Can Poverty be Re-branded?

“Sometimes when it feels like things are falling apart it’s just things falling into place”.

This inspirational saying brought to mind the Monty Python skit of “Catch that prize!” where if a contestant could catch, say a refrigerator, dropped from a fourth story window he could keep it. It is annoying how many pithy sayings there are for things falling apart.

I went to a lecture titled, “Is poverty a disease? Could treating poverty work like medicine?” Dr. Gary Bloch, a nice young  doctor who works out of a hospital in T.O. in an area with a lot of homeless people using the ER. *

I am biased, three times around the big C has introduced me to lots of doctors, I have found many doctors, young white males in particular but not exclusively, to possess large egos if not pugnacious attitudes of entitlement. I have read a bit about what internships are like, so I add exhaustion as an excuse for some of them, and then there are the ones who really want to do good… and this guy is one of them. But he is still coming from a culture (medical professionals) that looks at everyone as a set of symptoms.  It is also a culture that is very difficult to enter because of the costs of medical school. Why money should be allowed to be a deciding factor in who might want to be, or might be able to be, a doctor is another question. Most doctors tell me that I can discuss only two things per visit. However, if one of them is about O.H.I.P. the clock seems to fly out the window. Sorry I am griping. 😛

At the very end of the lecture I got to say my two cents worth. My heart was pounding so hard once I decided to try to speak that I might have not heard all of his lecture.  I brought up the Harris government, 25 years ago in Ontario targeting single mothers, reducing their family benefits by 1/3 OVER NIGHT and then standing back to watch the fallout. All the tax payers who could accept the cost of constant road repairs before they accepted the cost of social repairs? Well, if driving over the bodies of welfare mom’s had caused a bumpy ride to work they still might have supported this bludeoning of Family Benefits. I’m not sure but the effects were not as immediate as a bitter cold winter on ashphalt so they weren’t too bothersome. But a large number of women and children fell through the cracks. “Falling through the cracks” meant they went missing in the minds and hearts of the society that they belonged to. And many ended up in peril.

Harris’ cuts weren’t even cost effective, they shifted the expenses to totally ineffective services and removed large numbers from the data for political purposes only.  Add mismanagement of support payments, often those coming after a forced combative situation, a stipulation of receiving benefits was legal action against the absent partner, and voila, many families found themselves unable to pay rent. Their next step was into homelessness. There were piles of cheques for support that were months late and yet they sat unprocessed. Miscommunication, hostility and ineptitude turned up the heat on fathers who were labeled and threatened for being “dead-beat dads” which did not help moms and kids either. Many of my peers who didn’t have any other support network to help them were lost as the stress of jumping through hoops and sorting through requirements turned them back either to abusive situations or bad choices or emotional collapse and mental breakdown. The resulting years have led to the cost to taxpayers in law enforcement, incarceration, emergency services and health costs all skyrocketing and all caused by the repercussions of what were applauded as reforms twenty-five years ago.

I ended my diatribe with “Poverty is not a disease, it is a crime.” and I got applause.  (That was a bit frightening actually).

However quietly, fearfully we do it, we need to speak up about the things that maintain poverty so we can talk about the things that can alleviate it. Poverty is a crime being committed against the most vulnerable, and it is global. It is endorsed by the most wealthy and most priviledged. Poverty makes possible all sorts of abuses of human rights and so often leads to violence and even war. But I worry about calling it a disease. People living with poverty are already in isolation.

*I wrote this draft perhaps five years ago never publishing it.  If you go to the link for Dr. Gary Bloch you will see he is doing many positive and constructive things and lecturing other doctors. Maybe he is changing the culture from within? As I said, he is one of the good ones.

We can make a habit of compassion

Things are so weird right now but maybe it’s good that it’s all out in the open so we can see how ugly racism, sexism and entitled criminality are, but that said, violence in television is over the top and I don’t see people cringing, rather they are getting desensitized to it. Will we become desensitized to the sort of ignorant thuggism that is taking over all our public forums? I hope not. I am 60 this year and tired. I feel like “wake me up when they come for me, or not“, which is bad, really bad. I keep reminding myself, Hitler ran for office more than once before he got in power. Persistant thuggism can overwhelm considered intellect and endeavoured compassion, as history has shown us over and over. We must confront it. We must shake off our reasonable desire for comfort and confront it and we must confront it over and over with the same persistance as ignorance.
How we confront it is part of waking up to our own lives. If we find we are hating the person who perhaps took the parking space we wanted or the seat on the subway or the last donut or whatever, we need to see hate for what it is, it is thuggism, maybe in its infancy but it contains the potential that we see rampant in the world. Instead, if we recognize our annoyance for what it is, arising entirely within our expectations and probably, the person we might choose to direct this annoyance at (please try not to call it hate) is completely unaware of any of this, or at best thinking themselves lucky, if we see how this reaction arises in ourselves we can make choices about our response.  Is this the circumstance that requires us to speak up?  Probably not.
But when we have a reaction to someone doing harm, speaking of harm being done, promoting hate, we can see our fear, fear that it might be directed at us, but we can make a choice. Thuggism is a lack of choice.  Being awake is constant choice.  Are we ready to respond not with anger with knowledge and understanding? 
We are essentially fragile, all of us, and dependant on each other and anger is familiar to us though how some are expressing it and what they believe are their reasons for their anger are not acceptable to us.
This is what it is.  It is uncomfortable.  Whereas hate can feel good.  It is a paradox huh, that something that can feel good can be the cause of so much bad in the world?
The alarm clock has rung and we are awake. Now what?  Me? I think I will have breakfast.
“This meal arises from the labour of all beings,
may I be grateful.”

Played “The Walking Dead, Best Defence” Game!

I love zombies. I love a good scare that won’t lead to any actual pain. I got hooked and then unhooked and then hooked again on the Walking Dead t.v. show. But what I have never been unhooked from is the love of a good board game!

This game is deceptively good and while you might have anterior motives to the group, in general you have to work together. Your power to lead is tested too as once a round you are the Sheriff. 🙂  True to form Andrea was always whining about keeping her daddy's gun! And yes, it has Daryl. pffffffffffffff
walking deadI didn't like all the cardboard pieces and so have taken on the job of making tiny zombies for the next game!

Limitations:  Unless you buy an expansion for the game it is only four players. The choice of characters is limited and some of them are dead now. 😛
walkinddead
We played for a few hours in “beginner mode”. We successfully survived! These guys are serious board gamers and they all gave the game the thumbs up!

I can see how it would become really challenging with the restrictions on disclosure in the more expert modes but when learning the rules which can be a confusing, definitely start at beginner!

A Poem a Day

Son

Just before you were born
I swallowed the moon.
Now reflected light in my coffee dances
while a world grows up around me.

Your eyes are like copper pennies.
When you laugh,
I laugh.
When you cry,
I cry.

Annoying huh?

Thing Two for Beating the Winter Blues!

OVER EATING!

We had our first Fake Xmas Dinner. The Totally Fake Xmas Dinner is in the Spring when we can get everyone together in one place.

I made my version of Jamie Oliver’s Turkey Wellington. I could not find puff pastry. I tortured several stock boys (I am a sexist when it comes to grocery stock jocks, I always let the girls flee) and still they could not tell me where it was to be found, so I had to settle with frozen pie shells. They did reluctantly confess as to where the dried Porcini mushrooms were and yet I had to torture NOT ONE, but THREE of them to finally zero in on the treasure. It seems the SUPER GROCERY STORE GODS only allow their minions small sections of the map to find the golden fleece…
turkeywellington (2)
The turkey breast had a bone in it so I had to de-bone it myself and that meant it wasn’t all nice and neat like the one Jamie had to stuff . I used lots of skewers. Then I decided I could not use the mushrooms inside as some people do not like them and in fact are loathe to eat them, so I used mashed potatoes. The mushrooms were a side dish. Yes there was bacon but that was a secret because, for no particular reason (not religious, I checked) some people no longer eat pork, even though they love the taste… Am I evil?
The whole thing came together somehow. Daughter made gravy, traditional stuffing, and mashed potatoes. We had roasted cauliflower too and then son-in-law asked, “Hey, are we eating all white tonight?” I did serve individual ramekins of mac-n-cheese, which I learned, from a rap song on the Xmas compilation CD someone gave me, is traditional African American Xmas food, particularly when served with “Collard Greens” which I did not serve. **sad face icon** Young son said, “I’m not white” and no one argued.
The long and short of it is, I have been stuffing myself  TO THE GILLS with leftovers. It has caused me to sleep and sleep and sleep which is great because one of the symptoms of Seasonal Affected Disorder is not being able to sleep. So I am making a note to self: replace clothes with stretch fabrics and pants with draw strings.

first born.

My first born.

I thought was very wise and mature until I had a baby. Before I had my son, things just happened and I did stuff. Sometimes I knew I had done well and sometimes I knew I had not. After I had my first child my heart was irrevocably torn open. It was wonderful and terrifying.

One of the things I realized was the universality of this love.  Suddenly pictures of mothers holding their sick, vulnerable or starving children were not of people in some far off place. They were pictures of me and their children were all my child and I felt helpless in a way I had never known before.

5495_600 The Christian story of a teenage mom giving birth to a kid in a barn essentially without a “real” father with only some crazy story to separate her from all the other moms out in the cold is a stark contrast to the excesses of the holiday, but it is compelling to the open heart in a way like no other.