Tribalism – Worlds within Worlds

In many of my posts I have often mentioned “worlds within worlds” or people “living in their bubbles”. This is not meant in a negative way and actually is not all that uncommon based on social anthropology. It is known as “tribalism“.  The Merriam Webster dictionary defines tribalism as “loyalty to a tribe or other social group especially when combined with strong negative feelings for people outside the group“.  Like the “fight or flight” reaction that goes back to the days of the cavemen, tribalism is a genetic left over from a previous time.  It is ingrained in our psyche.  A strong tribalism reaction can ignite our fight or flight mechanism.

I first became aware of this term and its affect on society when I was reading “No Small Change” by Dian Cohen.  That was in the 90’s and the global economy was just beginning to be fully recognized.  Dian Cohen is well respected Canadian economists.  She was joined by the likes of Nuala Beck and Jennifer James.  In fact Jennifer James’s book “Thinking in the Future Tense” became a major tool and background document for me.

Dian Cohen spoke of tribalism from her own perspective and its effect on the economy.  She acknowledged and promoted the need for change in tribal thinking needed in the labour movement and the corporate boardroom.  I prefer to look at tribalism and its affect on social justice issues.  Different segments of our community (tribes) have different concepts of social justice and it is often based on the social strata they live in.  Acknowledging tribalism in any adversarial situation is a good risk mitigation tool and one every advocate should be aware of.

I have dealt with too many people and lost a number of valuable friends due to my insistence on social justice.  It is not that these friends are oppositional to social justice.  On the contrary they tend to be very supportive of it.  However they look at it from their own “tribes” perspective and I failed to acknowledge their tribal views.  Most of these people have spend the majority of the last forty years with the same tribe in Calgary.

Over the past forty years I have lived in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Victoria as well as Calgary.  With almost every move I have also changed (I prefer the idea of built on) careers.  Some of my careers have been as a business analyst for Dunn and Bradstreet in Toronto, a hospital mental health therapist in Calgary and a policy analyst for the government in BC.  My careers have been diverse and my social circles have continually changed.  I have socialized with many tribes but never really put roots in any of them.  With that said I have maintained numerous friendships with people from my past in Calgary.

Many of those relationships in Calgary are well entrenched in their own tribal beliefs.  The longer one is with their “tribe” the more complacent they can become.  You trust your tribe which is normal but you should never trust your tribe blindly.  Every now and then you have to review what is going on in your life to see if your tribe still meets your needs and expectations.  That whole process is almost alien to anyone approaching retirement age except to review their financial situation.

Hell they have planned and worked hard to get to get to this point.  Most people work towards retirement with the idea that it will be comfortable and enjoyable.  Being comfortable is not about focusing on all of the downside of our communities.  There is no enjoyment in focusing on the negative side of our community.  However being ignorant of the issues or outright denial of the issues is not the responsible things to do and that same sense of responsibility is what contributed to attaining that positive retirement plan.

My lack of deep attachment to any one tribe is now taking its toll.  There really is no retirement when a big part of your life has been about social activism.  It is difficult to go from having spend the day with a family teetering on the brink of their own sanity due to the continual fight to obtain treatment for their self-abusive child with autism to having a nice supper with an early retirement couple planning their next vacation to Europe.  There is a huge incongruity in those two tribes even though both tribes have their own merit.  Meanwhile I too often find myself stuck in the middle attempting to balance the two styles in my mind.

This has been a very brief overview of the “tribalism” concept.  I am raising it now because I believe what we are witnessing in Ottawa between the Senators and the politicians is tribalism at its height.  If you look at the definition again you will notice the last part of that definition is “strong negative feelings for people outside the group“.  Not just negative feelings but “strong” negative feelings.  The kind of negative feelings that will lead to a tribe circling the wagons in resistance to any tribal status change when it would be much more constructive to sit down and talk about compromise.

Activists and advocates are really out on their own.  I am seeing that now.  Some of my peers from the 80’s who fought for certain rights and conditions stopped fighting once they had accomplished their goal or satisfied their personal agenda.  Traditionally an activist is someone who is pushing for tribal change which is a continual challenge.  The challenge is continual for numerous reasons but can be compared to aging.  We progress and make changes based on the needs of the time.

We battle for change based on issues like technological change, societal thinking, economic issues, political beliefs, etc but we should never accept change that moves us backwards.  I am now watching battles being fought that I thought had been settled years ago.  People become so comfortable with their tribe that they begin to accept the packaged messages of the tribe as unquestionable reality.  And as we reached that hard worked for retirement we don’t want things that may make our lives uncomfortable.  To me in many cases that is just complacency and that is one tribe I will never join.

So to my advocate friends make your self aware of tribalism.  And to my friends who use wheelchairs, never park in a designated disabled spot is a way that your wheelchair could role away in mid-shift.  In other words have your car door between you and the bottom of the hill.  It’s been my experience, repeatedly, that disabled parking spots tend to be located on the side with the hill.

Just one man’s opinion!

Why Have Rights?

There is a line close to the end of a movie called Rory O’Shea Was Here that I have adopted for my own use.  “A right must exist independently of its exercise“.   I love this movie and I believe this line is very powerful.  I have referenced this line in past posts however in light of the current political situation in Ottawa I believe it is worth a revisit.  Regardless of the guilt floating around the Senate every Canadian in entitled to the protection of the law and Charter.  Between the apparent level of corruption appearing in Ottawa (yet again) and some closer to home issues I am increasingly concerned over what I see as erosion of rights through inactivity or blind complacency.

A right must exist independently of its exercise.  What do you think that means?  As a person with a disability I have benefited directly due to the Charter.  It gave me rights and protections that many others took for granted.  It was also suppose to provide an even playing field for many marginalized Canadians.  Unfortunately that level playing field, like any field, will only be level based on how well we take care of it.  Do you wait until your yard is so full of weeds that your neighbours are laying complaints with city by-law officers?  Probably not if you are the homeowner.  This same is true about the protection and maintenance of rights.

This, to me, is very apparent on an institutional level as well.  If it wasn’t true we wouldn’t even be having this discussion over the suspension of the Senators including taking away their pay cheques.  Now I am not making a judgement on the guilt or innocents of the three Senators in question.  That’s not my job and that is why we have a judicial process.  The government of the day appears to believe we can do away with “process”, take away rights and think they can do so unimpeded.

At the same time the average Canadian is, understandably, very upset over the misuse of tax dollars.  And that outrage is getting louder.  However I do not see that same level of outrage over the fact that due process is being thrown out for what appears to be nothing but partisan reasons.  I say it appears to be partisan reasons as I do not see these same standards being applied to Dean Del Maestro who has been charged.  This is the same MP who was this governments point man when it came to defending a transparent and accountable government.  Now pluck me like a chicken if that doesn’t look suspicious.

This same type of complacency surrounds me and yet people get upset with me for “always picking fights”.  Well if protecting rights and pushing for accountability is considered picking fights then I will continue to pick fights.

On Tuesday I stopped to gas up my car before taking my mother shopping.  Finding a full service gas station these days is becoming increasingly harder however self-service stations are expected to supply “full service” to drivers with disabilities.  This is recognized as “reasonable accommodation”.  The idea is that the attendant comes out when he sees the disabled parking placard on the car.  Many stations actually have an intercom system by the pumps to call the attendant.  That’s all fine and dandy if you can get out of your car and reach the intercom buzzer.

Two things on that.  One, I have friends who drive but could not left their arm high enough to push that buzzer.  Many also don’t have the finger extension ability to actually push the button.  Two, for myself, by the time I get my wheelchair out of my car (no simple task but one I won’t give up…my car allows me a level of independence) I can manage the gas.  That whole scenario changes when my mother is in the car.  When I have a passenger I dismantle my wheelchair and stack it all up in the back seat.  I have to do this before my mother can get into the car because I need to put the passengers seat as far forward as possible in order to load my chair that way.

With my mom while I am loading my chair she is loading her walker into my trunk.  She is a little unsteady on her feet so I am a little concerned every time she does this.  So here I am at the service station (this was 2pm) trying to get the attendants attention in the kiosk.  Finally my mother, much to my chagrin, decides to amble into the little store and ask the service station attendant to come out for service.  Now there isn’t a soul in the store, the sun is shining and we have a complete view of everything in the store but he declines saying he can’t leave the cash registered unattended.  I can, in part, understand that but it still isn’t my responsibility to accommodate PetroCan.

I am not saying it was the fault of the attendant.  He looked like a 20 year old kid who was doing what he has been directed to do.  So, do I make an issue of this and pick, yet again, another fight.  Do I stand up to PetroCan and remind them of their responsibilities?  Every time we let something like this slide we get further away from the purpose of the Charter.  If we don’t remind those in authority that there is a Charter and their are certain rights associated with that Charter it becomes easier for them to ignore (or completely forget) the rules.  And this is what we are seeing in Ottawa.  I realize that this service station is a franchise but I will send an e-mail to PetroCan anyway.

People have forgotten that every Canadian in entitled to due process regardless of their stature in life.  I do not care if it is someone like Angela Coates in Mapleridge or Senators Duffy, Brazeau and Wallin in Ottawa, we are all entitled to due process.  We all have our rights protected for a reason beyond the whims of one person.  So must I “exercise” every one of my rights visibly before they are recognized?  Ask our politicians, they set the example and based on what I am seeing happen in Ottawa I believe we have moved to ideology rather than governance.  So make sure you exercise your rights before they completely disappear!

Just one man’s opinion!


And the Fight Continues

I know many of you are already thinking “There’s goes Terry again, picking another fight” but some you can’t just walk (or in my case wheel) away from.  I’m not really known for my complacency so I am taking a big exception to this one.  In part because I was in living in Calgary during the big flood and I saw how many scooters were destroyed because of this exact kind of policy.

Scooter after Calgary flood
This will never be repairable!

There is another scooter related situation going on in Maple Ridge, BC currently which I find particularly upsetting.  Fundamentally it another act of erosion at the basics of our human rights.  And why do I find this particularly upsetting when I have witnessed it happening for the past twenty years.  In part because myself and many of my contemporaries with a disability fought hard and long for the rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Yes there actually is such a document but it is only as effective as it is monitored and I will be damned before I will sit back and watch it slowly be eroded until it is just another worthless government promise.  

The proposed Charter of Values coming out of Quebec is a very good example of just how provinces can erode the basics of Charter Rights but also highlights why we always have to be vigil.  Being vigil means raising my voice over certain issues because we have a whole segment of society that has no idea what “human rights” are.  The fact that Angela was asked to sign a rental agreement forfeiting her rights to reasonable accommodation by denying her access to her mobility aid is a prime example of how little awareness there is out there.

It is maddening and frustrating to accept that much of what my life’s purpose can so easily be swept under the carpet because nobody really wants to know.  If I didn’t raise my voice every now and then why did I spend as much of my life’s energy on this cause as I have.  This is just another example where if you want certain rights you sometimes have to fight for them.  The fact that fighting for them also carries a heavy load of stress which is counter-productive to health is a dichotomy every advocate with a disability has to face.

Now I don’t pick a fight due to every little issue that comes along.   Some are just more important than others.  And what makes them important to me is the erosive impact any particular issue will have the life of the Charter.  The Quebec Charter of Values could result in denying the rights of a large group of the community.  That is erosion on a provincial basis  

Asking someone like Angela to sign their rights away is an individual issue but erodes the whole purpose of the Charter.  When it comes to housing, a topic of great importance to me, nobody should have to forego their rights to attain it.  Unfortunately most landlords have no idea about that kind of thing and the powers that be, the government, don’t seem all that thrilled to actually inform or enforce their own regulations.

As many of you are aware I recently moved to BC from Alberta.  Apartment hunting for an accessible place is difficult enough but to do it long distance complicates it further.  With that said I have one response I would like to share with you.  I saved the e-mail for a number of reasons.  This was the third in a string of e-mails regarding renting this persons two bedroom apartment in Kelowna.

  • Terry, I shall forward some articles recently published on a local news service regarding two condo fires we have just had in Kelowna.  I can’t in good conscience rent to someone in a wheelchair living on the 4th floor who would be reliant on the elevator which wouldn’t be available in the event of a fire.  The building is not sprinklered at all.  Cheers, Carol

Now I could have fought this.  The fact that this lady actually send me an e-mail basically telling me she was refusing me rental based on my wheelchair (disability related) says this is one landlord who doesn’t know the regulations at all.  She did, however, state she couldn’t “in good conscience” which shows good intentions.  However as I have said so many times do not bless me with good intentions.

Yeah this one really pisses me off.  Almost everyone I am aware of who lost their scooters due to the flood in Calgary may never get them replaced because of cost.  These pieces of equipment are not supplied by the provincial government.  However Angela’s rights can be given back to her with the swing of a pen if our government bureaucracy is as serious about individual rights as they are sitting in the Legislature.  Oh right that was cancelled as well!

Just one man’s opinion! 



The Throne Speech, a Compass for Misdirection!

I don’t know about the rest of you but I found the Throne speech to be a real slap in the face to anyone who is capable of individual thought.  I have no idea who actually wrote it but they should have contracted Alice Munro.  After all she just received the Nobel Prize in Literature for her ability to write short stories, the first Canadian female to win this prestigious honour.  This Throne speech read more like a short story rather than a political blueprint.

Governor General David Johnston did what every Harper appointee does which was read the script.  And certainly don’t let context get in the way.  If one were to put all of the self kudos into the proper context of what has actually happened in the past seven years the speech would have been less than fifteen minutes long.  Regardless it still lacks the depth or direction one would expect as a blueprint for a nation.  In fact the only direction I see is MISdirection!

No where in this speech was there a word regarding the important issues facing Canada right now.  When a government is plagued with scandal after scandal then they should return to what got them elected.  If this government is serious about hitting the reset button then deal with the issues at hand.  And it is definitely time to hit the reset button.

This government ran on a platform of economic protection and job creation BUT also to bring a more open, transparent and accountable group of of political leaders to Ottawa.  With the global economy having been in the toilet for the past five years it is no stretch to wave a Canadian flag and say “yay look how well we are doing”.  If job creation is based the results of corporate espionage then lets party in Rio.  I’m sure the agency that does this for us will be celebrating out of their new $1 billion digs affectionally referred to as Project Camelot!

What the government fails to mention is our current national debt, currently sitting at almost $700 billion.  They would also like us to forget about MP’s, a Minister no less, buying $16 a glass orange juice.  This is the same government who two years ago tendered a $20 million 90 day contract to receive economic advice on how to manage the Canadian economy.  This is fiscal responsibility?  If we want our country to be run by a boardroom then why bother with elections.  I am sure that Dean Del Maestro would echo those sentiments!

And yet we are still expected to believe we are dealing with a government that is bringing openness, transparency and accountability to Parliament Hill.  Is it open responsible atmosphere really reflected on Parliament Hill?  Apparently not according to Canada’s Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault.  And her voice is not alone.  We see these stories everyday in the news but how much actually settles into our conscience.  Anyone else recognizing just how much secrecy is creeping into Canada?

This Throne speech, from my perspective, is a slap in the face to the middle class.  If this government really believes that a sudden interest in the well being of the middle class is really going to change the channel on scandal then that just re-enforces just how out of touch this government is with the middle class.  Just how shallow does this government think the middle class is?  If providing a free “app” to veterans in order to justify closing down nine veterans centres is helping the middle class then we are sunk.

If vague promises to help the “middle class” pushing programs that to date this government has opposed whenever they were raised in the house can sway votes, then people we get what we deserve!

Just one man’s opinion!

Are You a Consumer or a Voter?

With the Canadian Thanksgiving behind us and the new Throne Speech being put forward for the next sitting of Parliament what better time to do a little overview of the evolving Canadian democracy.  As a starting point I decided to review the definition of democracy.  The definition I am using reads “A form of government in which people freely govern themselves; where the executive (or administration) and law-making (or legislative) power is given to persons chosen by the population; the free people”.  In Canada we live under a constitutional monarchy that reportedly adheres to a democratic process.

In a 1998 Canadian Supreme Court ruling (Vriend v. Alberta) democracy was further defined as “the concept means more than majority rule…In my view (Supreme Court Judge Iacobucci), a democracy requires that legislators take into account the interests of the majority AND minorities alike, all of whom will be affected by the decisions they make”.  The list of issues that will affect everybody regardless of how they voted is to long to get into right now however if you are the least bit informed you will have a good understanding of that.  Two of the big issues still outstanding while being rubbed in the faces of Canadians everyday are the Senate and the concept of a more open, transparent government.  Just ask Brazil about how open Canadian democracy has become.

The Throne speech, due tomorrow, holds little secret that we are aware of.   Both Minister Moore and Minister Kenney have been running around the country this weekend touting the speech.  They remind me of a marketing team doing focus group exercises to test the water.  This new found compassion for the average consumer by the Harper government is to be applauded but comes across as nothing more than vote pandering with the hopes that the whole Senate scandal will be pushed to the side.

It’s also good politics.  It nicely drives a wedge between the government and the opposition parties.  Wedge politics appears to be becoming the new face of democracy in North America.  All you have to do is look south to really see how wedge politics can destroy a government.  Again ask the Republicans how much love they have for the Tea Party component of their party but make sure you differentiate  between love and fear.

In reviewing all of these promises reportedly coming out in tomorrows Throne speech I started to recognize all of them.  Lower cell phone costs, better choices with cable television and more protection for the consumer on other issues like air travel are not new.  Canadians have been hollering for protection in these areas for years.  Opposition parties have gone as far as actually presenting motions to do this which have all fallen under the boot heels of the government.  Now this same government is going to introduce their own measures while taking all of the credit for it.

This isn’t policy planning, this is a form of vote pandering based on a form of plagiarism.  And anybody that has been paying attention will know that plagiarism is not new to Mr. Harper.  This goes back almost ten years when then opposition leader, Stephen Harper, was accused of plagiarizing parts of a speech given by the Australian Prime Minister.  Owen Lippert took the fall for that one and became one of many to be thrown under the bus to protect our esteemed Prime Minister.  The same Prime Minister who would later tell the USA that he would not take “no” for an answer.

In my humble opinion this government has a lot of work left to do with Senate reform and an open, accountable system of government that will work for every Canadian before they start making more promises that may or may not be kept.  I for one would like to see a Throne speech that deals with issues that will be accomplished and put into place before the 2015 election.  We have already elected a government based on some promises that don’t even kick in for another twelve years (like the retirement age going up to 67).

So I will wait for the speech but more importantly I will be watching to see if our democracy can be mended.  Again, in my humble opinion, it is broken but I hope not past repair.  For this speech actions talk but bullshit walks.

Just one man’s opinion!

I am Thankful I am a Polio Survivor

I haven’t posted anything for a couple of days due to, not so much writers block, but more because of spaghetti ideas.  And what is spaghetti ideas you might ask?  Well it comes from my old programming days when we talked about spaghetti code.  That was programming code that was so convoluted by the time it was finished it wouldn’t do what it was designed to do.  My writing ideas have been the same lately.  To many thoughts running together but to disjointed to create a focused article.

Last evening I went to my mother’s supported living residence for Thanksgiving supper.  Although she has her own suite she does attend the dining room for suppers.  And there dining room is no cafeteria.  They enjoy sit down table service with linens, fine dishes and silverware.  There food is cooked onsite and the meals are well balanced.  Any of the residence can bring guests for a meal at a minimal cost (like for last night it was $7.50).  For an event like Thanksgiving there are lots of guests but where else can you get a full turkey dinner with dessert and beverage for $7.50.  Most of the residence I have met are very nice people and where else will people refer to me as “this young man”.  But then it is an assisted living centre so most of the residence are over 80.

I was talking with a few of them before supper (many go down for a little happy hour before the meal, yes they have a little bar) and was fielding a lot of questions regarding life in a wheelchair which got me to thinking.  So keeping with tradition here are some of the things I give thanks for.

I am thankful that I am a polio survivor and not a spinal cord injury survivor.  As a polio survivor I have the luxury of having sensory feeling which most spinal cord injuries don’t.  This means I can avoid pressure sores, have no need for catheters and can get out of my chair to walk on my knees if needed.  This is a handy ability to have when you take a look at some of the architectural issues one faces throughout life.

I am thankful I am a polio survivor with a complete set of senses.  There is to much beauty to see in the world to have to be dependent on described video.  There are to many fantastics sounds from music to crickets and loons to not have the ability to hear.

I am thankful I am a polio survivor with full cognitive function.  Many years ago I came to grips with the fact that I will never be totally independent but I will always be able to self-determine.  To me self-determination is far more important than total independence but then very few people, disabled or not, are completely independent.  That’s a marketing myth but it works.  Being able to self-determine means whoever I have to be dependent on are doing what I want them to do and not what they want me to do.

I am thankful I am a polio survivor who had parents that would never let me be “disabled”.  If they had I am not sure I would not be where I am today.  Having survivor polio at age 3 I have never known anything else.  I have never had to deal with the whole “before and after” mental battle that goes on in a persons head following a major physical trauma.  This has always been life so, to me, it is quite natural.  My parents contributed to that by not making me disabled.

Having a disability should never be a competition over who is the “most” disabled.  I don’t care what you can’t do but I am very interested in what you can do.  If we based the concept of disability on what one cannot do then everyone would be disabled in one way or another.

Overall I am thankful to be a polio survivor and the definitive word there is survivor.  Many kids I knew never made it out of the hospital and never made it out of their childhood.  Overall I am thankful I am alive!

Just one man’s opinion!

Will History Repeat?

Kent State shooting
Pulitzer prize winning picture 1970

On Friday Oct 4/13 a gentleman sets himself on fire, otherwise known as self-immolation, on the National Mall in Washington.  A day later he dies and has to be identified through DNA testing.  Now the investigators are scratching their heads in wonderment over why he might have done this.

The act of self-immolation as a form of protest has been going on for longer than many of us remember.  It has become a regular event in Tibet.  Since March of 2011 there have been over 100 cases of this type of protest.  I do not believe anybody scratched their heads when Mohamed Bouazizi set himself ablaze in Tunisia.  It was automatically recognized as desperate act of protest but it did spark Arab Springs.

So why should the act on North American soil be seen as anything different?

With that said does anybody out there recognize the above picture?  If you do you are probably 50+.  If you don’t then you should.  If you want to avoid the possibility of repeating history get to know your past.

Before the Arab Spring there were the American protest marches.  People were beginning to stand up to their government through protest and making demands that there government listen to them beyond the polls.  The war in Vietnam (actually classified as a “police action”) was pushing the average American to the edge of their tolerance and the brashness of youth was spilling over on universities campuses from one coast to the other.  A large segment of the population were tired of seeing their young ones come home in body-bags from Vietnam.  There were anti-war protests happening from coast to coast and universities were rife with unrest.

During one such protest at Kent State University the National Guard were called in (as had happened at many universities) but this time they opened fire.  This resulted in four deaths and many more wounded.  Now keep in mind these protestors were unarmed university students.  What initiated this protest?  President Nixon’s move into Cambodia from Vietnam.  The people were tired and those most at risk, youth, were not going to take it anymore.

What happened at Kent State, and if you are not aware of the history then read it, spilled over causing almost five hundred other universities to shut down briefly.  The outcry over this was heard from ocean to ocean yet the Justice Department initially refused any type of grand jury hearings.

A short time after that another incident involving the National Guard resulted in two more deaths and nine wounded at Jackson State University.  These student, an all black university, were also doing nothing more than protesting.  The civil rights movement was swelling by then however universities still existed where black students were not allowed to apply.

This forced the federal government to finally investigate and the above picture was one that was presented as evidence during the hearings.  This particular picture went on to be one of the most viewed pictures of its time including being featured on the cover of Life magazine as picture of the year.  It also became a Pulitzer prize winning picture.

I write this today as a reminder that we did not achieve many of the freedoms we enjoy today by hiding away in the comfort of our bubble.  We enjoy them because many people have died to attain them and others have died to protect them through the simple act of protest.  To me this isn’t ancient history.  It happened in my life time and I walked, crutches and all, in many of those marches.

I cannot sit back now and watch while our rights and democratic process are slowly being eroded.  I would like to suggest that every person born since 1980 do a little history review.  The 60’s and 70’s were about a lot more than drugs and free love.  There were serious issues being tackled in between acid trips.  Now ask yourself why would someone set themselves on fire at the Washington Mall?  I don’t think the answer is rocket science.

Just one man’s opinion

What is Justice?

Shout it out
Raise your voice for justice

Sometimes we have to get up on our soapbox and scream our frustration at the world.  Often all we hear is the echo of our own voice being bounced back at us but, with that said, we should never stop raising our voice when we see injustices that are important to us.  Ignoring it just leads us into complacency and it is through complacency that we lose our hard fought for democracy.

One thing I learnt really early was the old adage “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”.  I am not the type of person to be fooled twice, although it has been known to happen.

So tell me something, do you believe in law and justice?  After all we elected a government based on a strong platform around law and order but then they also ran on a platform of a more open and transparent government.  We haven’t seen that and now have one of the most secretive governments that I can ever remember seeing in my 40+ years of casting a ballot.  But I will leave that one alone for now.

It’s the law and order one that has me.  The crime rate in Canada has been on a continual decline since 1972 so I am not even sure how it became such a big election issue.  I can tell you why.  FEAR.  Since 911 FEAR has become the central theme for almost any government initiative in North America but I refuse to live my life in fear from outside forces.  I do, however, live in fear of what this government is stripping away from Canadians.  And I point my finger directly at the federal government.  Our federal government’s idea of good fiscal management is to download costs to their provincial counterparts and the tax payer continues to pick up the tab.  This is particularly true of health care.

And how is this related to law and order you ask?  For an answer lets look at two separate cases but same issue at two ends of the country.  That issue is the treatment of our seniors and in particular those seniors with dementia.  First the case in Vernon, BC.  A 95 year old gentleman with severe dementia in a very disoriented state attacked his roommate which resulted in his death.  This is a tragedy and difficult to believe it could actually happen in a country like Canada.

However this is not an isolated case.  More recently a case in Halifax resulted in the death of a 74 year old women who was struck by a gentleman with dementia and the resulting head injury suffered during the fall resulted in her death.  Both of these events were tragedies and I believe they were preventable.  People under the care of the government should not be paying the price for inadequate funding especially when that cost is death.  And health care funding continues to drop as demand increases.

There was a time when the feds matched the provincial health costs dollar for dollar.  Today it is about thirty cents on the dollar and, as announced by Minister Flaherty, that is going to continue to drop.  As those transfers drop so will the level of care.

Now back to the law and order.  The case of the 95 year old in Vernon has resulted in manslaughter charges.  Now am I the only one who sees how ridiculous this is.  The gentleman has dementia and I am pretty sure this will go no where in a court of law however there will be a lot of lost resources going into this case.  Does law and order mean absence of common sense?  Will we see the same thing happen in Halifax?

It is my opinion, and only my opinion, that the guilty party here is the government.  As we get caught up in their smoke and mirrors, our seniors as well as our health care system is suffering.  Having just relocated to BC I see this happening.  My mother’s husband is currently in a “private” facility reportedly there for persons with dementia.  From what I have seen of it, it is nothing but a boarding home for 12 people with a locked door.

One of the other residence goes into his room daily and takes the fresh fruit that my mother takes there regularly.  When you can find the one or two staff that are on duty, and I use that term loosely, they’ve never seen it happen.  From what I have been able to find out there are really no staff with a medical background except maybe house keeping.  Now I am not denigrating the staff because I also believe they are doing the best they can with the limited resources they have.  The issue here is lack of financial resources because the government was able to fund it as cheaply as possible.

I find myself asking, “how many dementia beds could be adequately funded if we weren’t wasting tax dollars charging 95 year olds for actions beyond their control”.  If you understand dementia you will realize that the person there is not the same person that you knew all of your life.  As long as the federal government continues to download costs to the province just to demonstrate in their own twisted way that they are “good fiscal managers” we will continue to see these kind of tragedies.  What really concerns me is the very good chance of an increase in these types of stories.

I just hope the government doesn’t waste anymore resources on foolish legal cases in their desire to push their law and order agenda!

Just one man’s opinion

The New Digs – Part 4

So I was popping an e-mail off to a buddy over in South Korea who is about to make his annual trek back to Canuckland.  I’ve known Cam for many years and try to get together during his annual treks.  I was passing on the new address, contact information, etc that etiquette suggests you should when relocating.  I was describing the trials and tribulations of the move and decided to describe my newest discovery, something even I took for granted based on the simple garbage chute that was at the end of the hall on every floor of the last place I lived.  Here’s what I wrote.  Enjoy.
Anyway I am much closer to being settled in and just starting to discover some of the unthought of issues.  No more garbage dump here at the end of the hall.  No. no there are large industrial bins out back of the building with a huge emphasis on recycling.  God forbid if you put cardboard in the plastic bin which, did I mention, industrial which puts them to about three feet taller than a wheelchair.  
Oh yeah and to get there one must wheel down a drive-way build to take the rain down into the middle of the pavement (about a five degree angle on both sides) so no matter which direction you go one’s wheelchair is pulling you down to the middle of the alley.
And the icing on the cake is the two sets of wonderfully designed speed bumps, very effective unless you are pushing a wheelchair over what I am sure would provide a thrill to any mogul skier, on the way to, did I mention industrial size, garbage collection area.
I need to get a photographer that would be good with my video camera.  There has to be a decent YouTube video here trying to balance plastics, cardboard, recycling and garbage on ones lap while navigating a wheelchair through what might be considered a challenging course to someone with that mountain biking mentality.
Anyway I love my kitchen and hopefully will have some wall hangings up soon.  Now to find a solution to the garbage!
Just one man’s opinion!

The Age of Indifference

My move is done, I’m basically settled in with only my wall hangings to get up and a new sofa being delivered in about two weeks.  The wall hangings are proving to be difficult but that is the nature of living in a wheelchair.  Hopefully I can find a local day workers program and hire someone for about four hours to get it done.  After all, to me a home isn’t a home if the walls are naked and the added benefit of sound absorption should cut back on the echoing effects of a wood framed environment.  And damn I just burnt my bagel.  I guess I haven’t figured out this bagel function on my new toaster yet.  With that said it is time to get back to what I do.

Elie Wiesel once said, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”  Although I wasn’t aware of that particular quote at the time I have been involved in activism in one way or another for most of my life, sometimes not even being aware of it.  I know the quote now and anyone who knows me knows I will never stop protesting when I see what I consider to be injustice.  I may not be carrying a sign or pots and pans but I do have a computer as well as a very good understanding of social media.

My first act of civil disobedience was at age 14 and I didn’t even recognize it as activism.  It was 1964 in the Alberta Children’s Hospital and I taped myself (yes taped as I didn’t have access to chains but I used a lot of tape) to the supper food cart.  Now this was the mid 60’s and in reality hospital food was not that bad back then but I still had a point to make.  I was demanding better food and using the centre fold of a Captain America comic that was a two page condensed version of the American Declaration of Independence as my weapon.  I wanted my voice heard by maintaining, in my own way, that I had rights!

Almost twenty years before the Charter I was a 14 year old kid with a disability and an attitude.  Did I realize then that what I was doing was a form of “civil disobedience”?  No.  I just knew that other kids were pissed off and I had to make a statement.  These other kids were my family, that is how the Children’s Hospital was in those days.  You weren’t in hospital for seven to ten days.  You were in there for ten to twelve months so it was like a family.  And one of my roles in that family was to get points across.  Needless to say, I spend a lot of time on bed-rest, the preferred form of discipline in the hospital.  So my first conscience act of social activism was actually acting out behaviour however I have never been good at ignoring problem issues that I may have some control over in my immediate world.

The down side of being an activist while being fully invested in it can cost relationships.  This may be why I have difficulty finding someone to help hang pictures.  Many of my past friends don’t necessarily disagree with my outspokenness however I do believe it creates some guilt within themselves.  I know to many people who have worked hard to attain a level of retirement that they can enjoy.  Although they skim the news, they really don’t want the details and they want to pick which stories they read.  Generally the weather, feel good stories and what seat sales are coming up for their next vacation.

I moved back to Calgary after a 19 years absence because I grew up there and believed I had a number of friends there.  I did and still do but was also able to make them very uncomfortable I later discovered.  The average person doesn’t want to hear all of this activism dialogue.  They want their world to be contained in a comfort bubble and I don’t slight them for that.  They’ve worked hard to get there.  However I will not stand back and watch many of the things I fought for over my life time become something that my son and grandson can only read about ten years from now.

I will never stop being an outspoken critic of the erosion of the Canadian democratic process or the “re-alignment” of social rights.  I see Canadian news stories every day that are excellent examples of how past rights are slowly being eroded with boundaries moving further and further to the right.  Balance is disappearing.  Case in point, Donna Jodhan.  The concept for this case was, I thought, settled over twelve years ago.

With the massive move to online government services that began in the mid 90’s a Web Accessibility office was established in the offices of Industry Canada.  The mandate was simple, provide advice to the government regarding web accessibility so that every Canadian had equal access.  This was one of the first programs eliminated by the Harper government in 2006 with the closing of the Web Accessibility, not only office, but whole program.  Now we are back to fighting it case by case as demonstrated in the Jodhan case.

So I may have left Alberta and returned to BC but I have not abandoned my roots of social activism.  I will continue to be an outspoken voice (or in this case keyboarder) to expose the spectre of injustice.  I will continue to express my views over what I see as the erosion of everything I fought for even if it does make those around me uncomfortable.

You don’t have to be an activist to make a difference.  With today’s technology all you need to do is spend five minutes a week, yes just five minutes, and quickly send an e-mail off to your political representatives (at any level of government) to let them know you are paying attention.  It doesn’t need to be angry, it doesn’t need to be a complaint but it should be involved.

Pick one story that pique’s your interest and follow it.  Make your politician aware that you are following it.  Democracy cannot exist in a vacuum and from all accounts we are creating one in Canada.  Awareness and involvement is what keeps democracy healthy, so at the least be partially involved.  Quit with the “well I can’t do anything about it” or the “politics has always been this way” arguments and take a position on at least one issue affecting Canada these days.  You choose the issue but be involve a little bit.  That’s it for today, I have some pictures to try and get up on the walls.

Just one man’s opinion!