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.

Me too? Piss off!

I have been walking around feeling lousy because I have been remembering times when I did things I didn’t want to do and times when I didn’t say things that I should have and thinking about all the circumstances surrounding those times and just feeling so awful just because I don’t like to think of myself as a victim even when I was. I think I would rather be a whore than a victim. Then I read this:

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/01/06/martha-nussbaum-agency-victimhood-dignity/
and I started to feel better.
Once I knew a man who wanted to go and harass women who were on a “Women Unite, take back the night” march. He thought because they didn’t want him march with them they were being sexist and therefore he had a reason to yell at them and interfere with their march. (I recently listened to an interview with the woman from Pussy Riot who told of a man who joined the band dressing like a woman who was horribly beaten for it and I thought, cool that he did that but typical he got beaten for it.)
The genius of non-violent demonstration is the inclusiveness of non-violence. This man, (and I said nothing to him at the time because I was in love with him and constantly aware that he was smarter than me, like all men, starting with my father) This Man needed only to respect the value of their message or at least their right to express it. Their message was, “We should be able to dress as women (how we like) and still walk safely home. It is not a privilege. Acts of violence are criminal.  Being female in THIS PLACE at THIS TIME is not something we should need to justify any more than any man has had to.” And then it occurred to me, any man who is not a black youth in a hoodie that is. (If you say things like “all lives matter” in response to Black Lives Matter, you are not getting it. If you say, “that is disrespecting the flag”, you are missing it again.
Bending a knee is a non-violent means of making a point. However uncomfortable it may be for those of you who like quibble about anything that might make it seem to be about something else, citizenship is the right of citizens and that includes non-violent demonstration.)
As for all the recent “news” about moguls who abuse their power and intimidate women (and who knows who else) for sex, well why is it getting so much attention right now? And is it going to change things? Is there a nugget of hope here or is it another tittliating story? SEX SEX SEX
In the tape Harvey says, “come on are you going to ruin a friendship for five minutes?” or something and I thought, if only she could have said “this is not about friendship this is about an exchange for sex” and then put a price on it per minute, a million per minute. (No doubt considering the recent press it would have been a great deal for him). I am being facitious of course but seriously, who would be the criminal if she had? She would have been. How insane is that?
It is time to own up to the fact that it isn’t about sex (or even gender though frequently women are the demographic). Sex is a smoke screen, a diversion. This is about control. This is about culture dominated by a small number of powerful people who want a large contingent of people who will do stuff for nothing or next to nothing. It is about unpaid labour and abuse of an entire populice. Women (and others) doing things to avoid violence, to avoid arrest, to avoid losing a promise of financial security, not even “wealth” often , just doing things to avoid being called a WHORE and being rejected even by other women. Meanwhile the collateral benefit goes to those who just shiphon off the gravy that they had to do nothing to recieve except be powerful or perceived as being powerful.
This is the formula: maintain fear, remove autonomy, encourage desention, work them to death and make them grateful to think they are your friends.

 

 

 

Looking in the Mirror

Looking in the Mirror…

I read my horoscope everyday, not so much because I believe in the power of celestial bodies messing with my life as I believe it is the acid test for how I am feeling when I read it.  Today it said something to the effect that I would be likely to get into arguments, which pissed me off.

I do get angry. It is hard not to sometimes but I try to be aware of it before I am in some action that can do harm and also, I will admit, gets me in harms way.

I used to toss a coin when I couldn’t make my mind up about something.  Never anything really important, usually when either choice was valid.  I found if I didn’t like the outcome of the toss I would simply do the opposite. Again, either choice being valid, my inclination was the question. I learned that didn’t need to waste my time. I am not as quick witted as I once was, but I am more measured.

Inclination is in itself a type of coin, perhaps a coin we don’t know we carry until something in life causes us to choose an action and we have to turn it over. Granted there are plenty of thoughtless thugs who never question their inclinations. Often if they have some part to play in history they become celebrities at least in their own pub or whatever cultural gathering place that includes mental incapacity due to alcohol or religion or the combination that results from professional sports. Or they become infamous villains depending on way things play out, how attractive their features are and if they survive or end up on t-shirts. Those who question inclination often become ineffectual in the grand scheme and hardly thought of at all when the dust settles except perhaps when they say, “I was alive during that time”.

My question is, within the mass of humanity that might get caught up on the streets in some sort of demonstration either by folly or desire or virtue, are not most feckless wanderers who despite the rightness or wrongness of their inclination would choose NOT to cause harm to another human being, especially if they could toss the coin endlessly until the question of being there or staying home was exhausted?

I once spent a weekend with a lovely couple in the seventies who had been caught up in the arrests without cause that followed the FLQ crisis back in ? She was less ardent but he was sure a war between French and English Canada was coming and after hours of talking concluded that I would be shot by both sides. The assertion being that NOT CHOOSING was a greater sin than being wrong.

But again, there are people who just show up. People like me who don’t know how to effect change but recognize at some point you have to decide to show up in support of this or that. The hard part is not falling prey to the inclination to do harm. The miraculous part is seeing some who can show us how to address the harm that others might do without perpetuating it or fueling it.

Wow. Just writing that last sentence got my heart pumping. The scary thing is being scared and not succumbing to acts of violence. Not condoning aggression even as pay back. It is the fear of losing the peace that I enjoy that reveals the fear and perhaps the dishonesty of my pacifism, but that peace includes everyone I endeavour to love and that includes everyone. So when whatever war comes to my door (because I will stay in) I will try to be brave and say, “either side can kill me, I will not defend myself if it involves harming others.” My inclination will not decide for me. Regardless of how close to what history will bare as the most important choice a person can make in these times, a gut reaction will not be useful. My practice and commitment to love and to do no harm to others will be what determines my actions. I will be wrong perhaps but not untrue. I tend push back, it is my inclination, but I submit by choice.

These are frightening times.

P.S. I have just learned of the events in Charlottesville, in the U.S. yesterday. It is hard not to want to strike out against the monstrous mental paralysis that has lead to these murderous acts. It is not terrorism, it is bare-faced murder.

These people who are in the mental paralysis called fascism want to kill the opposition. They do not recognize any people who have opinions other than theirs as being human, as anything but a target for their hatred.

So how do you respond?

I think that it is good that the statue is coming down and it shows the success of government and civic responsibility. I don’t believe that the fascists have done anything to change that. (I hope). I am sorry for all the people who were injured and their families.

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.”

Digesting the jagged

I am sick of war. I am tired of us and them.  Let’s focus on what it is like to be human. Fear feels the same for all of us, suffering from violence feels the same for all of us. We need to stop feeding into what fuels violence and what always incites it. And what that is, is a sense that we are different in important ways, that we are entitled in some way that others should not be (because of this and this and that) and some people are just too different to be allowed to breathe.

 

All people die when one person dies and how everyone dies is important. We don’t want assault rifles in our clubs or our homes .  We don’t want assault rifles killing anyone anywhere anymore people of the world. We are sick of the war on this and that.  We want peace with this and peace with that and peace with each other.

 

This is when I am usually informed that I have missed the point. Eat your point. Break it into all its tiny pieces so you can swallow it. Stop sticking it in my face. Yes, I am angry. But I use words.  I am heartbroken but when I feel this way I cry.  I don’t fight.

 

When we all feel better we can talk calmly about how we are not so different. We can talk about loss and fear and how we want to share a better world.  And those jagged pieces that we both have had to swallow, we can digest and perhaps even come up with legislation to improve things.  How’s that for extreme radicalization?

My Cell Phone is Sick.

I had to take it to the service provider who’s name cannot be spoken.  Saturday I was all set to run out to the mall (killing two errands with one bus ticket) and S. called.

She is my Scottish friend who is of Chinese decent, she has the weirdest accent you can imagine, plus she seems to have adopted the stereotypical traits of both cultures, she tends to be blunt, likes to save money and shop for a deal (she is a one woman resource for where to find things in town) and she has a rather perfunctory approach to friendship. She calls me and tries to drag me out to go swimming at 6:30am on a weekly basis, “because it is good for you and everyone needs to talk to five people a day to stay happy”.

I disagree with this on so many levels. (I could write an entire post about it and it would be funny. “Oh Rio, you make me laugh!” is her response to my opinion.)

We compromise with going for coffee and complaining about our aged mothers. She is a caregiver too. So she offered to drive me to the mall.

Apparently they need a R.C.M.P. dossier on you before you can get them to do anything. My passport is out of date and I don’t drive. The little girl, and this is not meant to as a derogatory expression, (she was tiny and maybe eighteen years old, this was her first job and her last day), well, the wee pet, I’ll call her Janet, was willing to take my phone and send it for repairs but she would not be working there when I came back and without proper documentation/I.D., they would not give me the phone. Argghhhhhh. This is not an Ipod, it’s not even a phone they make anymore but it has a slide out keyboard arranged in the same layout as a standard keyboard and I can use it without my glasses. I REALLY LIKE IT. IT WORKS FOR ME. I AM WILLING TO PAY TO FIX IT… I don’t think it would be worth it for a stranger to pay for the repairs to steal it. I was proud of the fact that I didn’t get upset.

I said, “I am so glad you got another job, I hope it is better than this one!”
“Oh it is!” Janet smiled.

Meanwhile, S. is waiting and waiting. She decided to wander off and do some of her own errands.

They had no courtesy phones left to lend me, never a good sign, but I suggested that she introduce me to someone who WOULD BE THERE ON MONDAY and she could give me her name and number and I would do the same (it would be on all the forms I had to sign) and we could keep in touch as to when I could get a courtesy phone and all the details of the repair, cost, time etc.

I introduced myself to another young lady, A. She questioned whether I had gotten the phone wet and Janet defended me. I really congratulate Janet on finding a job where her customer loyalty might be rewarded.

S. had returned after completing several shopping miracles. “THIS IS WHY I’M NEVER GETTING A CELL PHONE! TOO MUCH HASSEL…”, she announced to the store in general. We went for coffee a quick coffee after that. It was getting late and my mother would be back from her church bizaar…

I have call Voldemort this afternoon, just to keep the relationship between “A” and I fresh…

A Poem a Day, Day Four

I just finished reading “The Cellist of Sarajevo”.  It made me think of this poem that I wrote in response to another terrible event, but it could be applied to so many events in history.  We are growing to understand our shared humanity.  The only way to undermine the terror caused by those who would motivate people to do harm to others is to assert our every day humanity. 

If you can find “Una Giornata Particolare” I would highly recommend it.

Everyday People

I saw a great movie, it went like this:

 Sophia Lauren’s fat ass walking up and down stairs whilst carrying laundry to the roof. She is wearing shoes with the backs worn down from slipping them on in a hurry and running after too many children all born out of her sloppy twat and a housedress that smells of the meals she has prepared and toilets she’s cleaned and the floors she scrubbed, a dress that is long enough to hide her knees and ugly enough to defeat calves that could make Michelangelo weep over their perfection.

 Alone in rooms that sigh when her family leaves, she opens the window to let in the air. Breezes, that don’t know what Fascism is, know what loneliness is.

 On this Special Day, this Una Giornata Particolare (One Particular Day) she has sex with her doomed homosexual neighbour while crowds welcome Hitler to Italy.

 It is always the same, every time I watch it.

 Today, the day after another disaster, broken hearted people mop up the mess while others cobble something together that reminds them of love.

Small acts of forbearance and enormous acts of fortitude hold the truth of everyday people.