peace on earth…

2012-12-18 18.24.15

I love that in my travels I get to meet amazing…intelligent…articulate and educated people from many different countries, ethnicities and ages

It is part of the joy of travel ~ historic architecture, different culture, scenic vistas are all part of the experience but the real value in travel is sharing lifes experiences with new people

I treasure every single person I have met in my travels…our differences, our similarities and our shared passion for life

And with Facebook these relationships blossom with time. When my peers (the over 45 year old set) question the value of Social Media I often use these relationships as my reference to its relevance. It is a window to the wider world and some of my favorite Facebook ‘friends’ are people have have spent little (or no) time with in the flesh.

These are modern pen pals – people we hardly know who we share our lives, our thoughts, our experiences with who have no reason to question, judge or challenge our views…who accept us for just who we are

I wanted to share a Facebook conversation that I thought was a really relevant dialogue between two people who hardly know each other…separated by distance (10490 km to be precise), age (about 20 years between us) and culture pakeha New Zealand and Mexican American that shows how connected we are as people regardless of our differences…

So here is is (thank you Corina for allowing me to share)

The article that started this conversation was found on Jezabel.com – of you want to read it just click here

Corina’s original post…

“I couldn’t even finish this f**king article, but one of the commenters came through as the voice of reason: “Why can’t the discussion and the action be on both fronts? I don’t understand why someone must attack or refute the need for more mental health services to further their belief that we need gun control. And I don’t understand why the same must be done in reverse….refute arguments for gun control in defense of mental health services. We need both and we need them both now”

My response…
I am with you Corina…I got a third of the way though before I had to walk away!
Every country has its challenges with how to best treat their mentally ill. The US is by no means alone on this – believe me (and I will fill you in one day) I have very personal experience how untreated it can end in devastating tragedy. The difference between your country and ours is not the difference is the mental health of our people…it’s what they can do when they loose their grip on reality. I had heard comment that this is not an issue of guns…just bad parenting! We have that challenge too…our nations shame is in our appalling statistics of child abuse. Bad parenting happens everywhere – and I don’t know that I have read or seem anything to suggest this was the case here anyway.
The difference is…we DON’T HAVE GUNS!
When things so terribly wrong (and they do) you can only do so much damage without an armory at your disposal. In my lifetime (and please dear god I hope this never changes) we have had one massacre. It is still the deadliest criminal shooting in our countries history. It was in 1990 and he killed thirteen people in a small town called Aramoana. He had a shotgun. That’s about as deadly as you are going to get here when it comes to guns…but it’s deadly enough. One man in an crazed mental state managed to kill 13 people. As a nation we have never forgotten it. He owned this hunting rifle and he used it to devastating effect. My point is that without the gun he would still possible have killed…maybe one or two people could have been killed by another method before he was stopped. But more importantly if he had the sort of ridiculous weapons that people has access to in the US he could have taken many times more victims before he was stopped.
Here the only people here who feel the need to own weapons (apart from serious gun collectors and the criminal element) are hunters…and they own this type of hunting weapon.
We have really (really) strict licensing laws – licence is issued under the conditions that the applicant has secure storage for firearms, attends a safety lecture and passes a written safety test. The police will also interview the applicant and two referees (one must be a close relative and the other not related) to determine whether the applicant is “fit and proper” to have a firearm. The applicant’s residence is also visited to check that they have appropriate storage for firearms and ammunition.
The point is…owning a gun here is not easy and if you do have guns, chances are it will be an old school shot gun. If it isn’t your shot gun it will be locked up safely and secure. When people go off the deep end…they just don’t have the weapons to inflict this type of destruction! Yes…we all need to do more to help those poor people with mental health issues. But the issue is in the access to a crazy obscene and unnecessary arsenal of weapons that no one outside of the military has ANY NEED FOR! Without the means people are still likely to inflict harm (its a sad reality) but on a much much smaller scale.
do we need to protect ourselves from the ‘criminal element carrying guns” well for all practicality no we don’t. Because we don’t have a gun culture they don’t feature in our lives – its not how we see ‘defending ourselves’ – that is the job our our police force (who also do not carry weapons as a matter of course)
But the bigger question…and the real issue for y’all now is how do you get pandora back into the box?
2012-12-18 18.34.19
Corina’s reply
I agree completely with you. I’m frustrated by the incredibly myopic proposals my compatriots are making in response to this shooting (and others). They seem to think that there’s a silver bullet (pun not intended) to avoid this from happening in the future and because of their myopia we once again create divisions and nothing gets done. There’s no denying that we need better mental health services, and no matter how anyone wants to cut it, it’s undeniable that guns are weapons for killing and they are unbelievably easy to attain in this country. I agree that yes, someone who wanted to hurt others and was driven to do so would have done it with or without a gun, but we could have mitigated the impact of this tragedy (and a number of others) if we had much stricter gun control laws that made it difficult for the perpetrator to have access to even one firearm. We could also decrease the incidence of violent mental breakdowns if we had decent mental health services and a culture that supports rather than shames the mentally ill. And even then, yes, you might have some people who fall through the cracks, but it would be a hell of a lot less than the number that currently fall through right now.

The world isn’t perfect, and people need to stop approaching this problem and others with the idea that if one solution doesn’t completely solve it, then it’s not worth considering at all and it should be thrown out all together. In a problem as complex as this one, it takes a number of different solutions in order to make any sort of positive impact. We may not have complete eradication of violent outbursts, but the best we can hope for is a significant reduction of those outbursts and more importantly, their casualties. I hope everyone in my country can stop pointing fingers and washing their hands long enough to actually examine themselves and recognize their complicity in this and other ills that afflict us.

Am adding to the debate on a local level with a piece I read today….

Mental health danger signs apparent in NZ
Courtesy Richard Boock on www.stuff.co.nz
RICHARD BOOCK

“I’m old enough to remember a time when mental health patients were institutionalised. The places they were “kept” always seemed to have names completely at odds with the reality. Cherry Farm, Sunnyside, Lake Alice; a great aunt (in-law) was a psychiatric nurse at the notorious Seacliff Hospital, just north of Dunedin. That was a time when shock and horror wasn’t just a turn of phrase. It was there Janet Frame was almost given a frontal lobotomy.

It’s been disturbing; listening to people calling for a return to those bad old ways, when any of us deemed to have mental health challenges were basically locked up from the outside world. The fallout from the unthinkable recent scenes in the United States is already fuelling comment along those lines. That is – if we could only get back to the days of institutionalising folk, fewer would have the chance to go murderously nuts in public.

New Zealand hasn’t been immune to a similar debate. Blissfully light on mass-muderers, we’ve nonetheless been exposed to a frightening amount of serious crime committed, intentionally or otherwise, by people with mental health issues. Fairly recently, too. Neighbours have been murdered. Ex-girlfriends killed; mothers slain. Flatmates have been beaten to death in the night. It might not all have been caused by mental illness but it’s hard not to notice the trend.

In terms of a flag, you’d think it might be worth paying more attention. New Zealand’s gun laws might prevent the worst excesses of a poorly-resourced mental health programme but the danger signs still appear fairly obvious. Why isn’t anything happening? Seems successive governments would prefer to stigmatise mental health patients; blame ’em, lock ’em up and call ’em evil, than fund a responsible level of services in the community.

Forget returning to institutionalism. Lurching from the present unsatisfactory system back to a former unsatisfactory system hardly seems an exercise in common-sense. Quite apart from that, one of the main reasons against locking up people with mental health issues still applies. Costs too much. It’s just a pity authorities haven’t seen fit to better fund the alternative option. I mean, if we really want healthy, safe communities, we should be prepared to pay for them.

How can we afford it? Consider the ramifications of getting it wrong and tell me how we cannot. Read this heart-rendering missive from Liza Long, entitled: “I am Adam Lanza’s mother,” and tell me you don’t see the same problem in New Zealand. We’re not so different. Rather than funding a competent mental health system, we’re waiting for people to go off the rails and commit crime, at which stage the problem becomes one for the police and courts.

America’s issue is more extreme; no argument there. When it gets to the point all new entrant school children (ie: five year-olds) must be taught what to do in the case of a crazed gunman, you know you have a problem with your gun-laws. Or at least you should know. What do you get when you mix an inadequately funded mental health system with a culture in which military assault rifles can be purchased at the local supermarket? Well, we’re finding out.

Kiwis are right to be worried about the lack of commitment our governments have shown towards mental health care. The stakes are far too high to ignore; we’ve been reminded of that throughout the year. But rather than the idea of reverting to an old, failed and discredited system, isn’t it time we started better funding the present one? Isn’t it time more of our taxes were spent on the support and care of those suffering from mental illness?

Or is it true? Would we rather just paint them as villains?”