Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Our Neighbourhood, Our Issues & Our Attitudes

Ours is a city, like many others, with many complex social issues. Issues of addiction, prostitution, binge drinking, street violence, dysfunctional abusive home environments, unemployment and homelessness are all evident without having to look very hard.

We can either choose to ignore the issues, eradicate the issues with draconian laws or vigilante behaviour; or work together taking responsibility not just to make things appear better, but also to make a meaningful difference.

These issues do not become problems over night, neither will they be solved overnight. Our city is served by several agencies supporting those with issues of addiction - all of which have very dedicated staff working flat out amid increasing demand. We also have the reality of a local social services system that has been on special measures in the recent past, where again dedicated social workers are pushed to the limits with high case loads. Cutbacks in policing are possible and the increase in the number of licenced premises, 24 hour availability of alcohol in supermarkets and corner shops do little to encourage constructive changes in the way people behave and how we challenge and change antisocial behaviour.

The heroin addict sticking a needle in his arm, on the pavement as kids walk past on their way to school in the morning, has a moral responsibility of choosing where he or she injects. But the responsibility is to be shared across the whole community. The same principle can apply to those who choose to issue licences for alcohol to be served 24 hours a day in a corner shop or to withdraw funds from essential services that are tackling very ugly issues.

The reality is we need to wake up and smell the coffee folks. There is only so long a self centred, money grabbing, ego tripping culture can survive before the wheels fall off. The ugly nature of many of our social problems are what happens when society loves things and uses people, rather than loves people and uses things.

Maybe writer G.K. Chesterton was right when he wrote in response to The Times’ invitation to write an essay on “What’s Wrong With The World?”. Dear Sirs, I am.

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