Media and Politics

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When I was a 20-something with big dreams, no clue and a broken inner compass, I decided on journalism. As someone with Nonverbal Learning Disorder (although I didn’t know it at the time), journalism was perfect for me. Tell the story, don’t get involved, know all the facts. The rules were clear. I could do this.

Journalism is a weird hybrid, inbred creature. A journalist does not involve themselves in the story. A journalist is merely a tool to help tell the story. I loved being able to chase a story down and then getting that last minute twist that threw everything you thought you knew out the window.

See, here’s the rules; the journalist is unbiased. No matter your own personal beliefs, you tell the story as it comes to you. That’s it. You don’t get an opinion. The story is the telling of facts. You don’t omit or twist facts to get the story you want. A journalist works for their readers. Not the paper or station, not the editor or owner. The audience. A slant is allowed but if the slant breaks the rules, it’s out. You have the option of not telling a story.

That’s how it used to work. Now, the audience new they weren’t getting the whole story sometimes or there were some stories that were buried but the media was trusted to tell the truth. However, in the last couple of decades or so something bizarre has happened in the world of media.

It used to be that the media was owned by various people. In my own city of Edmonton, Alberta, the people that owned The Edmonton Journal were different from those who owned The Edmonton Sun. Now both are owned by Postmedia. These are the same people that own The Calgary Herald, The Calgary Sun and The Daily Herald-Tribune in Grande Prairie. One media company owns all the major daily newspapers (or dailies) in Alberta.

Why is this frightening?

Traditionally the media has been a watchdog of politicians. Watergate never would have been uncovered if it hadn’t been for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post. However, lately things have changed and it all has to do with who owns what.

When the media was in the hands of smaller companies, they competed with each other to get the story out. That was journalism. They also competed to ensure they were more trustworthy than the other. Now that the media is owned by a few large corporations there is no drive to keep them trustworthy. A large corporation with a large wallet doesn’t really care about a few small lawsuits. The media is no longer driven by the public’s need to know. Now it’s being driven by a corporation’s need to get information out. More specifically, get the right information out.

Back in May of 2015, The Edmonton Journal acknowledged that Postmedia told them to write a story endorsing Jim Prentice’s bid for Premier of Alberta. Not only did they tell the Journal to do this but they also told The Edmonton Sun, The Calgary Herald and The Calgary Sun to do the same thing.

Are you scared yet?

Now Alberta elected Premier Rachel Notley and we’re now seeing her being vilified in major media. There’s some seepage happening, too. She’s also being demonized in major social media as well. Social media that media outlets are quick to use. Truth be told, Notley could save orphans from a burning building and they’d nail her to a tree saying she didn’t prevent the fire.

And this is happening throughout the western world.

We learned that fake news was happening online and that major media was picking up on those stories. It’s part of how Donald Trump got elected. The same thing is happening here in Canada. Look at the mess that is Doug Ford and if you think he’s content with Ontario, think again.

This isn’t ending. It’s just beginning. I’m not one to cry wolf but I see a furry dog-like creature heading our way and its hungry.

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Five Pounds

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Dear doctors,

I lost 5 pounds. I know, not a big deal to you but to me it’s a huge event. Because of the circumstances surrounding this event I want you to hear me. Not as a woman who suffers from obesity and diabetes but as a human being. I need you to listen carefully.

Let me tell you my story.

About a year ago I went on Victoza. An insulin that has been shown to help diabetics lose weight. This was an important victory for me because I had to not only fight my government to cover it but I had to fight my doctor to prescribe it.

Why?

My doctor was angry at the government for not covering the drug therefore, he didn’t want to prescribe the drug to those who couldn’t afford it. The poor like me. He initially made the decision to withhold the drug based on my economic status. Let that sink in for a moment.

After I was approved for coverage of the Victoza, my diabetic doctor prescribed a dose of 1.8mg. That’s important to this story. I initially began to lose weight. In part because of my natural eating habits and in part of my love of exercise. However, a large part was due to the Victoza.

In January 2018 I had a slip and fall where I broke my funny bone. Literally. A radial tip fracture left me in pain and severely phobic of slipping and falling again. I sought comfort foods and avoided the outdoors. Yes, I was miserable and gained weight.

After a time I got control of things again and got back to my routine. However, I didn’t lose weight. I didn’t gain but I didn’t lose. In October 2018 I found out why.

My family doctor informed me that to lose weight effectively I had to be on 3.0mg of Victoza. A higher dose than I was on. When I asked my diabetic doctor about it he got angry. Accused me of self-harm and said I was looking for a magic pill.

However, I’ve had time to think about that visit and let my anger simmer for a while. Let me sum up what I know;

  • He saw my fat and not me. He knew nothing about my eating habits, exercise routine or other health concerns. Nor did he care.
  • He deliberately withheld information due to his belief that my weight was solely the result of overeating and his political views. He would see my obesity no other way no matter what I told him or what facts I presented. Obesity had one cause and that was it.
  • He decided that I was incapable of making an informed decision about my own health care. A fat person obviously doesn’t care about their health so just decide for them.

Doctors, you don’t have the right to decide for me what is right for me. It’s your job to work with me to find the right course of action unless doing so would put others at risk. I rely on your information and experience so that I can take an active role in my health care. If you withhold it because of your own prejudices, you put me at risk for the sake of your ego.

I will do my part in my health care but what I won’t do is let you use my health to masturbate your ego. If you have a problem with that then maybe you shouldn’t be taking care of patients. Perhaps you should go into research instead where it won’t be a problem.

Sincerely,
A Fat Patient.

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.

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.

Riding the Black Horse

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This is the first time in years that I’ve used my writing to work out what’s going on in my life. Right now I’m so overwhelmed that I feel I have no choice.

See, that’s the biggest problem right now. I’m helpless. I’m poor and that doesn’t give me a lot of options and I have a whole list of disabilities that limits me as well. I have this fantasy about living a life where I’m allowed to make choices that benefit me instead of being forced into situations that benefit some faceless government.

I just got a notice today that my rent is going up $265 in two days. Yes, you got that right. Two whole days to come up with $265. Looks like groceries are optional now. See, I live in a low-income building and let me give you a few facts.

  1. There is no definition as to who can live in a low-income building. There’s no regulations stating that you have to make under a certain amount to live here. I could be a millionaire and still rent here.
  2. There’s no regulations stating what they can or can’t charge for their apartments. Legally, they could raise my rent to $1000/month if they wanted to and still call themselves “low-income.”
  3. There’s no regulation stating how they determine my rent. A common practice in low-income buildings is to have tenants hand in their tax assessment and base rents on that. However, that’s not the law. It’s just common practice.
  4. They’re under no legal obligation to give me any notice in rent increases. Yes, folks, you read that right. Two days is completely legal.
  5. I can be kicked out at any time if I can’t pay that rent.

Yes, that’s the life I live as a tenant of a low-income building. Sometimes low-income buildings will evict tenants they don’t like on very spurious reasons. When you’re poor, you learn to live with this reality. You are always one step away from being homeless and everyone knows it.

That’s not all I’m dealing with this week, though. I’m finding out things about myself that leave me feeling at odds with myself.

Back in 2011, I had an assessment done. At that time I was given the diagnosis of Non-Verbal Learning disorder. I did my research (for which I’d like to thank both the Edmonton Public Library and the University of Alberta library) and felt more in control knowing more about what it was. Once put on the Asperger’s spectrum, it’s been given its own diagnosis. However, it exhibits a lot like Asperger’s.

I also deal with anxiety. Nothing new to anyone who’s been reading this for any time. I talk about that black horse a lot. What is new is something I failed to read in the assessment; I have ADHD. It’s at this point my brain stops and I have no words.

Coming to grips with the reality of the link between NLD and Asperger’s is enough of a blow. Realizing I have ADHD on top of it…. how do you add that information into your life? Yes, it’s a diagnosis and shouldn’t mean much but those four letters stun me. I’ve always known my brain works more like a blender on high than the functioning computer it is but that didn’t bother me. I worked with it. But ADHD? How do you add those letters into your life?

So I’m particularly vulnerable right now and want to feel like I have some control. The truth is that when you’re poor and disabled, control is taken away from you. The Powers That Be believe that, somehow, you’re unable to handle control so you’re treated like a child. I don’t know where anyone got that idea but I’d really like them to get it out of their heads.

Right now I’m scared because something new has come down the pipe and this infantalization of me as one of Alberta’s poor and mentally ill has left me with few tools to deal with it. So, in a desperate attempt to gain some control, I grasp at the only thing that has ever made me feel powerful; my words. Right now, they’re all I have.

 

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