in the future? The problem in Northern Ireland was the spiraling aspect of the violence. People are generally quite understanding about differences in opinion but when someone you love or are close to is murdered then you become much less open to other people’s views. They said that for every person murdered in Northern Ireland there would be 300 people directly affected, 20 people who would be actively motivated to assist the relevant cause and 3 people who would be willing to get a gun and kill someone. Each murder was a recruitment campaign and the result was a spiraling of anger and hatred between two opposed communities.
Another issue then arises when the communities see so much violence that they become desensitized to the brutality. The types of crime that are committed continue to grow and newer, more brutal ways are figured out by these criminals to get a more effective way to hit the opposing gangs where it hurts.
Thankfully there is a solution, there is an answer, I don’t know what it is but it has been solved in other, more complicated situations and has to be solved here too before it spirals, recruits and grows to leave a community split, fearful, people and children so desensitized to ‘The Troubles’ that it becomes just another article on just another blog that will be forgotten by the time they click onto the next persons rant.