Sometimes it’s the smallest things that can get your mind spinning.
Last night, I saw Hairspray. I wasn’t terribly interested in the movie – musicals only get so much mileage with me, as much as I love to sing (it’s the same reason I don’t watch football; I’d rather be on the field). However, a number of things stuck out, especially since the story is set in Baltimore, and that area’s come to my attention a few times in the last few weeks.
Anyone who reads Justin Kownacki’s blog knows he doesn’t pull any punches when there’s a point to be made. He wrote something a few days ago about how dissatisfied people in Baltimore seem – it stands for him out because he recently moved there from Pittsburgh. Apparently, Baltimore has quite the murder rate, and Justin links to an analyst who suggests this is because of a lack of shared community identity.
What the hell do these things have to do with each other?
The idea of shared identity is, I think, bigger than just Baltimore. But that’s not what stood out about Hairspray. Right near the end of the movie, Nikki Blonsky’s character drops a line something like “I can see that fair isn’t just going to happen. You have to work for it.” The Baltimore in Hairspray was struggling to integrate black and white communities, a process that’s become a shibboleth for all social problems in the last century. It really has very little to do with Justin’s blog, except that the attitude he brings to everything is far more pragmatic than what’s possible. And, unfortunately (or not) because I tend to agree and super-associate, I go pragmatic on social commentary, and the lesson Hairspray is trying to teach falls down.
We’re already doing the work. And it’s not enough. That doesn’t mean stop, it means start planting trees where there isn’t already a forest.
I have this problem with missionary work. I see bright young people disappearing to locales halfway across the world for a year, then coming home and going to work, and ceasing to volunteer in their own communities. I don’t mean by this that missionary work should stop necessarily, but I think community involvement is missing in a big way. It’s not enough to rally and march any more, those things get done all the time. It’s not enough to just donate to a cause, there’s utility in causing a spectacle.
It’s not enough. But who am I to speak?
Winnipeg’s no Baltimore, but we’ve got our share of problems. I can recall the words “murder capital of Canada” being spoken in reference to multiple years. There are massive epidemics of drug problems. Child and Family services is overwhelmed all the time, and people abuse the welfare system hand and foot. Almost everyone I speak to outside of my own faith community – and a number of people in them (schism schism apoplexy) – have a very adversarial attitude to their neighbours.
The work isn’t getting done here. We’re acting as the outsourcing for those elsewhere who need it.
Make no mistake, the web hasn’t just changed how we build relationships, it’s changing how we contribute to the global community. I do wonder (and this is the real point here) how that global involvement is reducing our ability, or our want, to deal with issues in our backyard.
I really enjoyed the producing of Book Review for a Cause – Six Pixels of Separation, because it was something different and, regardless of how small, was designed to cause a splash in a cause by being different. But it happens upon me now that I realize it’s still remote aide. That won’t stop me from doing more of them – Linchpin and Trust Agents are up next in the series, so I’ll have to make contacts quickly for those – but still, I feel there was a missed step.
So I want to do more work at home. I’ll let you know when I’ve figured out how, where, and when.
What do you want to do? Be a trouble shooter and fix the world first? Or clean your own back yard, so maybe the neighbours will ask for help because they like what you did, not take the help because it’s offered blindly?
Who’s with me? Any Winnipeggers out there feeling like helping organize a volunteering camp over the summer, un-unconferece style?