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.

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.

When in Doubt: Wave Hands Like Clouds!

So until I can get a loaner brain I am hanging out with babies and family pets and avoiding complex questions, like, do I need to wear clothes?  The last time I felt this confounded I had recently fallen on my face metaphorically, I won’t expand on the subject, suffice to say, falling on your face can take time to get over, even when its metaphorically.

I could however ride my bike, not a metaphorical or even a stationary one like those being ridden by the spin class behind me in my heading picture, but a REAL bicycle  and so my youngest and I rode around Ottawa taking in all the great parks and canals and free stuff that our wonderful capital city provides.  After riding until we felt tired we would get off our bikes, lie on the grass and slurp on some box juices and watch the clouds.

There is a wonderful state under a big sky when you feel as if you are falling, or flying or floating.  And nothing moves in your mind faster than the clouds, in fact it almost seems you are thinking the clouds.

This is Wilf.  He is six months old.  I think he noticed the same thing.

Which brings me to the Tai Chi movement, move hands like clouds. I am still sitting zazen, but I am finding tai chi helps the most.  After doing a short set in the morning I can move my head from side to side without feeling dizzy. When I was studying Tai Chi with a group in Ottawa I met many people, including a man who had been severely brain injured by a drunk driver, who found Tai Chi good for their brains.

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!

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.

100 words

Midway, Canadian National Exhibition:
Stroller pushers and sticky handed candy floss flossers.

Ring toss tossers,
Swing the hammer swingers.

Show-off muscle builders, and
“Try again to win the giant Panda for your pretty gal” geezers.
The spin-around-ride riders and the roller coaster fanatic-ers: 
the first time and next time and “never again”ers.
The “Guess your weight” guessers and the “Don’t you dare” darers,

The bump into-ers and the “Watch it!” accusers.

The tummy aching throwing-up-ers
Cry-baby mommy worriers,

and the “going home now” goers,

The let go of balloon losers.
And

The big, red balloon
as it gracefully

 floats away.