By Scott Pound
In case you didn’t notice, 2017 was a terrible year. This was not a chance occurrence. 2016 was almost as bad, and who knows what 2018 will bring. We are living through dark times.
It’s tempting to seek comfort in the notion that things aren’t as bad in Canada, or in Thunder Bay, but look around. The name of our city evokes images of hate crimes against Indigenous people and rampant corruption at city hall. The Thunder Bay Police Service is under investigation for alleged systemic racism. The mayor has been charged with extortion and the chief of police is on trial for breach of trust. Large swaths of our community have completely lost faith in these institutions and their leaders. National media outlets describe a city “in crisis.”
Meanwhile, life goes on and distractions abound. If you’re anything like me, most of the time you take shelter from these realities in work, chores, private indulgences, personal quests for self-improvement, and the individualized concierge services of content streaming and social media feeds. Such activities and amenities can take the edge off, but they don’t change much in the long run, and my own or anyone else’s private defiance of the significantly detestable doesn’t change anything either. This is because even though individual defiance is the very image of social change, social change is never the result of individual defiance on its own. It is always the result of cooperation and collaboration: people coming together in the spirit of care to build social solidarity through collective action.
I am reminded of this every time I manage to drag my ass out to volunteer or attend a public meeting. This is how change happens. People leaving the comfort of their homes to gather with others for the sake of community action. There’s nothing sexy or glamourous about it, but homemade treats and hot beverages can usually be found among a scattering of people you know and people you’ve yet to meet, all of them there because they care about other people.
The windfall of travesties that was 2017 cannot change the fact that in every community there are leaders pointing the way forward. Things are every bit as bad as they seem in the world at large and in our own city, but that does not mean there is a shortage of truth, beauty, and justice in our community. Quite the contrary. Truth and beauty and justice are everywhere: in the ongoing work of reconciliation; in efforts to build safe and supportive neighbourhoods; in the thriving local art, music, outdoor adventure, and writing scenes; in all the diverse efforts of the volunteers and community-builders in our midst. Punks growing food, youngblood art collectives, bike activists, conservationists, grass-roots politicos, artist-run centres, drop-in centres, friendship centres, safety patrols, community gardens, the list goes on and on.
There are a lot of things I am deeply pessimistic about, but the fate of this community is not one of them.