Debt.  Prisons.  Responsibility.  Freedom.

I was joined by a couple of my young folk for a viewing of the Payback film the other night at a local public library.

Thanks to Green Living Ottawa for posting the notice on their blog last weekend.  

After the screening, we agreed that it was an interesting documentary and although the cinematic techniques were lovely, we felt they made the film longer than needed.

Perhaps the lingering camera shots were intentional, encouraging emotional reactions to  the lengthy scenes like the environmental impact of the BP oil Gulf of Mexico disaster,  interviews with residents who were affected by the spill, and witnessing expansive destruction to the coastline, inlets and natural habitats.

I expected to see more examples of big banks who push easy credit and the subsequent problems of consumer debt.  I suppose I should read Margaret Atwood’s book.  Since I’m pressed for time and energy, here’s a good review at Quill & Quire located through a Google search.

The examples of people paying their “debt to society” were interesting enough.

There was the case of an Albanian man who was being punished according to regional law because he attacked a neighbour, shooting him over a land dispute.  The entire family was not allowed to leave their property – he especially since the surviving victim would be allowed to kill him!  As a parent, my heart ached for the children who would not know freedom for a long, long time.  They were suffering due to their father’s crime.

What also touched me was the emotional interview with the convict in the US, living in a cycle of theft crime to support his drug habit which helped  him escape his despair and disgust with himself as a human being.  He read aloud the victim impact statement from an elderly Holocaust survivor whose home he burglized  then sold sentimental items at a pawn shop for drug money.   His mother revealed that as a youth, he was bullied and assaulted because of his skin colour.  These cruel acts likely contributed to his entry into a life of drug abuse and crime.

At some point, people can blame “the system” or “society” for their woes.  I believe that there is a point where one can rise up and overcome – especially with the help of a support system and loving family.  

In addition to the interviews with speakers, writers, volunteers and former convicts, I enjoyed the brief scenes with Karen Armstrong, proponent for the Charter for Compassion.  I like the reference to the Golden Rule and a quote from Confucius: “Use your own feelings as a guide to your treatment of others.”

As I recall messages from the film and gradually come down from the stress caused by recent experiences in my own life, I hesitate to believe some big corporations or individuals can willingly be good citizens, to prevent harm or eventually repay debts to society and to the victims of their crimes.  Some relieve themselves of responsibility by placing layers between them and the consumer, user or victim.  Some blame “machinations” working against them.

My personal experiences of the past few weeks brought me frustration and stress yet provided the opportunities to ask questions, to offer serious recommendations for improving rusty and curious cogs in the wheels of justice, of the Canadian justice system.  I am comforted to know there were individuals who stepped in to ensure swift corrective action was taken.

Although they are confusing and difficult to navigate, it is a consolation that there are services in place to help victims of crime.   Without going into details, I have been asking why it is that victims of crime have to jump through hoops, write letters and fill out forms in order to ensure their continued safety, to obtain current information on an offender while keeping within privacy laws in the process.  Strange, eh?  Seems like a lot of time and energy that could be spent otherwise – like properly healing after surgery, contributing to society as a hard-working citizen, and being supportive of your children’s endeavours.

On a positive note, by jumping through the bureaucratic hoops, one can gain knowledge and strength to make damn sure a controlling and volatile individual has no success in returning to a victim’s community and life.

Consider it a personal payback quest.



About shewrite63

I am Theresa. I am a Mother, Grandmother and intermittent writer. I published a bittersweet novel in 2011 under the pen name of Florence T Lyon. I am also a real life survivor, community volunteer, Archives and Records Management graduate, and long-time IT support worker trying to keep up with technological changes. Can't eke a living off of my writing skills - yet!
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