Amanda Todd – Some Factors In Her Suicide
In our local newspapers in Vancouver, Unceded Salish Territories, “British” Columbia, North Turtle Island (Canada), Amanda Todd is all the buzz.
She lived a 15 minute car ride across the Port Mann Bridge from our house. To us, she was just another unknown kid walking down the street. But in the eyes of the Creator of the universe, she was precious. She was known.
Her death is tragic, as all the media agrees. But there will a lot more Amanda Todds to come, if we do not look at the societal factors that contribute to the sorrows of millions of teenagers out there.
Here are some of the factors leading to her suicide that the media probably have not picked up on, or may not emphasise to the degree they should be:
1. LACK OF COMMUNITY:
Although it appears that her latest high school gave her a lot of support, the thing Amanda was missing, and that MOST OF US seem to be missing here in North Turtle Island, is COMMUNITY.
Community means you can walk down the street and have the storekeepers greet you by name as you walk home.
Community means your neighbour will show up at your door and ask you to hang out with them.
Community means there is a street life that you can participate in.
Community means that you and your neighbours do things together, and try to make your neighbourhood a better place to live in.
Here in Turtle Island, we don’t know our neighbours. There is little street life. We are too busy with our own individual lives. The world seems cold and crude, uncaring about what’s going on in our hearts, minds, relationships and bodies. It’s a rat race. Every man and woman for themselves. We’re all aiming for the unattainable power, fame and fortune, while we forget that the richness of life can be found right at our doorstep, locally, right in our communities.
But we have cars. We have the bus and Skytrain. We can take off any time to visit friends or go for appointments 20+ kilometres away. Our lives, our social networks are scattered.
And with technology, although on Facebook I appear to have 100+ “friends”, in fact I have few. Few true friends. I may have some, as we call in Chinese, 酒肉朋友 jiu3 rou4 peng2you, literally “alcohol-meat” friends, a.k.a. fair weather friends. That means, when there’s no more alcohol, no more meat, your friends abandon you. When the weather is no longer fair, bye-bye.
Community helps us keep our wits about us.
Community makes us feel at home in the world.
The world doesn’t appear to be such a cold, cruel place when we have community.
Amanda was missing community.
2. LACK OF CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH HER FATHER, and SUFFERING FROM THE EFFECTS OF HER PARENTS’ DIVORCE:
Amanda had recently lived for 2 years with her Dad, Norm Todd. Then she moved in with her Mom, Carol Todd. Being the ping-pong ball is not a fun life for kids. I know. My own child does it, after my first wife left me 5 years ago. No matter how we try to arrange a “normal” life for a child of a broken family, it is not normal. It masks the hurt that the child hides within their heart.
Every kid needs a close relationship with both their father and mother. Mothers typically get the spotlight in our society. Mothers’ Day here is almost like celebrating Jesus’ birthday. It’s big. Fathers’ Day? Many people forget, so it comes and goes.
Amanda seems to have had a great Mom, who did all she could for her. And it appears that her Dad was also there for her. And even with him being there, no matter how hard he tries, or Amanda’s Mom tries, relating to parents who have broken up and reside in different geographic locations is tough. It’s hard to maintain a healthy, close relationship with separated parents.
And definitely, fathers are underrated in our culture. It’s almost as if you can take them or leave them. Mom is the Goddess of the household. She is the esteemed, socially popular, culturally honoured icon of our society. She is indispensable.
But Dads? Well, when half of them run away from their families, abandon the responsible of their kids and aren’t even willing to pay child support or rarely see their kids, you have to ask yourself if these dudes got dropped in infancy. There’s a screw loose in their brains.
Some are addicted to alcohol, drugs, porn, Internet, fast cars, sex with multiple partners, etc. Some are just frickin’ lazy. Some are “deadbeats”. Most of them, who don’t see their kids regularly, I call them irresponsible.
Sorry, dudes, but I gave up my career and friendship network in China just to return home to Canada for my son. I have sacrificed a lot for him. Not trying to put myself on a pedestal here, because all I have done is what I see to be the bare minimum.
Your kids are your flesh and blood. An extension of yourself. They will outlive you and carry on your legacy.
Get with it. Get with your kids. Don’t abandon them. The Amandas out there need your loving heart, your listening ear, your hug.
And kudos to Amanda’s Mom. Don’t blame yourself, dear. It seems you did what you could. But there were many other factors at play, most of which are hard for you to control.
And Norm, it was hard to see your daughter suffering. The police couldn’t even stop the bullying, you said.
Both Amanda’s parents did what they could, it seems, to help their daughter.
All this goes to show, we don’t just need parents.
We need a community to raise children.
3. ADDICTION TO TECHNOLOGY:
Now Facebook, Youtube, the Internet in general all seem like good fun. Smart phones, iPads too. But there is a point where we cannot live without them. If you are forced to do without them, you, like an alcoholic or substance abuser, will go into withdrawal.
Amanda was apparently addicted, like many of her fellow teens. The Internet was one of her primary platforms for communication. And what others said to her on the Net mattered. Really mattered. Mattered to the point that kids at school would take her to the task for things Amanda said and did online.
Here we have a mixing of the real world, and the online world. The 2 kingdoms, the 2 realities, become blurred. Unfortunately, unlike the real world, the Internet Universe does not always seem to have the consequences that come normally and naturally from our actions. We can hide our identities. We can say things we would never say face-to-face to another person. We can be jerks without any blowback.
But reality is stronger. Reality overrides whatever fantasy world we dwell in online. Reality eventually catches up with us. As Rage Against The Machine sang on the last line of “Killing In The Name Of”: “you sow what you reap”. The Internet, the online world, the world of texting and Skyping and Googling, always bows down before the Real World. They have too. Their is no choice. This is the way the universe is designed.
And Amanda didn’t get that. Few teens get it. Even few adults get it. But we all had better wake up to the fact that Hyper-reality is not reality. It is a second world that is always subservient to our Real World. Whether we accept it or not.
4. PERSECUTION FOR HER LEARNING DISABILITIES:
Along with the last point about our society’s addiction to technology and especially smart phones and the Net, because of these dominating media tools in our lives , we all are expected by each other to live up to unrealistic standards of “coolness”, good looks, verbal and intellectual sophistication. In real life, we are imperfect, rough, always in the process of learning and developing. When compared with Supermodels, PhDs, billionaire business folk, mega-famous celebrities of song, dance, films and sport, we are too humble, too modest, too earthy. There is no room for variety, for differences, for imperfection.
This is the world against which Amanda was measured. She had learning disabilities. She found it tough to do the things that most kids find easy. She struggled. She and her Mom and her teaches and counsellors had to put in extra time to just meet the academic minimal standard.
So she got persecuted. Bullied. Harassed. Imperfection is out. Struggle is not empathised with. You’re either out or you’re in. This is the Fascist World that our society is racing toward, with our technologies and online tools pushing us toward the inevitable loss of freedom and humanness. If you don’t fit it, you are forced out. Leave town, or perhaps take your own life, leave the planet.
God damn us, the Western fools we are. We have created a society where people cannot be themselves, where we have to be measured against the latest pop stars, the latest teen idols, the latest celebrity athletes. We claim to respect diversity while at the same time stifling it. People who don’t tow the Party Line of our New Fascism are forced to leave. Or else we silence them. Ridicule them. Kill them. Whether by our own hands or the victim’s.
God damn us. I hope God is watching, and kicks our asses. Believe me, we’re not in a position to be needing mercy. We are unrepentant fools. We need a swift kick in the pants.
We need to wake up as a society.
Thousands upon thousands of Amandas are out there, waiting to do themselves in. Just look at First Nations kids. Minority kids. And now, the privileged, entitled Western kids.
We have created this mess.
5. SKEWED EXPECTATIONS OF LIFE:
Along with this warped Online Fantasy World we all are increasingly living in, and especially our kids, we have basically forgotten what life is all about.
Our values, our expectations are skewed. We have lost touch with reality, with the world, with ourselves.
We have abandoned what is truly important:
– our families
– our friends
– our communities
– our Creator
Love. Respect. Hospitality. Friendliness. Truthfulness. Responsibility. Kindheartedness.
Instead we have:
Cruelty. Bullying. Coldness. Lies. Running away from our responsibility. Lack of accountability. Not giving a damn.
Last Words to Amanda:
Amanda, I don’t know where you are now. I can’t. I’m not God.
But one thing I do know: you didn’t have to go so soon. There was a way out. Too bad you couldn’t see it.
I’m not blaming you. We are all the same: we can’t see the forest for the trees. What we all think is liberating us, is enslaving us. Including this computer I’m typing on now. Including our Facebook, our Google, our Linkedin, our Twitter, our Youtube.
We have created an Alternative World. A Fantasy World. And ultimately, a Nasty World.
We have forgotten people like you. Hurting neighbours, who are living individual torture, right next door to us.
We don’t seem to care. We don’t reach out. And when we do, it is often ineffective. Because our entire societal structure has been destroyed. Our families. Our communities.
We are all just a bunch of faceless strangers passing each other like ships in the night.
We are little bubbles of reality, isolated, separated, believing falsely that our Online World is all we need: friendly, warm, caring, meeting the needs of the heart.
I’m not just blaming our technology. I’m blaming ourselves. We did this. We chopped down all the trees and built high rises. We shoved all the kids into cold, lifeless academic communities with increasingly little sense of community. We created the cars, buses, road and highway networks that cause us to ignore our adjacent neighbours, as we travel tens of kilometres to meet our social, financial and physical needs.
Then we created this 2nd World to complement the fake 1st World we’ve built. A 2nd Matrix built on top of the 1st.
But it’s all Matrix.
And the Matrix is not your friend.
Amanda, we’ll all miss you. You are us. We are you.
And somehow, some way, we have to find out how we can escape our inevitable fate of joining you early, on the Other Side.
Take care, my friend.
Lastly, check out this columnist’s comments:
But it seems to me the problem of bullying is so ingrained in the fabric of adolescence itself that it isn’t bullying we have to address but how we, as a society, have changed adolescence, and beyond that, how we have changed the nature of public discourse for us all. (It should be said that bullying and mean-spiritedness are hardly unique to adolescents. Read the comment section of any news site: snideness and venom are the rule, not the exception.)
I would not presume to understand how Amanda Todd could take her own life, or how her tormentors could act as they did.
But I can’t help feeling that her video illustrated not only her torment, but contained in it the seed of our own sickness, our own outlet and prison.