I should be a bit more faithful with my postings and for my lack of that I apologize. Now Aaron Beck would say eliminate the word should from your vocabulary however my faith has been under a lot of challenge of late (which I will touch on in a few paragraphs). There have been numerous news events in the past week which appear to represent a pattern that is very disconcerting to me. In fact past disconcerting and more pissed off which is usually a good time for me to keep my mouth shut. There was a time when I would just go in using a shot gun approach but maturity has taught me I can be much more effective if I cool my emotions down while using laser sights.
My first memory of actually being a social activist was taping myself to the food steam cart on my unit in the Alberta Children’s Hospital. I was 14 years old, about eight months into my current stay there and had decided to take a stance against what I felt was inferior food. I accomplished this by using medical tape (and I mean rolls of it) to tie myself to the food cart while brandishing around the title page of the American Constitution from the halfway point of a Green Lantern comic book (imagine how disappointed I was in Ryan Reynolds). Anyway the point is I was using a comic book as my defence. I didn’t recognize this as activism at the time but the word act was still involved as it was labeled “acting out”. But what the hell did I know I was 14?
However the next forty-five years of my life became about making change and improving the lot of the marginalized. I did this by being proactively participatory while challenging stereotypes. I sat on committees, worked for grass root community groups, worked in group homes and then a major inner city hospital where I became the first mental health worker on an in-patient psychiatric unit on crutches.
Over the years I have worked with a diverse set of disabilities and have a good understanding of the variety of issues staring at persons with disabilities. I fell into the habit of changing careers about every fifteen years which makes my skill base as eclectic as my involvement with marginalized community members and culminated with a number of years as a policy analyst with government. This also contributed to some unique insights into how our country works.
I have drank beer with Sonny Barger in the 60’s and sipped wine with Pierre Berton in the 80’s. My life has been eclectic and I would like to think productive particularly in regards to personal respect and self determination. I don’t believe anyone who knows me would consider me stereotypical of anything. I also know anyone who knows me would say I have changed a lot of minds and I had hoped that would translate into some improvement in our collective consciousness.
That maturity I mentioned earlier has also created a few epiphanies in my life. I think the one that had the most impact was the realization that having grown up with the results of polio my biggest disability was societal perception. It was only after I had come to grips with this, which didn’t fully crystallize until I was well into my forties, that I began to fully appreciate all of the advances that had been made in the 70’s and 80’s. But how much impact did that have on our collective consciousness? Are we really that far from our past that we can afford not to look back anymore?
With that said between mothers having to drop their adult disabled children off at government offices, social worker that think severely handicapped children have no right to life, the Alberta government introducing a budget with a 45% cut to community access programs, and the fact that the Bethany Care Centre is having to lay off 53 care aids (to name a few of the stories) I begin to wonder if all that work done over the past forty years has really had any effect. Sure it may have benefitted some individuals and sectors of disabled community but it has also further marginalized others.
And now the feds want to erode the rights of those with mental illness with Bill C-54. That’s the one that readdresses the whole “not criminally responsible (NCR)” debate. They will re-punish people who committed a crime while suffering from a severe mental illness. Meanwhile we have a federal government that doesn’t see an issue with an unaccounted for $3.1 billion. Is this the collective consciousness I had hoped to build? I don’t think so.
Just one mans’ opinion!