Toronto's Mayor Rob Ford seems to be losing grasp of the city. After the tragic shooting which resulted in the deaths of two young people this week, Ford went Reagan and declared a war on gangs. More specifically, he blamed gangs for the recent uptake in violence in our city. To quote
Ford: “We must use every legal means to make life for these thugs miserable, to put them behind bars, or to run them out of town. We will not rest until being a gang member is a miserable, undesirable life.
Most people who have studied gangs or gun violence will say that a prevalence of gangs often indicates deep poverty in an area,a lack of community services and resources, restricted access to education and well-paying jobs, and communities that have faced systemic and historical discrimination. Many people would also agree that "being a gang member" is already a miserable and undesirable life because it's more often than not something you have very little choice about.
The week before this terrible tragedy, Rob Ford voted against every one of the city's community development grants program, in some cases being the sole vote against them (including his brother, Councillor Doug Ford). Of particular interest is his vote against accepting federal money for a gang prevention program that would be free for the city. Many of the projects Ford voted against were explicitly designed with community safety in mind, including improving race relations and promoting community participation,the largest amount of funding was for programs that are focused on vulnerable,marginalized, and high risk communities.
Rob Ford has mentioned his dislike of community programming and he doesn't seem to think that community programing and socially responsible education can curb gang violence. He told reporters:“Some people have suggested there is a gang war brewing. I don’t know if that’s true. But, I do know it’s time for us to declare war on these violent gangs.”
He doesn't know if it's true,he doesn't know what causes gang violence, but he DOES know that the appropriate response is a war on gangs.
I think that Rob Ford is wrong. This is not the right response to violence, it does not address the deeply rooted systemic issues of racism and poverty, and it will not stop gangs or gang violence. Rob Ford has the perfect solution right in front of his face, and I suspect he secretly knows it but doesn't have the courage to put it forward.
Rob Ford, let me do it for you. Toronto's solution to all of these complex issues is very simple:
Gang members SHOULD go somewhere else, as Rob Ford so eloquently put it today, a gigantic stadium in which they will fight to the death for the entertainment of the rich and for the benefit of their district! It's so clear! I'm sure there will be some naysayers to this proposal, but let me break it down for you.
Toronto is already broken into "districts" if you think about it. Our neighborhoods have distinct boundaries and are generally divided by factors that would be important in choosing Hunger Games contestants: the poor, immigrant, and "minority" populations are pretty consistently stratified in different neighborhoods than the rich, white folk.
A lot of Toronto DISTRICTS are desperately in need of the basics of life: better access to affordable food, safety, a break from negative scrutiny. Putting these people in a situation where they can help their communities is exactly what Rob Ford is prescribing: a job is the best social program of all. Because this is real life and not a novel, we can proceed in ways that differ from the original Hunger Games. For instance, those who are in the lottery for participation should really be people who make under the Low Income Cut Off (which includes myself). This ensures that priority communities in Toronto are addressed and given something productive to do. It also ensures that people who already contribute to the city by being rich won't have to get their hands dirty.
The best thing about the Hunger Games is that it keeps people in line, which is exactly what this city needs. Contribute to the city, find a menial job even if it doesn't pay well or anything, tow the line, or else your district will be punished. Don't ship the gang members and poor people OUT, Mayor Ford,take advantage of them and ship them into a fanciful and intense fight for survival.
This also solves some of the cities issues with money. The elite will pay a great deal to view the Games! It will rejuvenate city pride and give people something to focus on besides politics and how bumbling the Mayor is. And we already have some great venues to hold the Games in: any of the new Pan Am games features, including the stadium; the Toronto Islands; any of the Universities or Colleges. Toronto is really the perfect place to stage a Hunger Games.
Finally, the Hunger Games will address this whole "making life miserable" thing. It will make those people value their lives, because obviously they don't right now(According to Mayor Ford). Life is too rosy for gang members and the poverty stricken in this city, and Hunger Games would really help them appreciate life.
I guess it isn't very politically "correct", but let's just call a spade a spade here. If Rob Ford wants the gang members to leave, if he doesn't want to support community programs that will address violence systemically, if he wants to make their lives miserable, then the Hunger Games is really the way to go. Maybe the Low income cut off requirement for the Hunger Games would make people FINALLY pull themselves up from their bootstraps, get a job, and be productive members of society.
Problem solved, you're welcome Mayor Ford.