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!