“You have an overinflated sense of responsibility for others”

            -Dix, Psychologist (Jesse Stone series)

            I have been journeying through neurologically triggered PTSD. Let me tell you it is not a fun set of events to relive the negative of one’s life. This journey is not about bragging or self-aggrandizement. It is for the 99.9% of times my brain reboots and says you have not made a difference in the little corner of your world, I have a critically laid out path to go maybe I did, maybe I didn’t but damn it brains the heart knows I tried.  Hence the walk through the idea of how many times experts/elites, whom we have defaulted to have told me not to bother, or I am wrong and my stubborn streak has gone in the vernacular of my redneck roots, “hold my beer bud and watch this.”

I point out the default to “elites/experts” because it is the shift society has made to the idea of quantitative data only, and zero-based budgeting which makes every person, every story something that must be quantified by a statistical number and/or cash pay out. Essentially a new way of doing the old pedagogy of worthy poor, worthy citizen for aid or elevation. Which I am sorry, if you enter the trenches, bash the knuckles, bloody the soul, wipe the tears away, hold the hand of the dying, cradle the body in the last gasps of the death rattle, these are things that you will always question.

            Why?

Simple, we as people are not a statistical number, we are not a label. Our worth does not come from what we cost or save the system. Our worth comes from something very simple. Being human. Our worth is inherent because of whom we are, a human being regardless of whether it is a spiritual, religious or scientific path that brings you to that understanding.

How does that change the lens you view things through? Who are your experts/elites? Your gurus? Are they coaches? Clerics? Scientists? Ideologues? Celebrities? Who do you allow to shape your world view? Why do you allow them to shape your world view? The Stanford Experiments tried to prove why the horror of Nazism happened, and the outcome was the default for the human being to believe the man in the white coat. The expert or the elite. The one that has power. Sadly, nothing has changed except whom we give the power in our lives. We forget that behind every “white coat” there is a grass roots movement of support that has bestowed that power on them and can strip it away if we default back to the total truth that worth is inherent and we as a species are in this together interconnected through an eco-system of beautiful mystery.

My words of the struggle for a better world dreamed are throughout this site, with the oldest being found in the archives and through these meanderings you can see how even after decades simple battles for inclusion are still being battled. 31 years of my life have been given to this journey, and looking to enter the second decade of my 2/3 of life, I know the journey will continue. But it is a journey where story of the quest needs to re-emerge, where we as societies need to move beyond balance sheets, labels and metrics to understanding what/who is our neighbour. So what follows is some simple musings of issues facing us as a community:

“Don’t call me a saint, I do not want to be so easily dismissed.”

-Dorothy Day, Founder Catholic Worker’s Movement, Single Mum

 

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I encourage you to buy Warren Kinsella’s first fiction work Recipe for Hate, based around true events in the Neo-Nazi-Punk world, for those more of the non-fiction type his seminal work Web of Hate on Canada’s neo-nazi movement in Canada (it inspired me int he `90’s to fight the good fight, and take stands against elites/experts that yes this was a necessary battle)…and why this hit me is seeing the fact that my own hood actually had to have an anti-racist walk yesterday…thank you for those that turned out (my heart was willing–the body and brain decided it was a no sadly)…we are the northeast, we are the world in a few city blocks, we are better than hate, because we know what it means to love your neighbour and be neighbourly. End sermon

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I also encourage reflection for those ideological entrenched on recent Canadian political history as we prepare to repeat in Alberta. In the early 2000’s the PC Canada party was taken over by the Reform-Alliance in media mirrors of a merger vote that saw Red Tories left politically homeless. Some would say it was successful as the Harper Cons eventually won power with their first minority government in February 2006. But just reflect on that for a moment for a party trying to root out corruption, and build inclusion with our First Nations through the Kelowna Accord, lost to a party that sided with the separatists to shut down parliament and strip Canadians of our Constitutional right of Peace, Order and Good Governance. No one else may realize how it will be written by the historians, but also, I do still firmly believe Minority Parliaments are the healthiest forms of governance for our country for it forces the politicians out of ideological blinders to truly what is best for the citizens.

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The fight over Harm Reduction versus abstinence in addiction treatment is just one of the false dichotomies we attempt to foist upon the public. Each treatment resonates with certain individuals (I can just hear the Twitter-soundbite politicos gasp) for it is about understanding the person in front of you and what works for them to be healthy.

It also moves into the idea that triage/silo health care does not always work. The human being is a holistic microcosm that does need to be treated as such. Yes, some things need to be prioritized within medical treatment, but somethings are interdependent, intertwined, co-dependent or simply co-existing. Ala addiction—the use of substance or behaviour creates the label, what causes it is rooted deeper whether you cease or stop the behaviour the actual cause whether emotional, physiological, neurological, etc (or all of the above) needs to be treated or we are setting the neighbour up for failure.

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Housing. Our nation needs a strategy, I know several federal parties at certain points have had policies (as I have been part of writing groups for these parties). Yet what is missing is the fundamental of Housing First principle 1: Consumer choice. (or better yet, citizen choice). It needs to be a policy and action that looks at affordable spectrums of home ownership (types of homes-house, condo, mobile) to apartments to lodges without age restrictions to group homes to supportive housing to hotels (yes hotels, many of the chronically homeless have come to shelters because they lived in hotels that closed down, where some money could have seen these places brought up to code, and some extra monies to the owners could have curbed settling in of unsavoury elements) to name but a few. Also, the idea of rooming houses ran by seniors is also something to be looked at, or on-site living in convents/monastic communities, or in shops/warehouses, mini houses…secondary suites, laneway housing, converted garages, the list goes on and on.

Yet it takes a citizen will to force politicians to challenge city planning back to a community and citizen focus and away from money politics.

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In the case of Health Care especially in Alberta we tend to forget that we were governed by a party set on Privatization (breaking the Health Act) through the Third Way that essentially created a system for failure, never forget history or we are doomed to repeat it. On an aside stating you never voted PC, or never voted does not remove your complicity from the state of our province now, for we are all citizens that allowed a party to run our province. Whether it is oil, health care, AB works or other social safety nets, are designed for those moments in life when you need them, not for when you do not. What we have done as a society is create a shame based system so those in need avoid and costs sky rocket for the person literally comes to the precipice of disaster before access and then is in a full cycle that is harder to get out of. And yes I was forced out of a job by taking a stance publicly for universal health care.

I still firmly believe active eugenics may have stopped in Alberta, but seeing how easily the Calgary Board of Education can blame special needs students for budget short falls, how hard it is to access AISH or lack of mental health supports, that passive eugenics is still practice.

And let us not forget the closure of the horrid institutions that if proper protocol was followed would have seen transition of those folks to proper home, group home or smaller care home placements in the community…but instead say nothing but shelter beds…because…eliminating the debt.

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Calgary City Hall is looking to cut preventative programs for at risk youth and seniors while continuing the shadowy no firm numbers exploration of an Olympic bid. Makes you wonder where following the money trail would take you? Also makes you wonder in a generation with these policies how our city will be judged by the way we have treated our young and elders?

Yet this is not new practice at City Hall, for when the Child Sex trade exploded in our city in the mid-90’s what the response was—cover up, cutting vice unit budgets… hmmm…. Lip service, not actions. My high school law teacher asking me when presented with the facts about the child sex trade saying the assignment was to show what is controversial about it? My response led me to being kicked from class that day when I simply stated, “the only wanker that can’t see the controversy based on the facts is the one that goes to the pizza parlour back room in our hood and asks for the child.”

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Political party vetting when I ran in 2006 that saw the questioner unable to comprehend how I could be pro-choice on abortion without using the buzzwords. Yes I believe in a woman’s control over their own body, yes I believe in the family, and I believe we need to build a world in which every child conceived should be wanted and until that happens then this needs to be free and open to all who desire, need or want.

I also believe that the government needs to invest in a system or pre- and post- procedure counselling and healing of the holistic person. I believe we need a freer adoption service. I also believe the pre- and post-procedure aid needs to be open to the one that gave the egg, the one that gave the sperm, and those that may be affected by the ripples within the family.

But I will never say I am anti-abortion for. Yes, this is after coming from a position where an ex who was so lost in addiction made the choice to abort and her only rationale was to inflict pain on me who chose to not come second to a chemical.

I also firmly state I am pro-life with dignity. Which is why I so easily can stand and argue that medically assisted death is a necessity within our system so human life is one with dignity, for it I would not let my fur baby suffer in such a way, why would I let my loved one.

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The continual move away from city accessibility. In Calgary our at home garbage/recycle/compost system is designed for new communities with attached garages, and condos. Yet also falls short in understanding challenges of constantly carrying out buckets of compost in established neighbourhoods. The reduction in garbage pick up removing dignity of the person for those with continence challenges as their garbage output is not reduced but now the overflow is on view for the whole of their neighbours to see.

Yet with some thought, and work at a provincial wide level perhaps we could expand the recycle from house program, thus truly reducing garbage so the bi-weekly pick up can work. The expansion could shift as other provinces have done so the monies from recyclables pay for the program, thus  reducing costs to citizens. Then expand to multi-unit dwellings so it becomes cost neutral so this type of bylaw does not increase rents.

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That at the end of World War 2 my Great-Granddad Lewis who was a veteran of both wars battled for the Commonwealth to care for its veterans appropriately, and during my tenure in the world I have fought the same battle in the 21st century. This is a staunch reminder, war needs to be the last resort, and one that we enter into realizing that we need to be prepared to care for those that give some, and those that give all…also this needs to carry through to those we send out to peace keep for they enter the hell mouth as well.

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Look to the Alberta Government looking at removing age restrictions on housing stating it is a human rights issue. The realization is not understanding the complexity of the issue when it comes to congregate (condo/apartment living).

At the very least, if a person or couple have moved to a building believing it is kid free, and they chose to live there because of this a new family that moves in you are setting them up for harassment and complaints. A situation that may only end with one side or the other being evicted. Sadly, an eviction for whatever reason creates an issue on re-housing.

At the worst, you are setting up a place for predators. Sadly, those that abuse children and prey on them do not spend their life in jail. Upon release, they need to be housed, with this new legislation you are removing a housing option that keeps our communities’ safe…yet…

It is also short sighted, in that there are also many folks with the psychological predilection for children (due to trauma or neurology) that choose to work with Alberta Health to keep themselves and others safe. Using pharmaceuticals and other therapies, but also building a life that keeps them away from children as much as possible. Now comes this new bill…and…

Sound bites and twitter politics over critical thought of the best of the whole.

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That over 20 years after I got my knuckles bloody defending my op-ed piece in the Calgary Sun over a person’s right to love and marry whom they choose (and multiple thousand death threats) …both our governing and Loyal Opposition parties still distract by fighting this battle over again thus distracting from more core issues. (yes, for those doing the math, my 18th birthday was when the editorial I wrote in support of marriage equality came out). Why did I write this? I remember sitting with my Nan, when US President Bill Clinton announced he was against it, and her tears and simple statement that maybe if our world were more accepting and Christian as Jesus taught her lovely cousin would not have taken his life. So I took a stand, and took the lumps that came with it.

I am going to be blunt, when it came to clubs I was a part of in public school, the only time my parents needed to be contacted was when we were leaving the school so both sides were creating news and not holding true to the sanctity of learning, growth and discovery of the child. The only time parents were contacted about school behaviours were when they put myself or another at risk.

For those that try to blind with extremism, ideology or religion, let the war bride’s words ring in your ears. If our world was more Christian…love would win, and whom you love would not matter.

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The constant reminder that user fees are a flat tax on the working and poverty classes. A reminder that when political parties speak of the middle class, it is an innocuous term used to gain votes, but pragmatically roles out to households making over 100K a year, thus not the average Canadian.

A reminder that our natural resources do not belong to companies or politicians but to the citizens and need to be leveraged for OUR benefit above all else. That our Constitution Act 1982 does need to be re-opened, a social charter that was originally removed at the behest of Lougheed needs to be reinserted, and the division of powers in Section 91 & 92 needs to be looked at for the reality of Canada in a globalized world and things like Health Care and Education need to be in Federal jurisdiction as we are stabilized at about 30ish million people.

We need to take a serious look at the abolish of the reserve system and either incorporating into the Constitution territories of provinces for First Nations depending on population size (ala Nunavut).

We also need to realize that we only get the representation we are entitle to as Canadians, when we realize the local representative should hold the power of the vote. Party whips and Cult Leader politics are the Americanizing of our democracy to our detriment. As well, for it to work properly the elections acts need to be amended so the candidate needs to live in the electoral district at whichever level it is defined; PACS, union and corporate donations are abolished. Actually, all donations are. Each candidate must attend a set number of debates, public media must carry local candidate ads, interviews and discourses so that the public can be informed. If we really want a throw back perhaps the UFA system should be implemented in which a leader is not elected until all MP’s or MLA’s are elected (like the Constitution dictates) …but let’s take some giant baby steps first. Once the system functions the way it is laid out to, then we can look beyond a first past the post system to other voting systems.

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These thoughts continue to crop in my mind like I said as I look back on a life of work to try and build a new world, then the reboot hits and the brain lies to the heart stating that it has all been for nought.

On the grand scale still seeing the pain that exists within our world, yes it may appear as failure. Yet the failure is in stopping to raise the issue that we are all in this together.

These are musings that rest on my heart and are leading me to another pragmatic spiritual work as I look back on history of the sector I have worked in. If one spends time with the writings of J.S. Woodsworth and how his shelter functioned in Winnipeg at the turn of the 20th century, and then look at our system today you can come to a simple conclusion, all that has changed is our mats are thicker. 100+ years on, what needs to change?

We still haven’t answered the core question of his work, for we still look at the person in need, in pain, in sickness, in jail and in our homes, communities’ and lives.

The central question?

The one I have spent a life attempting to unpack, and will be the focus of my next pragmatic memoir?

Who is My Neighbour?

JS

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