Do not think about, write about or deal with human behavior without determining the effects of incentives. It’s not their money, of course they’ll waste it.
One of the problems with governments is that the objects of their largesse are often ruined by getting free money. This is one story.
National Post – (Latest Edition)
Social workers aren’t the answer
SITTING AROUND FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF WILL NOT IMPROVE YOUR LIFE, EVEN IF YOU DWELL ON LEGITIMATE GRIEVANCES. — JOHN ROBSON SUICIDE ATTEMPTS ARE OFTEN CRIES FOR HELP. ESPECIALLY THIS MANY. BUT NO HELP IS COMING TO ATTAWAPISKAT. JUST RHETORIC.
The tragic epidemic of suicide attempts in the remote Ontario community of Attawapiskat reminds us again of all that is wrong with aboriginal policy in this country. Especially the self- satisfied, fatuous response to it.
The crisis came to media and political attention when band leaders declared a state of emergency after 11 suicide attempts on Saturday, April 9, alone. But 101 people aged 11 to 71 have apparently tried to kill themselves since September, in a place with fewer than 2,000 residents and clearly far too little hope to go around. Obviously a dramatic solution is needed.
Instead two levels of government rushed in social workers. The feds sent about 18 well- meaning people, including a “crisis co-ordinator,” two youth support workers, a psychologist and two mental-health counsellors. Meanwhile, three of Attawapiskat’s four health- care workers have been sent to Thunder Bay for counselling of their own.
Then the Ontario ministers of health, and children and youth services, flew in, saying, “We have to roll our sleeves up and make this time different.” And $ 2 million in emergency funding was promised for more mental- health workers, a regional youth centre and some sort of long- term strategy. The chief proclaimed the response “awesome.” But it’s not. It’s awful.
Sending counsellors is not an isolated fatuity. It is part and parcel of a denial of reality here, spending real money and investing real hope in the idea that the problem in Attawapiskat is people’s irrational negativity about their circumstances, rather than their actual circumstances. And it’s more of the same.
Health Canada already gives Attawapiskat all kinds of money, including more than $ 300,000 a year for mental health and “wellness” programs and the National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy. But, in a revealing moment, Charlie Angus, the local MP and NDP indigenous affairs critic, complained that too often grief counselling is left to local amateurs: “It’s the local cops, it’s the local teachers, it’s parents.”
Hold on. Aboriginal parents trying to help kids cope are part of the problem? And non- aboriginal, university- trained experts stuffed full of positive ideational conceptualization, Jungian archetypes and neo- Freudianism are part of the solution?
I cannot see how this is compatible with the oft proclaimed intention not to push white solutions on aboriginal communities, and instead let them rely on the famous wisdom of the ancestors.
Wasn’t that the point of former Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence’s theatrical, if unconvincing hunger strike against imposing Eurocentric notions of accountability on her people?
The glitterati rushed to be photographed with her, including Justin Trudeau, and she more or less won her battle. But nothing changed for the better. And nothing will as long as political correctness stifles debate.
The only prominent person to speak sense was former prime minister Jean Chrétien, who happened to be in Ottawa on Tuesday and said, “There is no economic base there for having jobs and so on, and sometimes they have to move, like anybody else.” The final phrase is crucial. Chrétien, you may recall, was Pierre Trudeau’s second minister of Indian affairs and northern development responsible for the infamous 1969 White Paper promoting assimilation. And in an emergency Commons debate Tuesday night he was again duly pilloried as “assimilationist” by the NDP’s Niki Ashton.
Sitting around in drum circles, talking about the wisdom of aboriginal ways and cooking possum hasn’t worked.
Predictable voices were also heard blaming the crisis on the racist Indian Act of 1867 and residential schools. But sitting around feeling sorry for yourself will not improve your life, even if you dwell on legitimate grievances. And your real friends tell you so.
The “ancestors” lived lives that were very hard in some ways and very rewarding in others. But they did not sit around counselling one another when the game dwindled and hope faded. They went where there was food, and did whatever it took to support themselves, their families and their community. That is what residents of this community must do too, under very different circumstances. Modernity has washed over all of us, for better or worse, and they must face it just like anyone else.
One chief said nothing can change until governments stop controlling the flow of money to First Nations. But not the flow of money itself, you understand. Has nobody heard Quebec folk singer Felix Leclerc’s lament that the fastest way to kill a man is to pay him to do nothing? Attawapiskat gets quite a bit of money from governments and literally millions from De Beers’ nearby Victor diamond mine.
But handouts never bring hope, regardless of your race or history.
Suicide attempts are frequently cries for help. Especially this many. But no help is coming. Just rhetoric, money, and fly-by sociology.
Suicide attempts are an indication that life has no purpose. A situation must be arranged to give life purpose. Counselling someone with no purpose is quite pointless.
Sending social workers to convince people their situation doesn’t stink when it does, and subsidies to live there anyway, is a facsimile of compassion offering counterfeit hope. And it’s killing people.
“Let’s sit around in a drum circle and talk about our feelings,” is not a solution to anything. The fundamental problem of no purpose will remain.
Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Power Teaching: How to Find Someone to Teach Your Child when the Education System has Failed.”
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies