Comment: Amid pandemic, hate is the dominant emotion being expressed

A commentary by the director of communications at Our Place.  

When historians look back at this time in our society, there will be volumes written about how the social media experiment was a failure. A remarkable and instantaneous communication method that was intended to bring us together, instead ripped us apart.

Hate is the No. 1 emotion being expressed across all mediums lately, and our peaceful, little slice of paradise here on the island is no exception.

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Now, as someone who is often in the public eye for my work with Victoria’s homeless plus my earlier work at Monday magazine, you may think I’m used to being a target for online abuse.

But the truth is, passion makes one vulnerable. And I’m not alone in this. I also work alongside hundreds of compassionate people who work on the frontlines of two simultaneous pandemics (opioid poisoning and COVID-19) and expose their hearts every single day.

In a time when we should be coming closer together, when we should be looking at the exposed cracks in our society and working on solutions, too many people are eager to grab the keyboard and spew hate into the mix.

Recently, for example, I was told that I should “be fired” and “go back to Scotland” because I work with people experiencing poverty, homelessness, mental health struggles and opioid dependency. It is clearly hate speech, and I’m seeing it more and more.

“Go back to where you came from,” is the last gasp cry for racists who lack the intellect to rally for solutions.

Instead of wasting our energy disseminating hate, isn’t it possible to rise above it and look at our problems through fresh eyes?

There is passion in that hatred and fear, but it’s being wasted. And what the toxic online world is teaching us is that wasting time and energy attacking strangers and neighbours is perfectly normal.

It isn’t.

So let’s do something positive. Instead of being divided, let’s unite. Whether you work for a non-profit or local businesses, live in a downtown condo or a sea-view home, we all want the same thing: to see people given access to housing, treatment, and the dignity of not living in a park.

Let’s write to our MPs and our MLAs and say it is time for a national strategy to deal with the severe mental health issues that are leaving people to die on our streets. Our current solution is not working. We need a multi-pronged program that includes care facilities, supported care homes, and the compassionate professionals necessary to actually make changes in people’s lives.

I know a young woman in her 20s who smokes crystal meth to deal with the voices that swirl in her brain from schizophrenia. She lives in a transitional home and performs sex work to pay for her drugs.

All we’re doing at the moment is watching her slowly die. That is not good enough. If she were to be placed into a compassionate mental-health program, away from drugs and under professional care, there is a chance she could find a new lease on life.

Instead, she’s treated as disposable.

I want us all to do better, and the first step is looking deep into our own hearts, swallow down that knee-jerk reaction to spout hate, and rally for the good of all people.

Come on, Victoria, I believe in you.

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