Systemic Bullying

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered” – Michael J Fox

February 28 is “Pink Shirt Day“, that one day a year when the emphasis is put on the issue of bullying.  One of my issues with this is the strong focus on the bullying of an “individual”, usually children, but totally ignores the issue of systemic bullying based on policy.  We hear all of these wonderful words from our politicians and people in positions of privilege while their actions speak very differently.

One would think, following the horrendous event at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, that now would be the perfect time for our politicians to demonstrate anti-bullying behaviour. You would think that the tragic death of 17 people (mainly high school kids) would definitely fall into the realm of bullying.  What could be a more “extreme” form of bullying than a mass shooting?  Well according to the NRA “mental health” is the issue not the lack of gun regulations.

Kent State shooting
Kent State massacre Pulitzer prize winning picture 1972, are we heading back there?

Starting back to the Kent State massacre, I have never heard anyone say anything about doing away with the Second Amendment but have repeatedly heard the call for some protective regulations.  When the first car made it onto the road we didn’t have speed limits, today we do but we haven’t done away with cars.  It’s called progressive regulations but we still have cases of “road rage”. Continue reading “Systemic Bullying”

On Being a Victim

“You can slowly ease into being a victim or you can accept being a victim, the only difference is the level of fight” – Terry Wiens (2018)

I had a very hard time falling asleep last night and was plagued with thoughts regarding victimization.  There’s a twisted irony to a week containing the annual celebration of love, Valentine’s day, ending with the level of tragedy we witnessed in Florida.  What kept me awake was realizing how deep into the wastelands of desensitization we are becoming as a society.  There has been over fifty years of that type of tragedy for us, as a society, to speak up and demand change but our collective silence allows it to continue.

A late night discussion on the pitfalls of stepping forward out of fear of repercussions just highlighted how far we have wandered into the forest of denial out of fear of speaking up.  Social media has just enabled even more vitriol to paralyze public reaction and keeps people in fearful silence.

I have spend my life refusing to be a victim which has made me the activist I am today.  I will not be silent on victimization, repercussions be damned, I will not be silenced towards injustice out of fear of losing friends or services.  It is my responsibility to minimize my own level of victimization and if that means being a dick every now and then, so be it.

I am no Colton Boushie but I do recognize the victimization attached to that case.  Being a victim is not a competition, it is not about the degree of victimization, it’s about the state of the groupthink that allows it to happen.  It’s about attitude.

When a court case can dismiss any potential aboriginal jurists under the guise of a “perceived bias” while twelve white jurist are believed to have no racial bias that says something about our society.  When persons of authority in that community can write on social media that the “only mistake was leaving witnesses” one has to question how balanced the system is for victims.

The biggest victims here are the First Nations community themselves.  Granted none of Colton’s peers sounded like angelic kids but then I was never a fully law abiding teenager either.  That didn’t mean you could shoot me and then walk away unscathed.  People need to speak up before this type of victimization becomes a norm.  Every time we remain silent we desensitize ourselves to the harshness of reality.  When we fail to speak out we become part of the problem and not a contributor to a solution.

These seventeen deaths in Florida were more than victims, they were martyrs.  They died in the name of a cause most of them probably weren’t even aware of.  The true victims are those who now now have to live with the void left in their lives because of inactivity to tackle an issue America has turned a blind eye to for generations.  An issue that has been going on for years in America but protected by the financial strength of one organization, the NRA.

These were mainly kids going on innocently with their life’s at school when the unthinkable happened except it is no longer unthinkable in America.  It is becoming a norm and nobody wants to speak out against it except for the victims.  From the Kent State massacre to Sandy Hook, Columbine and now Stoneman High School in Florida.  America has had over fifty years to address this problem but nobody seems to have the guts to speak out.  Politicians talking about “thoughts and prayers” is just crappy code for “hey NRA how about donating to my election campaign” and it has to stop.Continue reading “On Being a Victim”

With Fear as the Warden!

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear” – Mark Twain

Picture showing the stillness of large Canadian flag hanging limply in the mist

Another foggy day out there and no wind to help dissipate it.  From my window I can see the huge Canadian flag as still and innocuous as a snail trying to avoid the escargot plate.  I know Mount Benson is on the horizon in the fog but unseeable today.  I have a lot of unseen issues on the horizons these days but I know by tomorrow the mist will have lifted and Benson will still be there.

Regardless that doesn’t change that restlessness I’m feeling in my stomach.  A familiar feeling that is my subconsciousness’s way of getting me to acknowledge the fear or dread that is creating my brain fog.  That could be, in part, due to my Residential Tenancy hearing next Tuesday.  That fear is causing a bit of self-doubt but I am prepared and I know I am right.

Frozen in fear, fear is the mind killer, there are all kinds of quotes regarding fear.  We all experience fear and deal with it in our own way.  Too often we let the fear control us rather than mastering that fear.  Fear, like worry, does nothing but capture.  Fear can hold you prisoner and keep you from moving on.  I like to think I control my fears and not the other way around.  It takes some courage to fight fear but I would rather that than succumbing to someone else’s abuse.

The origin of the often used quote “There is nothing to fear but fear itself” is attributed to many starting with a Sir Francis Bacon essay to Franklin D. Roosevelt and later repeated by Winston Churchill.  I prefer to focus on FDR’s since he understood the concept of fear from a disability perspective.  There was a lot of steps taken to hide his polio from the general public out of fear of what they would think.  That was a point in our history when the perception of a disability caused a lot of fear.

In my last article I discussed the differences between “interdependence” and “independence” while attaching the ability to “self-determine” to it.  I consider myself to be living independently.  I have my own apartment, my car, do all of my own personal care and do my best to find those little joys in life.  I really don’t have to be dependent on anything or anybody.  I am discovering with aging that I am becoming a little bit more aware of the need for some supports but I am still able to self-determine and live with the outcome.  I am able to do that because of checks and balances.  A system that was build on policies and regulations designed over the years to provide an even playing field.

Picture of two people in the forest looking in the mountain in the distanceThings like building codes, programs to assist with the hidden costs of disability, residential tenancy protection for persons with disabilities (like having a service dog in a “no pet” building) or human rights protections that so many others take for granted.  As a person living independently I also have the freedom to challenge my fears if I feel my rights are being denied.  I can make that choice, I can take that chance without a lot of fear of repercussions.  As a change-maker I have to be prepared to move past the fear and intimidation of a system depriving me of my rights.

I am now discovering that those systems no longer hold the strength they use to.  Those systems are only as good as there enforcement and I am discovering that aspect has disappeared.  There is no enforcement anymore unless we self-police.  I am now having to actively challenge those who apply whatever initiative they chose at my expense.  My rights are only as safe as my choice to stand up for them.  Right now I can still do that, I am prepared to live with the consequences.  It is more acceptable for me to conquer my fear than to be held a prisoner of intimidation and abuse.  I am lucky but I am also determined.

I know from past experience that many of those who live “interdependently”, in other words are dependent on others for their comforts of life face bigger fears because of the potential of repercussions.  The National Benefits Authority has mountains of documentation on that.  When you are dependent on a system to live which could be taken away from you tomorrow it is hard to be courageous.  Courage doesn’t get you out of bed or prepare your meals and the lack of those are serious repercussions.  Sadly it happens!

Following my Residential Tenancy hearing I fully intend to move on.  It won’t be easy, 70% of rental properties are not accessible so there are challenges to moving on but I have that option.  Fear doesn’t stop me and I can apply my self-determination.  Unfortunately, for so many living interdependently with a disability, it’s not the lack of courage that keeps them from challenging fear but the reality of the repercussions.  Fear is their warden not their motivator.