There have been many questionable moments in Hamilton's recent history. After the redlining of a large swath of our city, another such moment was the recently leaked directive that bitterly stung the same neighbourhoods still reeling from the sweeping 'colour codification' of class, income and deaths.
Fed on a generation of class prejudices, self-indulgence and skittishness, our institution of higher learning inadvertently re-affirmed to the entire world via this 'directive' its ongoing preference of the redline approach to rebuilding communities.
In its attempts to minimize the fact that the emperor has not worn clothes for decades, this institution of higher learning quickly proclaimed that the above 'directive' was not officially authorized and in fact did not bear the official seal of the emperor. Besides, at first claim, only nine people were sent this unauthorized directive - so really, how bad could it be?
Twitter-shwitter... and soon it was revealed that this was not the first time such an unethical and legally untenable directive was projected onto scores of young impressionable minds who were not yet corrupted by the prevailing group-think at this institution.
While it is unfortunate for all the communities who must once again deal with the fallout of such capricious thinking, this misinformed directive also brings into sharp focus the net gains of higher learning to our society - for these are the educated elite who may well be the leaders of our community tomorrow.
Such is the fate of Hamilton's vision statement, as many of its educated consciously choose to live their present on inherited biases of yesterday.
While one sincerely hopes that such delusion never rears its head again in our institutions of higher learning, one cannot but wonder whether this may be the only way left for our 'tragic island of higher learning' to experience the spiritual awakening it so badly needs.
It may, in fact, need to isolate itself totally from the community for a few years behind its delusions of evil lurking outside its gates, in order for it to go deep within itself and ponder the debilitating impact that it has left on our city with its obstinate and oft self-serving beliefs of remaining an island in an otherwise expanding world of social interconnectedness.
In its seclusion, it may finally have a moment to ask itself some honest questions as to what kind of a relationship it wants with the local community - not just the co-dependent kind that it enjoys with a handful of aging elites of our city, but a collaborative one with the rapidly changing population at large, across all its diverse communities.
It needs to truly live the nightmares of its fondest wish of remaining an island within a city. It is from such introspection that a new and rejuvenated institution of higher learning has a chance of emerging, possibly with a new song that resonates with aspirations of this city. Failing which it most surely will continue to waddle in the colossal missteps of its past.
"He ain't heavy, he is my brother" may not be the exact lines taught in this institution's religious program, but surely such sentiments ought to have crossed its institutional intelligence somewhere along the way in its much touted cross-discipline pedantry. And surely as an institution it may have occasionally sensed an imperative for a higher purpose outside of the trite academic outcomes of degrees and such - and desired a meaningful engagement with the community beyond the realm of consumption and gratification.
Instead of: "His welfare is my concern, No burden is he to bear, we'll get there...", we have sadly witnessed supposed bright minds following in the footsteps of a tradition deeply embedded in an institutional culture, dismiss the lives and communities that fall outside the comfort zone of their gated perception.
In a saner world, this institution of higher learning could have easily stepped up years ago and looked at the entire lower city as a living laboratory, and realigned its geography, history, social sciences and engineering courses to invent a most unique international college of urban ecology - a college which could have been located east of James where the wolves now appear to roam freely for lack of an institution of higher learning - a most relevant location to learn from first-hand, and even directly facilitate its re-growth.
But we are not living in such times. Introspection no longer guarantees an awakening; our jaded synapses may generate remorse at best or even the occasional fear of being sued with its perfunctory apologies.
It is far easier in our times to continue developing empty visions of growth which projects two million more square feet over the next thirty years on an already saturated island (while innocently appropriating terms like core, sustainability and infill development from city building jargon), rather than make a concerted move into the real-world core - a living lab, from which to influence real world outcomes.
It needs more health care. More doctors? Yes!! And we will get you feeling well again soon. Thanks! Meanwhile, we also need more social workers to look after all our needs. Two hundred and fifty more coming up at the end of this term. What? There is a drop in patient inflow? No sweat, we will have some more shipped in to the core next week...
Are you convinced now? do you feel sick to your stomach? I don't know? Is it the unending spiral of growth on an island, or is it the swaths of red blinding my eyes? Maybe... yes, sure! I am convinced. I think I am sick to my stomach. Will the new health care centre be here soon?
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