War on Poverty

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I’ve been avoiding writing this post. If you read my last post, you’ll remember how I got mansplained about my writing and poverty. The experience has left me a bit shaken and angry (still) while the person who did it still doesn’t have the balls to contact me about it (I sent him a link to my last post). However, I still have something to say and I’m not about to be silenced on the matter. So here we go.

Usually my posts on poverty involve explaining what it’s like to live here. I hope that someone will read it and will gain a bit of understanding and compassion but I realize I’m fighting the wrong battle.

Most people when they fight poverty come from a bottom up tactic. That is, they address all the issues that people living in poverty have to struggle with; homelessness, food security, health care, etc. So, they try to come up with solutions to that will fix these problems with the mistaken belief that it will cure poverty. Poverty isn’t a disease and we can’t treat it that way.

I have to admit I’ve been guilty of this as well but it’s a never-ending fight. You put out one fire only to have three more crop up in its place which requires more solutions and  fixes and more resources and more people to run them and… and… and… From this perspective, it seems hopeless.

Then someone asked me a question. “What do you do if the homeless guy is happy being homeless?” I dismissed it as being silly. After all, who wants to be homeless and fighting for survival all the time? Then I remembered, not all homelessness is the person sleeping in alleys and in doorways.

Alberta is oil country. There are a lot of people who work in rig camps and earn a very good living that way. Usually this is a switch schedule. So, someone might work three weeks up in a camp and have one week off. During that week they don’t live in the camps so they come to the city. Usually Edmonton. Financially it doesn’t make sense to rent an apartment or buy a house if you’re only going to be there for one week out of every month. So they live in hotels or couch surf. Technically they’re homeless but they’re not poor.

But going back to the question, what do you do with the person who’s content to live in the back of a camper or van? What do you say to the person who doesn’t want to be tied down to rent or utilities. They’re out there. Do you force them to live a lifestyle you don’t want just because their current way of living makes you uncomfortable?

It was this question that made me realize that I’m fighting the wrong war. As Jesus once said, “the poor you have with you always.” (Matt 26:11) but that didn’t mean that something couldn’t be done about poverty. The problem isn’t poverty. Running around putting out brush fires makes no sense especially when you’re using methods established decades or even centuries earlier.

The problem is wealth.

I’ve made this point before; Canada is a resource wealthy country. How is it that we have all these resources and still have people starving? How is it we have all this space and still have people living in squalid conditions? Conditions that we wouldn’t let a dog live in let alone a person. How is it that these resources are only making their way to Canada’s top 1% or 2%?

A study was begun in Ontario setting up some people with a basic income. In the short time it ran, it changed their lives. Then Doug Ford, who will forever be known as Captain Shortpants, pulled the rug out and stopped it. No notice and only the flimsiest of excuses. If that doesn’t disgust you then you shouldn’t be reading this blog.

I’ve heard the arguments against basic income. People will squander it, addicts will spend it all on drugs, women will get pregnant just to get more, the list goes on. What it comes down to is those in the “Have” column of life believe that those living in the “Have Not” column are too stupid and too lazy to be allowed more than the minimum needed to survive. Oh they’ve got lots of reasoning for this. I’ve heard that, too. It’s a “keep ’em hungry” mentality. The belief that a poor person will work harder to get what they need if they’re kept poor.

Let’s dump that shit for what it is.

The rate of urban development here in Edmonton is mind boggling. Yet, it’s not areas devoted to helping the poor at all. Downtown alone has seen the rise of luxury highrises at a phenomenal rate in the past few years. Couple that with the building of an arena that still leaves me with bile in my mouth and you have a serious problem.

Forget for a moment that all this development of the downtown area displaces the poor and homeless. For all their hand wringing, Don Iveson and his crew are still NIMBY people. Yes, let’s build the low-income housing. Just not where the good folk can see it or be bothered by it.

All this development does is drive up housing costs which, in turn, drives up rents. Edmonton rents are out of control as it is and there’s been absolutely no attempt to curtail them. Instead we get more urban development and luxury highrises. The thinking is that if the upper crust is happy then they’ll sprinkle their money downward and we’ll be happy that they’re pissing their blessings on us.

Enough is enough.

It is time that we demanded that our politicians start a serious redistribution of wealth in this country. Starting with basic income. We should be flooding Captain Shortpants’ phones, emails, Twitter feed and everything else with the demand that he reinstate it. We should be marching in the streets demanding basic income.

Stop putting out brush fires and start putting your resources where they’ll do the most good. Opening a food bank so the poor can eat for another week solves that problem for that week. Basic income solves a lot of problems over a long term. Canada is a disgustingly resource rich country. Far too rich for this to keep going on.

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Angry

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Today I got angry.

There are a thousand reasons in a day why I will get angry. Pick one. Racism, homophobia, body shaming, poverty, bad Hollywood movies… take your time. I’ve got a while. It’s not as though I go through my entire day angry at the world. I think about the battles I choose to fight very carefully and some of them do make me angry.

Today I got angry.

One of the battles I choose to fight is poverty. Let me reword that. One of the battles I choose to fight is the distribution of wealth because I live in a nation that has an embarrassment of riches while this winter homeless people will freeze to death. It’s a battle I choose to fight because I live it.

Recently I wrote a blog about Edmonton’s housing situation and another on the problem with wealth distribution. Both of them vent my anger rather nicely and I’m rather proud of them. However, they did raise some eyebrows and criticism from someone I respect and admire.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind criticism. I cut my teeth as a writer with some editors who I swear lived on writer’s tears. This, though, made me angry.

This person told me that I should tone down my anger because people don’t want my anger. To be fair, they’re right. People don’t want my anger but it’s not going away because the situation that made me angry isn’t going away. Long before those posts ever saw the light of day I took steps to try to alter the situation through polite discourse and reason.

That worked oh so well.

This person then fixated on a comment I made about people in power using the poor for photo ops. I stand by my statement and I’m not taking it away no matter how uncomfortable it makes people. People in power stay there because they do things like this to fool the populace into thinking they give a shit about the little folks. They don’t. It’s smoke and mirrors and those of us on this side see it for what it is. However, this person told me that “lots of people don’t see poor people that way.”

And that’s when I saw red, Your Honour.

If there is one person out there who can tell me the difference between this statement and #NotAllMen or #NotAllWhites, I’d love to hear it. Start the discussion with a whip and chair, though, because I’m not really in a listening mood.

This person could be right. It’s possible that not all people see the poor this way. However, enough do and if you find yourself using any version of “not all” in any way then you’re part of the damn problem.

So today I got angry and I put on my Don Quixote personality and politely told this person I would keep getting angry at a situation that deserves nothing but my anger.

Tomorrow I will get angry too.

The Housing Crisis as Seen From Below

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There is a new bill up for debate in the Alberta Legislature that would end child-free housing in Alberta. What this means is there would no longer be anymore adult only buildings. This sounds great on paper and, as a matter of fact, Mark Holmgren, a man I admire greatly, advocates for it on his blog post. However, the idea horrifies me and I don’t think people have thought this through completely.

I don’t have kids for a reason and I don’t want to be around them. I’ve said this before in previous posts and, yes, that makes me an asshole. However, that’s not why I’m against this. The only reason this is up for debate in the Alberta Legislature is because kids make for a great photo op and politicians earn brownie points when they look like they’re fighting for kids. Let’s look at the real cost of this bill, shall we? Here I present three real life stories of people I know who will be impacted negatively by this bill.

Lady Grace

I’m going to call this lady Grace because she’s tried to live her life with the kind of grace and acceptance that few attain.

Grace wanted to be a mother all her life. When she was very small she’d play with her dolls, caring for them as if they were live babies. She never resented helping her mother care for her younger siblings. She looked forward to a time when she would have children of her own.

She married a wonderful man and became pregnant right away. Sadly, she lost the baby in the first trimester. Then there was a second. Then a third. Then a hysterectomy. Her husband felt helpless and their marriage didn’t survive.

No one knows the pain of losing a child unless you’ve been through it. Grace battled depression even as she desperately tried to move on with her life. Yes, she could have adopted but she never quite bounced back from those three miscarriages.

Grace now lives in adult-only buildings. Living next door to families is just too much for  her to deal with and can spin her downward into a suicidal spin. Now, though, she may have no choice. So her life is put at risk so politicians can earn brownie points.

Ernie

Ernie was severely and repeatedly abused by his father from a very young age. His father was a sexual sadist who would alternate between beating and raping him. Ernie survived his childhood by running away and eventually getting help to deal with his demons.

One of his demons involves pedophilia. Even though he’s never looked at a child sexually or even thought about it, Ernie is afraid that what his father did to him left him damaged in ways that have yet to manifest. This is one of the things he sees a psychologist for. His biggest fear is that he will turn into his father.

As a result, Ernie lives in adult only buildings. Living next to children is terrifying to him. Whether the world understands it or not, Ernie is trying to keep himself safe. Now, though, he will have to sacrifice his security so politicians can have the opportunity to say they’re fighting for families.

Me

I live with Nonverbal Learning Disorder. An easy way to understand this is if ADD and Autism had a love child, it’d be NLD. As a result, I often suffer from sensory overload which causes me to try and focus on every single thing I’m seeing and hearing at the same time. Yes, this leads to panic attacks.

I currently live in a family friendly complex and it’s a fresh version of hell daily. Kids screech at volumes best reserved for slasher flicks. Parents yell, bringing up memories of my own abusive home life growing up. I am now doing my best to save up so I can move into a building that doesn’t have children.

Am I selfish? Probably. The truth is I don’t want to have to pay daily because someone else chose to have children. I don’t think I’m out of line here when I say please don’t inflict your children on me.

Conclusion

Should there be more family-friendly housing in Alberta? Hell yes. Then again, there should be more adult only housing. More senior’s housing. More housing for veterans. More low income housing period. However, if we want to look at the truth of the situation, let’s look back to those same politicians who are wringing their hands over a lack of housing for children.

Here in Edmonton there has been a frenzy of development for the kind of neighbourhoods that house the good folks. You’ve seen them, I’m sure. Boxy little houses in boxy little neighbourhoods with boxy little people leading boxy little lives. They regulate everything from what kind of fence you can have to what kind of grass you can plant so they can always be assured that housing values will always rise. That way the good folk never have to worry about *that* element in their neighbourhood.

Worse is what has happened downtown. Luxury highrises going up faster than a porn star’s dick. Oh sure they look beautiful and I’m sure they have amazing features and views. The result of these highrises is always the same; rent prices increase in a city where a cheap one bedroom costs upward of $1000/month. Capital Region Housing Corporation is overwhelmed already and these highrises do nothing but cause more strain on an already overburdened system.

Want to know who’s to blame for the current housing problem the poor face? Point your fingers to greedy developers who build faster than they can sell and the politicians who approve those developments while older and poorer neighbourhoods go overlooked yet again. The poor are pushed into those neighbourhoods where crime is rampant until the benevolent politician gods see them and decide to develop them. Then rents rise again and the poor move again.

Eliminating adult only buildings is only going to cause more problems and is just another band aid fix to a problem capitalism and politicians created. There is a fix to this problem but not one politician wants to take a look at it. It’s called the Basic Income Program.

But, fuck it. The poor only matter as a photo op.

One Percent

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All I have are words.

There is a battle going on in society today and I’m afraid I’m woefully underprepared. I would like to say that my mighty lance and fiery charger are armored up and ready to slay the dragons but that would be a lie.

See, the revolution that’s being waged is against the wealthy 1% and they are more than prepared for this battle. They’ve been waging this war since the Middle Ages in one form or another and they’ve had time to sharpen their teeth.

The latest battlefield is Ontario’s Basic Income Project. Oh, I know, so insignificant to that dragon we shall call One Percent, isn’t it? I mean, can they even locate Ontario on a map? Believe me when I say that this battle is more significant than you realize.

Okay, so let’s go back in history for a moment. Once upon a time it was a lord’s duty to see that all the people living on his land were taken care of. Very often he would ride around with his entourage dispensing justice or aid where necessary. In return, the people farmed the land and made the goods that the lord traded or sold. There was a balance. If the lord or king ever failed in his duty or demanded too much of the people, they were happy to replace him.

Let’s just say this didn’t mean a nice, quiet retirement for him.

Somewhere along the line, things changed. Instead of lords and peasants we got governments and people. It should have worked, this system. Everyone has a voice and everyone can be heard but recently it’s started breaking down.

I’m not going to go into the pyrrhic victory that is Trump’s rule. That horse has been well and truly beat. I’m going to talk about the bone-deep weariness I have every time the government shows its ignorance in its duties. The absolute rage I have at those in power using their position to masturbate their egos rather than do their duty. The soul wrenching sorrow I feel at those who must pay the price for the government’s unwillingness to remember what their duty is.

When the Ontario government introduced their Basic Income Project I cheered. At last we were gaining some ground on One Percent. Basic income would mean that the playing ground would finally be levelled out some and everyone could have an equal chance regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or who their daddy was.

But we can’t have that, can we?

See, One Percent does have a fear. That fear is that those people at the bottom of the pile, those who have been repressed and abused for centuries, will finally wake up and realize that the One Percent is no longer needed. One Percent has built a house of cards called Capitalism that relies on certain “truths” of society . It needs the poor to constantly pour money and goods upwards to feed its belly. To keep the feast coming, One Percent has perpetuated racism, fear mongering, hate, ignorance and division. So long as we fight each other, we ignore the true horror that is Donald Trump and Doug Ford and Jason Kenny. So long as we nip at each other’s heels we fail to see the smoke and mirrors act going on.

That is exactly what Ford and his crew are relying on.

Ford is hoping we will be too busy being outraged by Melania’s coat or the next trumpite being an asshole to really do anything about the removal of the Basic Income Project. The Basic Income Project represented a real weapon in the fight against inequality and he’s hoping we won’t notice when it’s removed.

We are in the middle of a revolution and it’s now we need to fight. This revolution is taking place online and we cannot allow One Percent to win. We have to keep fighting and taking back our ground.

So use your social media to fight. Write blogs and post videos. Phone and email Doug Ford and Lisa MacLeod even if you’re not in Canada. Let them know we’re not giving up. Let them know they have an obligation to their people.

Don’t let One Percent win.

Holding Health Hostage

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I’m a diabetic. Just like my father, my mother, my sister, my brother and even our family cat before she passed away. Diabetes doesn’t just run in my family, it holds marathons. So I’ve become something of an expert on the subject.

Getting diabetes was inevitable and not something I wanted. It’s a death sentence and a slow one at that. Yes, it’s manageable but not curable. Insulin is not a cure, it’s a means to help my body do what it can no longer do. However, living with diabetes is something that becomes background noise after a while and, after a while, you learn to accept everything that comes with it like the anxiety and depression. The struggle to merely maintain your weight. Losing weight is a dream of wisp-like faeries and morning stars to wish upon.

I’m also on Income Support. What was once called welfare. I’m there because of a variety of factors which include depression, anxiety, Nonverbal Learning Disorder and other crap. Diabetes and depression and anxiety are old bed buddies. When the sugars start sliding up and down, depression and anxiety are there to make sure the ride is memorable. Freddy Kreuger memorable.

But I live with it and I work with my doctor to keep the worst at bay. It’s here where I depend on my government to put in their own effort. As someone who lives on Income Support, I need my diabetic supplies covered. This is not an option. I can’t play guess which meds we’ll take today. Diabetes is a mean bitch if she doesn’t get her fix.

So about six months ago I fought with Alberta Health to cover a drug called Victoza. Originally I thought it would help me with weight loss as it’s been shown to have a great effect on it. That didn’t happen due to a slip and fall I took in January which prevented me from exercising for a while.

However, Victoza did do something.

I need to explain something here. There is a measurement that all diabetics are aware of and that’s their A1c. This is a test that shows what blood sugars have been doing over an average of the last three months. I’m pretty sure there’s a bit of Lothlorien magic going on here as well but that’s another story.

For someone without diabetes, their A1c should be in the range of 4 – 5.6. For someone with diabetes, the goal is to keep it below 6. Back in November, my A1c was 8.3. By the time June rolled around and I’d been on Victoza for only six months, my A1c dropped to 6.3.

That’s a damn near miracle.

However, this is where things get sticky. Apparently there’s a federal agency in negotiations with Novo Nordisk Canada over the price of Victoza. So, rather than cover the drug, there is a ban on any coverage at all. Simply put, they don’t want to cover it because that would weaken their negotiation strength.

When I approached Minister Sarah Hoffman’s office, I was told that they not only would refuse to cover it, they wouldn’t even try to get involved in these price negotiations because it wasn’t their job.

So let’s put this into perspective.

My health is being held hostage by a drug company, a federal agency and a provincial ministry because they all want to have the upper hand in negotiations over fucking pennies.

Meanwhile, over here I’m struggling to lose weight, maintain my health, watch my sanity and keep all these balls in the air while trying to start a business and placate Income Support.

And people wonder why I am fighting so damn hard for the basic income program.

So I’ve come to a point where I just want to curl up in a ball and say, “I give up” but I’m too damn stubborn for that. This isn’t the first windmill I’ve tilted at and it won’t be the last. This is my life and health I’m fighting for.

Just call me Don Quixote

 

Fear

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I live in a constant state of fear. That’s what it means to live with anxiety. Fight or flight kicks in at strange moments and suddenly your life is a terror-filled ride. So I know what it means to live with heart-stopping fear. No, I don’t have guns pointed at me nor am I in danger of being stoned to death if I don’t wear a cloth cage constantly. However, I will say this; at its core, fear is the same everywhere no matter the cause.

People believe that the opposite of fear is security. That if they just surround themselves with enough things or have everyone living lives they can understand or if they have enough guns, bombs or whatever, then life will be safe and the fear will go away. It doesn’t work that way.

The problem with terrorists is they simply don’t feel the fear they use everyday. They’re so steeped in the fear that they become immune to it. They’re surrounded by people who are also immune to fear. This lack of feeling is so ingrained in them that not even death holds anything over them. Unlike most people, terrorists welcome death, believing that if they die they go to heaven a hero.

It’s beyond silly to argue to a terrorist this won’t happen. That’s the power of faith. There are people in the United States who believe if they dance with venomous snakes it will prove what good Christians they are. Faith makes people believe the impossible is real and no amount of arguing will change it.

So what happens when a bullet kills a terrorist? The terrorist dies and five more stand in line to take his place. Meanwhile, the innocents they hold hostage see the violence and blood and have to live with it. Children grow up thinking death is normal and killing is a way of life. They see their world destroyed and know nothing else. Another terrorist is born from the ashes of the old one.

Speaking from experience, security is not the way to banish fear. I know it sounds silly but it’s true. There is only one way to really combat fear and it doesn’t involve things or a way of thinking or bullets. Logic. Fear cannot stand in the light of logic. Fear feeds on emotions and the inability to think. I know. Logic, though, sheds light in the dark places. It gives power to those who are powerless in the face of fear.

Malala Yousafzai knew this instinctively before the bullet left the terrorist’s gun. Further, she knew that violence would never end the cycle. If anyone in this world has a reason to hate terrorists and want revenge it is her. Yet, she has maintained that the only way to stop terrorism is through education. Education gives citizens the ability to fight terrorism at its heart.

I find it amusing that governments would spend so much money on bullets and bombs when one teenage girl is able to do more to stop terrorism than anyone else. Don’t get me wrong. Soldiers do a very difficult job in very difficult circumstances and need our support. However, let’s give them real support and not just salute a flag whenever they walk by. Support the citizens of these war torn countries to enable them to end terrorism. Give them the tools to make their lives better and repair their countries. Perhaps when we do this we can bring our soldiers home.

Broken

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Having anxiety is like having spiders infest your brain.

My regular readers won’t be surprised to hear me say I have anxiety. New readers may be a bit shocked to hear me say it. However, it is a fact of my life and one I deal with daily. Sometimes it’s bad enough to stop me in my tracks and other times it’s like a dull throb in the back of my mind. Either way, I have a life to live and need to keep moving forward.

There are supposed to be aids to help people like me but the rules are so narrow that it’s ineffectual. You can’t merely be broken, you have to be shattered. The rule is that you have to have medical evidence proving that you’re unable to provide for yourself. Great. Except there’s one problem; what’s said on paper and what happens in reality is often two very different things.

Part of the problem is I have Non-Verbal Learning disorder. Because of how it manifests, it can often be mistaken for Asperger’s or Autism. It’s a different disorder and has different problems associated with it. They’re in the same spectrum but have very different outcomes.

Now put the NLD together with the anxiety, stir well and put me in an office.

Let me explain NLD a bit. First, NLD people love words. In my case it means I became a writer. However, in face to face contact my love of words causes some ostracizing. I tend to use large, $5 words and I talk a lot. I’m aware of it, I just can’t do a thing about it. I’m the person that will give you a paragraph answer to the question, “how are you?”

That leads to problem number two. NLD people tend to have problems with spatial recognition which means that we don’t have the same sense of space as “normal” people do. This may seem like a small thing. However, it is this skill which helps children gain a sense of non-verbal communication. NLD people simply don’t see non-verbal body cues. However, we hear everything.

NLD means there is a gap between what we hear and what we see. Therefore, our interaction with the physical world, especially as kids, tends to be minimal. We’re loners and we like being loners. Inside our own heads we can construct entire worlds and, in my case, put it down on paper. We can think through a problem in our heads and come up with a solution that is so far outside the box that it’s on another plane of existence. That’s our strength. It’s also our weakness because no one else lives in our head. When we come up with a solution, we’ve already thought ten steps ahead and left others behind. However, when others see our solutions, what they see is something nearly unrelated to the problem. Since we have problems with communication, we can’t explain the solution. Big gap.

Imagine you’re a manager and you’ve hired me. You ask me to do a task you think is pretty simple. An hour later I come back and the task is done but in a way you never imagined possible. Okay. Once it’s funny. Twice is cute. By the third, fourth and fifth times, you’re getting pretty angry because you want it done a particular way.

A kitten curled up in a ball and frightened

Now let’s add to that problem with the other staff. I am a social platypus. I will happily give you the entire history of an event or tell you the entire psychology behind your favorite show. I don’t know the difference between sarcasm and a simple joke so the two are pretty interchangeable. Socializing for me is on a skill level with constructing a warp engine. At best I’m seen as weird and at worst I’m pushy or even rude. As the manager you start getting complaints from your workers about me.

So, as the manager you have a worker who can’t seem to follow the simplest instructions, needs to take regular time off for therapy (which won’t do a damn bit of good) and has coworkers complaining about them. Add into that the fact that this worker has regular anxiety attacks. Solution: fire that person and hire someone who causes you less grief.

So who wants to hire me?

Yet, to access help, none of that matters. On paper I can get therapy and do little “tricks” to minimize problems. I don’t do tricks. Dogs do tricks. I live my life and try to move forward. My brain works in a certain way and I can either decide that I’m broken and try to fix it or I can decide that this is who I am and learn to live with it. Apparently option two isn’t acceptable to the Government of Alberta.

According to Government of Alberta rules, I’m broken but not all the way broken. More like bent. All the trees in the forest must be straight and grow a certain way. No room for bent. Bent doesn’t get any help at all. Only broken and I’m not broken enough on paper.

It’s frustrating knowing I’ll have to go and try and explain all this to people who don’t care. When they leave the office at 4:30pm I cease to exist. They read paper. They don’t hear my words. Words that are nearly impossible for me to verbalize. They see me as a platypus with no place in their world. Not as the wonderful, beautiful, intelligent raven I am and I can’t explain it to them because they won’t hear me.

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