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Everybody's Talking by Don H. Meredith © 2006
(first published in the November 2006 Alberta Outdoorsmen)

"Everybody's talking at me
I don't hear a word they're saying"
(with apologies to the late Harry Nilsson)

Ever get that feeling—that everyone is talking but no one is listening? I don't mean what sometimes happens during a coffee break or cocktail party, when it seems everyone can't wait to comment about a particular subject. What I do mean is what is happening in the news media about subjects we all should be concerned about, like gun control, climate change, or indeed conservation and environmental protection—just to name a few. Everybody seems to have an opinion but no one seems to be listening to the opinions of others.

A case in point is the tragedy that happened at Dawson College in Montreal this September. An individual decided that because his life was so terrible he would commit suicide and try to take as many innocent people with him as possible. Because he used a firearm for the purpose, right away we hear the knee-jerk reaction—keep the gun registry and legislate more gun control! It doesn't matter that this particular individual applied for and received a gun licence and registered all the guns he carried. As far as the gun control system was concerned, he was legally entitled to those guns. And why not? He didn't have a criminal record and he took the requisite course. He knew how to safely handle his guns, but that didn't stop him from using them in an illegal manner. And that is the problem. If the gun registry had been designed to reduce crime (it was not) it would have only worked after the fact—after the person had already committed a crime for which the registry would supposedly prevent him from using legal firearms in the future. Well gosh, that sure makes me feel better. The late Dawson College coward can no longer possess legal guns.

And what if the coward for whatever reason had not been able to possess firearms (either legally or illegally) before he decided to end his miserable life? I doubt that would have deterred him from his destructive path. Like illegal firearms, bomb making materials, knives, swords and machetes are easily available.

However, that is not the issue for many in the debate. The loser used a gun and therefore guns should either be banned or their use heavily restricted. What these people don't realize is that possession of firearms is a "red herring" issue that is diverting attention from the real cause of the problem—the disaffected in our society who feel it necessary to make horrific statements.

Of course, the case that started this whole gun registry debate was the killing of 14 female students at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique in 1989 by another coward who could not face his shortcomings. The grand solution at that time was more gun control so that such cowards would have to register their guns, or if they had a criminal record that prevented them from owning firearms, force them to get their firearms illegally. Did such legislation prevent such tragedies from happening again. Of course not! The Dawson College coward had no problem getting his weapons. The only thing that prevented that tragedy from equaling or exceeding the 1989 horror was the police tactic of no longer waiting out the perpetrator but forcing the event to a quick end.

No, our governments and news media have allowed themselves to be bullied by special interest groups who are more interested in legislating changes to human nature than preventing specific tragedies like those that occurred at Dawson College and Ecole Polytechnique. Why? Because the real solutions to these tragedies are a lot more complex than requiring law-abiding gun owners to register their firearms. Every time one of these tragedies happens, fear races through our collective communities and people want something done right away to alleviate that fear. While more gun control may falsely reduce the fear for some people, it does nothing to prevent these tragedies from happening again. Then, what will?

You may have noted that I have refused to mention the names of the cowards who perpetrated these acts. I am convinced that one of the reasons these people act in such horrific ways is to get the attention they were denied during their pathetic lives. And we in the information media play right into this need. We tell the world the names of these people, what they did and how bad they were. Other losers view, hear and read these stories and see a way to solve their own selfish desires for notoriety. Just look at the copycat events that have taken place since the Dawson College event, culminating (as of this writing) with the death of the Amish girls in a school in Pennsylvania.

In other words, the news media delivers on some of the payoffs these losers are seeking. Now, I know freedom of speech and the press are hallmarks of our freedom loving society, but perhaps we in the media need to do some self analysis about the effects of our reporting. Perhaps some self-imposed restraint is in order, not to restrict the dissemination of information, but how it is reported. Perhaps we need to do more reporting on just what kind of people these losers really are, how they get to such states of despair and how that might be prevented.

To me, these suicides are ultimate acts of selfishness. Not only do these people blame the rest of the world for their problems, they wish to hurt as many innocent people as possible on exiting the world that supposedly persecutes them. What is amazing to me is that most of these people came from middle class homes where there should have been ample opportunity for them to find and receive the help they obviously needed. There are millions of people in the world with a lot less opportunity who cope well with the world and some even seek to make it a better place. Why do these more affluent people turn to such a destructive path?

I'm no psychologist and since September 11, 2001, I guess I should no longer be surprised that people commit horrific acts for reasons that are difficult to understand. How do persons allow themselves to become so brainwashed that they believe committing mass murder will get them a pass to heaven? How do young people growing up in the wealthiest society in history decide that mass murder should be the culminating statement of their lives?

I have no answers to these questions but I can't help but feel that somewhere along the line, parents, friends, teachers or society in general failed to provide these people with an understanding of the fundamental connections we have with the world, through the land and its wild places. When a person finds more inspiration in a cyber-world than the real world, day-after-day, then perhaps it is time for someone to start asking questions, and maybe provide the help this person doesn't know how to seek...?

We have to stop looking for quick fixes to complex problems and start listening to each other. Perhaps it's as simple as taking someone on a hiking or a fishing trip...?


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Check-out Don's adventure novels:

Grizzly One
The Search
for Grizzly One
Dog Runner
Dog Runner