The Song Remains the Same

Six months have passed since my last post, quite nearly to the day, and I find myself regarding an image on my screen of a beautiful young woman who ended her life short because of the strain of the torment she was being subjected to by her peers. Like last time. Like Amanda Todd, whom I wrote about the last time I sat in front of this keyboard, trying to find words sufficient to express my disappointment in a humanity becoming less humane, and a world far more cruel.

Rehtaeh Parsons of Nova Scotia was only 15 when she was gang-raped after a Vodka-fuelled party at a friend’s house. As is the way of things today, someone took a pictures of the event and spread them around, and soon the images of a rape of a 15-year old girl had gone viral throughout the community. Rehtaeh was then constantly taunted and labelled a “slut” by her peers, in person, online and through text messages. She changed schools and went to another community, but the bullying followed her, and she spent 6 weeks in a hospital trying to cope with the depression and suicidal thoughts that resulted from the enormous stress. She started smoking pot to try and deal with it, but sontinued to be plagued with anxiety and mood swings. Finally, 18 months after her rape, Rehtaeh hanged herself in the bathroom of her family home.

She was 17 when she died.

The actors and specific events in this story are a little different, but the basic plot remains the same; a young girl makes a bad decision, at the prompting of supposed friends, and is subjected to so much cruelty and horror as a consequence that she resorts to suicide to escape from the pain and sadness that clouds what could have been a promising and wonderful life. This is Amanda Todd 2.0, and, as I said then, it’s all our fault.

I’m not going to repeat what I said about Amanda Todd’s death, although every word I wrote applies as well to Rehtaeh Parsons’ death. Go read it yourself.

Instead, I have to ask a few questions. For instance, what does it say about the state of our social culture that 15-year olds are participating in drunken parties? What further does it say that 15-year olds engage in drunken orgies, and feel it appropriate to gang up on a drunken young girl while someone else captures the act in digital images for posterity? And, at what point did our society devolve to the degree that a woman’s complaint of rape became a rallying point for everyone around her to accuse her, the victim, of being at fault?

These are the children our society is raising? If so, what kind of a future do we look forward to?

Every time a young person takes their life, there is an immediate outcry for better mental health treatment programs, better ways of dealing with the symptoms of a problem. I can’t help but feel we’re missing the point. We’re pointing to the symptoms and saying “treat these people better,” when the treatment they truly deserve is from the cause of the symptom in the first place. It isn’t Rehtaeh’s depression and anxiety that needs to be addressed, it’s the culture that allows young people to obliterate their developing reason with alcohol and drugs and perform cruel acts on each other under the guise of “fun,” only to revictimize their prey further and without end.

In short, our culture needs to relearn morality.

Not Christian or religious morality. That’s not what I’m aiming at. There is as much intolerance and persecution in religion as there is outside of it. What I’m talking about here is the morality that is fundamental to all people, all living things, really. A basic morality that says it isn’t right to cause pain and distress to make yourself feel stronger and better.

Rehtaeh Parsons is dead today because our culture allows the belittling of victims and encourages tearing someone down to build ourselves up. The responsibility for changing that culture is in each of us. The cost of inaction can be counted in the young lives we’ll lose to more tragedies like this one. It’s about time we do something meaningful.

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