Violence is all around us. But where did we learn violent behaviour? And how do we overcome it.

Violence is an issue that is having negative effects on us as a community in Waskaganish, with innocent children. The statement I wish to make is that the negative effect this has on the people of our community will not be resolved unless we pass a zero-tolerance by-law with a group effort.

Violence is seen on TV – one source of the violence. The verbal abuse towards another human being, especially children, will be an effect. With physical abuse the bruise will go away, but not the scars of emotional and mental abuse. The bruise or physical harm is passed on with the internal anger. Most cases brought into the courts are alcohol-related crimes. This brings us to the violent behaviour that a drunk individual shows only when they are intoxicated.

Silence itself is promoting violence, like not getting involved when witnessing a fight in the neighbourhood. We can get involved indirectly by calling the police. The wrestling moves or martial arts moves and boxing that young people practice on each other. The gang or clique you belong to, peer pressure and wanting to belong makes it hard on others. Last year’s minutes of the Annual General Assembly mentioned a dog that had a knife still stuck in its throat. Another dog was beaten to death while it was tied up. These are some incidents that
have occurred in the community. Another form of violence is gossip that really hurts us. Violence is all around us whether we see it or hear it; we are aware it is there.

Where did these individuals learn this violent behaviour? As the generations of our people evolve, so do the social patterns and behaviours. We are confronted with more changes faster than ever from that traditional lifestyle of our grandparents’ generation. We need to adapt the wants and needs of our community. You can ask, do we really need this or do we want that? That is, the household items, computer, Internet, computer games, Nintendo, satellite dishes with 100 channels, VCR, movies and the television set. All these modern technologies are useful, but we also have to monitor the negative impacts.

I reflect back on the trip this spring in April. My sister Susan and I were on the way to Albuquerque, New Mexico, by van and witnessing the effects of a violent crime
indirectly, driving through the city of Denver, Colorado. We heard on the radio news of a violent shooting at a high school on the radio. The traffic was at a stand-still; it took us three to four hours to get from one end of the city the size of Montreal to the other. People were rushing about either to get home or to get somewhere to find out whether it was their children or what was really going on.

On the radio the news of the terrible tragedy of two youth who shot and killed 12 young people and an adult in a shooting rampage. They had used automatic weapons and bombs in a high school in Littleton, Colorado, at about 11:30 a.m., and the traffic was quite congested for the time of day, about 2-3 p.m. The city called of all events that were to be held that day.

I kept getting mixed messages in the stories covered in the media that week following the Littleton tragedy. There were headlines, cover stories and news clips throughout that week about the tragic incident that were continuous. Meanwhile, the president of the United States of America and the military went about the business of bombing Kosovo. Along the interstate highway, we saw caravans of army trucks heading to a major base as we reached Colorado. All this was on radio and television. What kind of message are we receiving, and what effect does it have on the youth? The following week there was another shooting in the same manner in another high school in Alberta.

Deep down these children were hurt from the destructive behaviours of other members in society. After the transference over the years of taunting, humiliation and put-downs by their peers, these young people decided to retaliate in a destructive manner that impacted us as members of the global society who saw it on television and heard on the radio. If you can see and hear what is going on in our communities as we continue on our road into mainstream living, how can we be of help to assist misguided youth and other members?

Waskaganish has a high rate of sober-living citizens. The efforts that were made for that social change were done with individual choice and group effort as objectives. That encouragement to me has touched other communities. I think that is the direction to continue as a group – to make changes on violence and its effects in a regional effort, networking as a group with a zero-tolerance policy on violence.

I encourage others as parents and concerned people of our communities. We need to be responsible for our own actions and words with our own children. I have witnessed the negative effect that violence had in my own life as a young boy. The behaviour of a four-year-old boy who was physically beaten violently was never able to overcome the anger from that incident until recently.

The suppression of that inner turmoil went on into adulthood. Keeping silent and expressing my emotions only when attacked physically or emotionally led to more violence. I am not ashamed to say today that I did pass aggressive and violent behaviour to my wife and children, especially during my years of drinking binges I was a part of.

Thankfully, it is about seven years since I have overcome the drugs and booze with help from counselors and belief and faith of our God, the Creator. The effects of violence are passed on to another generation, my children, and we experience difficulties and work on them. I learned to love and forgive the perpetrator of that violence and learned that he too went through a violent period early in his own childhood and so did his abuser.

As a family we are healing from that violent period. I can now listen to my children’s feelings and emotions of what we encounter in our daily lives. Listening is not just the words they say but the actions they do.

The unlearning of that early part of my past was finally expressed at a very late period of my life. That was when I was able to overcome the anger, the compulsive and obsessive behaviour of abusing substances such as drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. Gambling is another addictive activity that became easier to overcome. The inner anger needed to come out, but I masked it real good with my addictions. Today, it is still difficult to manage the anger but I can release that in a good and better way.

Other ways that were helpful for me to cope were hobbies like music or sports. One thing that really helped me was encouragement from positive, trusting and honest people who wanted to help and who believed in me. The philosophy I use today is to work toward a healthier and happier lifestyle and there are many new ways to do that! Sometimes the help is staring us in the face but we have a fear or distrust toward others. We need to dig deep within to find the strength, belief and faith of our God, the Creator. When we get past that we can overcome the toxic fear of shame, guilt and anger.

The real friends and people that you can trust will help when you start talking about those problems. Sometimes we are burdened with problems that are too heavy to carry. When this happens, do not hesitate to turn to those trusting friends and counselors. The thought, feelings or verbal communication of just asking for help might be a big step that can only be done when you take the action.

Charles Esau is executive director of the Waskaganish Wellness Centre.