It’s no secret our society is a very divided one, and sociologists have spent an enormous amount of time conducting studies on where these fractures originate from.
Some of these experts claim it’s all about political leaning and there is some truth to that. Ask those on the right what the cause of, say homelessness for example, is and they’ll say it’s the fault of the individual: don’t be lazy, get a job, they are everywhere like leaves on the ground in the fall. Ask the same question to those on the left and it’s politicians and capitalism that’s at fault: governments won’t raise the minimum wage while gutting social assistance programs and employers lay off low-income earners during bad times.
In other words, it’s the same problem viewed through a different lens. It’s also a faulty approach to take to try to solve the social issues that not only hurt the most vulnerable but pit the rest of us against each other while the problem remains, festering like an untreated wound.
Yet such divisions are not only political: take a look at the screen shot of a discussion I had with another Twitter user regarding the ethics of addressing social injustices. The individual (Matthew Cook AKA “anarchistfish”) believes breaking laws in the name of social change is unconditionally justified. My position in this discussion is in this is that two wrongs do not make a right: there’s a risk of a well-meaning social change being reversed in response to social outrage. We’ve already seen many examples of this, such as the death of George Floyd at the hands (or should I say the knee) of a police officer. Everyone agrees that police brutality is wrong, yet when those who proudly carry Antifa and Black Lives Matter banners resort to arson, assault, looting and other forms of crime that border on domestic terrorism in order to spur on social reform, the message is lost in the violence that ensues. Meanwhile, police brutality continues to remain an unsolved problem well after the fires are put out and the looted stores get their windows fixed.
Replace political ideology with what is considered morally and ethically right, and we’re back to my point from before about viewing a problem through different lenses. It’s still just as faulty an approach to take: ethics and morality are not absolute constants like the speed of light or that 2+2 will always add up to 4. They are social constructs that have been shown to change as society itself changes, and not everyone agrees on a uniform code of conduct as a standard.
This is why we have laws to draw clearly understood lines. Laws that work come from a democratic government elected by the will of the people, not every person. Yes, there is a difference between the two points.
Laws can also be amended to change as society change, plus those changes are put on parchment for all to read. It may take time for that change to occur, but history has shown it’s a proven fact. We’ve addressed racism, women’s rights, and the recognition of same-sex marriages in Canada through this approach.
I am convinced if we were to do the same by stating lack of affordable housing, chronic unemployment, and other examples of poverty as legally unacceptable, they would cease to exist in only a few generations.
In 2021, the year that certainly will be regarded as the first year of the Era Of The New Normal, I have not changed my position on that opinion. Just because someone cannot find work does not mean they’re lazy. The work they used to do might have been automated out or rendered obsolete due to technological unemployment. They might have been a victim of constructive dismissal, a situation where they had no choice but to quit their job without having another job waiting in the wings. They may have suffered a severe illness, or either a physical or a mental disability that makes it impossible to work as a former able-bodied individual.
There’s always two sides to the story.
There’s also always two sides to any opinion, including my own.
The fact that I do not feel being unemployed is not a crime does not mean the unemployed should remain so in that state. We live in a capitalist society where everything —- including the sin of being forced to pay big bucks for shelter, a basic need —- costs money. There really is no such thing as a free lunch.
Here in Canada, the things we take for granted and assume as free (such as roads, hospitals, shelters, and other services) are actually paid for by the taxes taken off the paycheques of those still working. Nobody loves paying taxes, but we begrudgingly do so anyways because if there were no taxes, the services I’ve mentioned would have to be paid for directly by everyone. This includes the working poor. Those who don’t have any money at all would not be able to access them.
So, while I feel being unemployed is not a crime, remaining unemployed — especially in large numbers — is not a good thing and it would be criminal to allow that situation to continue.
Especially since Canada’s operating deficit went from $40 billion to $400 billion in 2020. To allow the deficit to remain that high by not taking the necessary steps to get Canada’s fiscal house in order is a recipe for national self-destruction.
As with any financial entity powered by fiscal needs, there are two ways to address this:
Clearly cutting services is not the option. Cuts have already been made in the past, resulting in lengthy wait times to see a medical specialist, our roads, sewage, and electrical systems in a state of disrepair; and the reductions and cancellations of services from social programs designed to help the less fortunate and most vulnerable members of society.
Nor is raising taxes, a form of revenue raising, an acceptable option. More people will refuse to pay their taxes and the underground economy will grow larger while public services suffer funding shortfalls. Disposable income will shrink which in turn will affect the economy. Businesses will simply shutter and either move out of city, out of province, or even out of the country to an economic climate that is less oppressive to the aforementioned fiscal needs.
A third option — often not mentioned except as something impossible to do or that it is not the government’s job to fix — is to treat unemployment as the next pandemic to tackle, a pandemic not composed of RNA and DNA sequences, but of dollars and cents.
How do we make this possible? While this is something too big for any single individual, including myself, to figure out, I like to offer some suggestions.
Labour demands need to be identified and the qualifications for employment categorized and taught beginning at the junior high level and throughout the post-secondary education system. Co-op training, job mentorship, and entry level employment positions that were once outsourced or eliminated in the name of austerity need to be created in greater numbers.
In addition, most secondary education and career retraining must become more affordable. They must also be pertinent to the skillsets employers are looking for. This means no women’s gender studies, or interpretive music and art studies. Those should go to a private vocational school and not receive one dime of government funding. They are personal pursuits that do not encourage a tax-revenue-positive flow.
Finally, the foundation of ensuring stable employment — affordable housing — must become a reality. Those unable to obtain stable means of shelter will not be able find work or hold down an existing job. It’s not a stretch to see the connection between housing and employment. Whether this is made possible through a Universal Basic Income program or a cap on rent and housing prices is open to discussion, but finding a solution to affordable housing is paramount.
COVID19 will one day disappear, but the economic pandemic that will follow will make what we’ve all gone through feel a Sunday picnic in comparison. Governments must turn their focus on ensuring every citizen is working in some capacity to that tax dollars return to the coiffures, thereby getting the government books back in order.
“Some things cannot be taught; they must be experienced. You never learn the most valuable lessons in life until you go through your own journey.” ― Roy T. Bennett
Say what you like about those we elect to power, but the one thing I would consider an unfair label to slap on politicians is “stupid”.
If you take the time to go through the personal biography of every president, prime minister, premier, governor, etc., elected to power by a repeatedly hopeful and later disillusioned voting populace, you’ll discover one common theme: they’re not dumb.
Some are university graduates in political science, socio-economics, law, or finance. Others are those gifted with business acumen or rogue scholars. Still, all of them have a pretty good chance of being sharper than the average knife in the drawer, or in more realistic terms the typical armchair quarterback who THINKS he or she understands how the government should run the country.
Yet despite being fairly intelligent, it’s clear our leaders do not have all the answers. They may use vibrant feel-good speeches to inspire hope in those looking for such, but facts are like the 43.0913 kilogram dog who still thinks he is a puppy yet the ominous snapping noise your body is making as he lies across you says otherwise.
To intone the character V from “V For Vendetta”, “…the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there?”.
Yes there is. We have poverty, homelessness, lack of affordable housing, lack of affordable post-secondary education, job instability, a fluctuating consumer confidence level, high taxes that seem to go nowhere except perhaps in the back pockets of some unseen lobbyist, the list goes on.
In response to questions raised by the concerns I’ve listed, these politicians I’ve mentioned will respond, “Yes, we feel your pain. We’re listening. We hear you. “
Some of them even claim they’ve talked to the more vulnerable members of society to get their take, or participated in activities like serving dinner at a homeless shelter or helping out at a food bank.
That’s noble, if the sincerity is there and the compassion is real and not practiced like a choreographic dance. I find it honorable to selflessly give one’s free time to help others less fortunate.
Having said that, it’s not enough, and right there is the reason why politicians, as smart and as well-meaning as they might be, haven’t put in policies to make the lives of the more vulnerable members of society any better.
Knowledge is not experience. There’s a difference.
I can have a conversation with a nuclear reactor technician for example about reactors. He or she could tell me everything about what a reactor is, how uranium rods heat water into a steam to drive turbines that produce hydroelectric power, but that does not make me a nuclear reactor technician.
I could explain to you what I did during my 20 year IT career in the most minute of details: programming, system administration, Sarbanes-Oxley enforcement, intersystem interfacing, what application layers are, how to create logical access paths in a database. After hearing all of this, would that make you as good an I.T, processional as I was?
Reading a book, or being told a story is not having experience. You’re better educated, more informed, but that’s about it.
Politicians have never spent one night on the streets or slept on buses. They’ve never spent time in a shelter. They’ve never had to decide which to pay for first — food or rent, glasses or teeth —- with the scant amount of money in their possession. Politicians come from a position of comfort granted by their privilege that their wealth gives them.
In short, they have not experienced life low-income earners go through as their daily norm.
It is for that reason why they repeatedly fail in solving that socioeconomic problem. Not because they do not know, but because they do not understand.
Thanks for reading.
UPDATE 11/9/2020: For those of you who still think serving coffee to the homeless or having a short chat with them gives you expertise on the subject of homelessness, take a gander at this video. Contrary to popular belief (lazy! get a job!), homelessness happens when life happens. All it took for this woman to become homeless was a mental breakdown.
A soon-to-be ex-tenant apparently did not take kindly to my absolutely wonderful landlord (no sarcasm, he really is a nice guy) withholding his last month’s rent due to numerous violations of his lease agreement.
Actually the more accurate description might be, “he lost his cosmic shit”.
He totalled drywall ordered by my landlord by tossing it down the stairs (see picture), he cut the power cords to the fridge and stove, submerged the Wi-Fi router underwater, and pee’d all over the bathroom floor (which I was the lucky lad to clean up).
Not before he threatened to beat up my landlord first. My landlord escaped that fate by running out of the house and dialing 911 at a neighbour’s house.
For the record, I do hope the day comes where my landlord catches up with this sorry fucker, with police and lawyers in tow. I really hope my landlord sues that ex-tenant’s sorry Infowar loving arse, and throws him into a jail where some hulking jailbrute named Thorne uses him to relieve a carnal need in the most painful and bleedful way.
There. I’ve said it. Don’t hate me for saying it either. You see, this is the life of low-income folk who have to live in shared accommodations, and sometimes even friends and family members of mine don’t seem to get the crap we go through to get through life like this.
In fact, it gets me so fucking mad every time I have to put up with their indifference and holier-than-thou attitude, especially when hearing about it upsets them more than it upsets me.
And I was really fucking upset at first.
Why am I so upset, you ask? This incident has hit me really hard. I won’t get into the details of what it has cost me, what I’ve lost, and what it is making me feel right now, but rest assured, in addition to the damage my landlord has to pay for, I took a financial hit and it was a big one. What I need to replace is going to leave a big hole in my wallet and take up a lot of time. This is a massive fucking setback.
Yet the people I mention think this is more about them than me, so they do not want to hear about it. Worse, they tell me to make sure other people do not hear about it because it will upset THEM too.
Good fucking grief, yet I play their game because, you know, they’re friends and family. When I have to talk about something like, you know, today’s shitfest, over the phone, I have to excuse myself to a private area to make the call so I don’t upset anyone in earshot. 99% of the time it works. No one knows my shameful secret.
Today, the 1% of the time where it does not work happened and someone overheard. You know that old shampoo commercial where they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on and so on? Well, someone overheard and told a member of my family.
Well, FUCK me, did I get an earful. I was told by that one member of my family that in future not to make such a terrible mistake again because it UPSETS them and could make them sick.
Well! How I wanted to say to this person, “EXCUSE FUCKING ME for having a crappy situation in life. PARDON MY FUCKING INCONSIDERATE SELF for being behind the 8-Ball due to COVID-19 where I can’t earn as much money and have a nice shiny house like you!”.
How I just wanted to tear a new hole out of that person for thinking of their discomfort over hearing about MY fricking misfortune instead of offering sympathy or support. You know, like what a normal human being is supposed to feel.
But something else happened. Something unexpected. Something I think is going to happen again and again the next time I have to deal with friends and family members who simply don’t get it.
I simply said to myself, “Okay” and very calmly deleted that person’s contact information off my Email and my web-based texting service. I didn’t swear, or grit my teeth while pounding on the keys on my laptop and the buttons on my mouse to carry out the task. I was unbelievably calm, like what you would feel standing in a farmer’s field on a spring day. Not happy or euphoric, more like your emotions at an even keel. An understanding that sometimes you just shrug your shoulders and accept the things you cannot change and then let it go.
I also felt a massive weight lift from my chest and shoulders. My relationship with that person was something strained to begin with before my misfortunes began during the Great Recession of 2008-2009, but became toxic as time went on. We’ve tried three times to make up, or at least agree to disagree, but each time that failed and we both went back to our separate mad corner of the world, and years pass in silence thereafter.
This time it’s different. I don’t want to do the rodeo ride again with this person, but I’m not walking away mad. I’m walking away with an “Okay” frame of mind. I can’t change this person. I can’t make this person understand my world, and most important, I can’t play anymore their perceived role of villain because my misfortune somehow pisses them and the people they care about off.
It’s just —- okay.
Thanks for reading.
P.S. I’ll admit this is a depature from a previous post where I felt it was important to mend fences in case my situation brings me to an early end. In that post, I stated I hate things being left unsaid but I’m getting to the realization where maybe that doesn’t matter if people simply refuse to listen, or just see things from the comfort of their personal convenience rather than the bare truth.
For those of me who know me very well, and for a long time, this statement could come across as very surprising.
Ditto for some of you who visit this site as followers. I usually write about homelessness and employment issues on my blog.
To understand the title of this blog post —- and why I have a change of heart regarding a franchise that I once adored since my childhood—- I need to give you a peek into my childhood, and then move forward from there.
I got picked on a lot as a little kid for two reasons.
The first was I was a runt, and still am a runt. I’m shorter than most men, I have a slight build, and I lack alpha male tendencies. I’m not someone who believes that might is right. I’m a talker, a supporter, a negotiator when I deal with others. I try to make my stay on this world as painless as possible for those I deal with.
The second was my last name. Gay. You might find it odd reading that it’s an issue but you’re dealing with the context of the present time. During the 1960s and 1970s, homosexuality was on the DSM books (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as a sexual deviancy and a mental disorder.
So combine those two points — a runty kid with a scary sick last name — and I can tell you my school life from Grade 6 to Grade 12 was not a pleasant one. These times had an impact on shaping me as a person growing up, both good and bad. Let’s focus on the good and leave the bad for another day.
These tough times made me more compassionate towards others. It strengthened my support for the police and for good government. It reinforced a belief that violence in society as an agent of change was wrong and I am glad to see that point has been validated in this now much more violent and terrifying world we live in. Most important, it made me a staunch advocate for respecting our differences in a diverse and inclusive society where we don’t leave people behind.
All of this was encapsulated in Star Trek.
Star Trek offered a future where there was no war, no poverty, no hunger, no hatred, no discrimination. Each member of the crew of the Enterprise in the “Original Series” were from different parts of Earth —- except for one particular pointy-eared alien who was from another planet — but were still able to come together as one to take on each challenge and win.
Roddenberry was a sneaky little bugger. He posed social issues like racism, poverty, morality and others in a science fiction framework. In the episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”, he did not explicitly mention white racism towards blacks but showed how wrong it was to make an issue over cultural or ethnic divisions. “A Private Little War” showcased how easy it was, and how wrong it was, to play the game of global political chess by arming sides in any country.
Spock was my favourite character because, like myself, he was an outsider and a misfit. He stood out. He was kinda geeky and nerdy. The only difference between this fictional alien and myself was that he was wanted, appreciated, and accepted.
How I wanted to be like Spock. How I lost myself in that world. It got me through that tough childhood, because I believed one day things would be just like Star Trek. This was just another hurdle in how imperfect we were as humans. We’ll get better.
By the time I went to college, things did get better. Homosexuality was no longer considered a deviation and society as a whole became more tolerant. My dealings with others was as adults with more mature and open minds. Still, Star Trek remained a part of my life and my development. Through the series run for “The Next Generation”, it showed what we could all become in the future by showing us what was wrong today. It wasn’t just good science fiction fun, but a blueprint of what was to come in the form of a good story told.
Something went wrong, and it happened in the 1990s.
Maybe it was because of the hangover we got from the heady 1980’s but society became more pessimistic. Blame culture was on the rise, on both sides of the political ideologue. We became distrustful of the police and government and less likely to believe that politicians represented the will of the electorate. While it can be argued there’s reason for this, the rot that nibbled away at following the rules and obeying the law was still there.
Star Trek became to change to reflect that time, most notably in “Deep Space Nine”. It was dark, somewhat horrific at times, and fraught with controversial subject matter. Captain Kirk would never consider lying on a galactic scale to achieve the needed means, no matter the cost. Nor would Captain Picard. Captains Janeway and Sisko however had no compunction in doing this, the most notable example being “In the Pale Moonlight” where Sisko, with the assistance of less savory characters and the blessings of a Federation desperately trying to avoid being conquered by the Dominion in a losing war, forges fabricated material to bring a former enemy — the Romulans — into the battle and ultimately saved the good guys. Clearly a far cry from the days of the Original Series.
Star Trek went away after the turn of the century for a bit, and later returned but only in name. The rebooted movies under J.J. Abrams was little more than an Avengers movie set in space. I have no problems with the Avengers, as that franchise never was meant to be social commentary, but the reboot featured a Captain Kirk that whined and naval gazed often and a Spock who kissed Uhura, lost his emotional shit often, and punched.
“Discovery” and “Picard” continued with the bad writing and the peeing on canon, but also featured crew members that fought often among each other, sometimes beyond what would be considered appropriate Starfleet and Federation behaviour.
Add into the mix the aforementioned blame culture in the form of social justice warriors, the same bunch that has ruined Marvel’s previously successful line of comics. In these shows, someone who is racist or sexist — something that should be impossible in Star Trek’s universe by now — is without question a white male. The Federation now not only lacks cohesion as a united body of worlds, it’s also protectionist. Star Trek went from slyly presenting social issues without present world context to explicitly mirroring what was wrong now in what should have been a perfect future. In the Discovery and Picard era of Trek, war, hunger, poverty, hatred, is not only still around, but it had someone to blame it on — and it wasn’t the Klingons, Romulans or Borg this time.
Star Trek went from a blueprint of what an attainable Utopia should be, and must be, to a mirror of what sucks in today’s society. There is no optimism. There is no hope. There is no tolerance. It’s just today’s messed up times but enhanced with CGI graphics and mass marketing.
It’s the marketing part that finally nailed the coffin for my love of Star Trek and replaced it with hate. Star Trek used to be available to all who had access to local broadcasting and later with cable. Even the low income could watch it and like myself find escape into a bright and glorious future from their social hell. Not any more. “Discovery”, “Picard”, and now the upcoming “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.” (see above image) can only be accessed behind an expensive paywall.
In short, Trek has now become something only those with money can watch.
I’ve been told that this incarnation of Trek is canon, it’s “real Star Trek”, and that I should get over it.
I can do better. If this is now Star Trek, and the futuristic world where poverty, homelessness, war, racial strife, and hope is no more, where people refuse to get along and work together, and all of this behind a paywall, then I hate it. I hate Star Trek because that’s not what I think the future should be like.
What my own personal fortunes will one day be like.
I don’t consider myself a white person. In fact, I consider my skin color a physical attribute much like my height, my gender and my hair and eye color. It doesn’t define me as a person.
This mindset of mine drives both sides of the great ideological rift batshit crazy.
To the extreme right, I’m told I’m a fool for believing there is one race — the human race — or refusing to acknowledge some cultures are more prone to commit crime (I don’t care what some FBI report says). I’ve been called an enabler for saying unemployment is not a crime and that the more vulnerable members of society are not at fault for being poor or homeless. The extreme right also deride me for saying housing is a human right and UBI is needed.
To the extreme left, I’m ether a sexist, a misogynist or a racist for believing in meritocracy. I don’t believe in white privilege. I don’t believe in systemic racism, instead believing individuals can hold racist viewpoints. I believe police brutality is caused by a breakdown of accountability in the chain of command, cronyism and union meddling. I feel most men do not suffer from toxic masculinity and are in fact pretty swell dudes that do the right thing.
I don’t fit into a socio-political mold. I’m a sovereign individual who believes in personal responsibility for my own actions and no one else’s. I live by a code of governing oneself accordingly.
Still, if you must have a chart showing where I stand on the political grid, here you go:
This comes from the fact I was born in the Sixties and thus am a child of the Seventies. I was raised by my parents and taught at school not to treat others differently for being different. In other words, look beyond that and seek commonality and eventual unity.
This is why I I’m opposed to discrimination based on race, gender, sexual preference, or faith when it comes to employment.
There should also be no discrimination when applying for a bank loan, a suite in an apartment building, use of a gymnasium or golf course, or accessing a social service.
In other words, a bank cannot deny you a loan if you are black. A landlord cannot deny you application to an apartment if you are a member of the LGBT+ community. A golf course cannot deny you access if you are a woman.
It’s even more important that there are zero barriers to getting assistance to improve one’s quality of living through gainful employment and affordable housing. Homelessness and poverty do not pick and choose based on skin color, age, or gender after all. As a believer of an inclusive and diverse society where everyone belongs and no-one is left behind, it irks me somewhat when individuals will offer conditional assistance based on an unjust or prejudicial selection (or omission) of people through physical characteristics.
Such as the one below:
Before I continue, I want to stress I’m not against the idea of offering employment assistance to the groups she mentioned. What I am against is that she is only doing this FOR the groups she mentioned.
Naturally, I question her on this, in my usual non-confrontational and logical manner:
And it’s a fact. I was at the House of Friendship in Kitchener for three months (as well as other shelters in Toronto). During my stay at the HoF, I’ve seen men of all color (including Caucasians) and of all ages and faiths.
Homelessness, as well as chronic unemployment and poverty, are symptoms of a problematic wealth distribution system. It’s not a product of so-called systemic racism.
Her response to my comment was both surprising and disturbing:
“We’re not in this together”.
“This specific project is geared toward them.”
Why would I find such lines disturbing?
Consider the following re-write of Ms. Zubi’s OP using a different context.
Today I’m launching K-W Get On Board, a free nonprofit board and high-level volunteer matching service for White Christian Men (WCM) in Waterloo Region. #kwawesome
How would you feel if you saw a Tweet like this on Twitter? How would you respond? If you were anything like me, you would respond in the manner that I did.
In my hypothetical example, I may have the legal authority to discriminately pick and choose, as Ms. Zubi does in her project, but what about the moral and ethical right of way?
Do individuals have said moral and ethical authority to pick and choose those desperately needing social assistance solely on a physical trait? It doesn’t sit well with me because it’s not inclusive. Cherry-picking does not foster a sense of belonging: it could also breed resentment and further prejudices the aforementioned extreme right and left can exploit.
We do not need atomization of our society into a form of balkanization based on identity politics. To tackle whole-society issues — poverty, homelessness, crime, chronic unemployment and so forth — we need to do this as one united front.
We have no chance at succeeding in that goal if we are too busy fighting amongst ourselves as factions.
While the COVID19 (also known as Corona) virus is nonlethal except to those with immune system deficiencies and those prone to respiratory infections and illnesses, this pandemic is changing our society in ways only seen during wartime and national disasters.
Schools, from elementary to post secondary levels, are closed. So are restaurants, movie theatres, places of worship, and concert halls.
Community programs and services that benefit new arrivals and the poor are cancelled.
Companies are asking, if not ordering, their employees to work from home.
Shopping mall hours are being reduced.
It’s like something out of a Hollywood film, except there’s no director screaming, “CUT!” to stop filming.
While we know this pandemic will one day end, we have no say when that will happen. It stops when it stops. Simple as that.
In any major social shakeup, the most vulnerable members of our society — the working poor and the homeless — always take it on the chin. For the better off, situations like this are merely an annoyance. For the less fortunate, it’s truly a stressfess.
Reduced shopping mall hours means those who work in jobs that allow no flextime will have to take a day off work to get needed supplies. Assuming of course they can be found. The more greedy members of society, who have tons of wealth to spare, have gone out to hoard toilet paper, sanitizer, and milk in order to sell at a higher cost in order to make money. I’m an agnostic, but I believe there should be a special place in Hell for people like that.
The cancellation of community programs — which include job assistance and networking support — means those looking for work will have less tools for their job search. Some of these community programs also offer free meals for the homeless. With those closed, the homeless will not have a good meal except maybe in the local shelter. Assuming of course, there’s space to stay in them.
There’s no question there will an economic downturn as a result of the pandemic. In fact, according to an article in Forbes Magazine, rolling recessions are likely going to happen. I’ve lived long enough to have been through a few recessions and while each are different in cause and severity, one fact is common: it won’t be the executives and ranking managers of Corporate Canada who will lose their jobs — it will be the low-income rank and file who’ll get the boot. After all, in this Age of Austerity and the Jobless Recovery, human resources are no longer an investment but a line item on an expense report. The hit song “Times are tough, do more with less, downsize downsize.” will once again be popular but this time remixed to a techno COVID19 reverb track. Everything old is new again.
So exactly how does an economy recover from a recession caused by a virus? Maybe it will change the way the economy runs. Maybe it will run with less workers. I mean, we already have self-serve kiosks and online shopping. Perhaps Corporate Canada will justify this Jobless Recovery further by saying computer programs and routers don’t get sick. Why hire people at all?
With services and stores being closed down, the shelter offered by both will become scarcer. Those who are homeless or at least have unstable housing will have fewer places to go. They’ll be exposed more to the elements, which will make them sick, and in turn more susceptible to the COVID19 virus if their immune systems are compromised.
I’ve often argued for the case of a compassionate society where no one is left behind and that we are all in this together. The pandemic we all face makes that point even more important. We must heed the call to look after those who cannot fend for themselves rather than, as some have stated on social media, let social Darwinism reign and it’s every man and woman for themselves.
In 2017, Grand River Transit here in the Region of Waterloo nearly went on strike, but a tentative agreement was reached at the last minute.
Negotiations this time around didn’t go as well: the union went on strike January 21st, 2020 for 11 days.
While the LRT was still running (it’s not operated by Grand River Transit), the strike has impacted me greatly. For gigs that are within range of the LRT stations, I had to walk up to 30 minutes. To get home, I had to walk 40 minutes from one station. My job search has to target only those businesses near the LRT in case I’m called in for an interview.
This is why I once pinned a blog post describing what happened back then, and the impact of what would have happened if the strike did happen.
It’s also why I made this comic to remind once again there’s a third party in any strike involving essential services that gets hurt the most, and always loses even after the strike is over.
Many look to the unemployment rate as an indicator of how well our war on poverty is progressing.
The unemployment rate is a percentage of the labour force that is actively seeking work. It does not track those who have given up. It does not track those who are paid “under the table”. It does not track underemployment. It does not track employment disparity (where individuals are working either full- or part-time but not in the field he or she is trained in).
In short, it makes the erroneous assumption — a somewhat dangerous one at that — that to be simply working is to be okay. As long as one is earning a paycheque, the necessities of life — rent and food — are easily covered.
As reported in the following article, that reasoning is not necessarily a slam-dunk.
Despite having a job, citizens are going to food banks because apparently the paycheque is not enough to cover the grocery bills.
I’ve heard it argued that this is because people can simply walk in and get free food. On the surface, the reasoning seems sound: in the Region of Waterloo and also in the Greater Toronto Area, you don’t need to prove you are low income to access food banks.
In fact, I just finished having a phone conversation with someone about that very topic. Apparently a resident in her building goes to a food bank yet can afford an apartment of $1300 a month, drives a car, and has a watch that does far more than tell the time.
I don’t even have a watch that just tells the time. I consider it a superfluous expense. To me, food, transit and my teeth are more important.
Getting back on track, if this argument WAS true, the food bank system would be raided to chronic levels of scarcity. There are stock shortages, yes, but not like locusts going through a crop field.
No, the problem here is the assumption — by those who think all you got to do to keep out of poverty “is get off your lazy ass and find a job” — is that things don’t go up in price over time.
The average worker’s income has not kept up in lockstep with ever increasing costs, such as rent/mortgage , grocery, transit, gas, medical, dental, and prescription glasses. In the case of some individuals, income has not gone up, period, for a number of years. I recall during my IT career there was one year at Grolier Limited and two years at SANYO Canada where I didn’t even get a cost of living raise.
The minimum wage rate in most provinces of Canada have barely budged over the past decade. Ditto for social assistance and disability as well — in some cases, qualifications for receiving both have been tightened and coverage periods have been shortened in the name of government austerity.
Look, I won’t deny the fact there are people who cheat food banks. I even stated during my aforementioned phone conversation with someone they really should screen better to block the cheaters.
Having said this, there’s a fair argument to be made that there’s indeed a wealth distribution problem, and part of that problem concerns the ability of the working poor and the unemployed to afford food to put on the table. If there is even one employed person who is going to food banks because it’s just not enough, that’s one person too many in my book.
I sometimes wonder why society puts so little effort on resolving social issues like homelessness. It’s a no-brainer: each of us needs a place to stay safe and warm at night or end up sick if not dead in time. That fact will never change no matter how advanced our technology becomes or how products and services become more prolific and convenient. Despite this, I’m still amazed at the apathy shown addressing this.
Sometimes the answer is hiding in plain sight.
I regularly visit a paperbox that offers a free magazine containing available job listings. While the ROI going through this magazine sucks worse than maple through a straw, I go through it in the hope of finding something, and also show people I’m considering all avenues in my job search.
In the rack above that magazine is one occupied by 4Rent.ca, which is an apartment rental listing magazine that is also free to take. I took the one listed in the picture and perused through the ads. I wasn’t looking for a place to stay: I currently have a place to say. Something in my gut told me to take a gander. What I found confirmed a lament often expressed in my videos on YouTube and here on my blog:
“I find it appalling that a basic need – shelter – is priced like a luxury item”.
That’s a truth, not an exaggeration. Both renting and owning a home these days requires not one but two salaries to maintain, and is considerably worth more than the cost of an expensive car or a world cruise.
One would think that exorbitantly pricing one of the three basic needs — shelter, food, water — would be one of the worst sins imaginable. I mean, this is not a video game console, a flat screen smart TV, or glamorous clothes we are talking about and which we can do without. If a person does not have a place to stay, the chances of that person surviving drops faster than the career of a one-hit wonder band.
Shelter is essential to life.
Yet, in this magazine, descriptive phrases similar to the following found on 4Rent.ca’s home page appear:
“Conveniently located at Steeles and Hurontario, Kaneff’s twin white towers…” “Feel the sophistication the moment you walk into the elegant lobby of 18 Brownlow….” “Realstar’s Towns on the Ravine redefines premium rental living in North York….” “Live in an exclusive neighbourhood with easy access to all the amenities…”
“Premium living”, “elegant”, and “exclusive”. Flowery descriptive phrases used to describe a consumer product or service. Compare that to the dictionary definitions found for the word “house”:
(noun) “…a building for human habitation, especially one that is lived in by a family or small group of people.” (verb) “… provide (a person or animal) with shelter or living quarters.”
No marketing blurb, no glossy ad, or commercial on radio or on television will ever use the above definitions in their pitch. Never the phrases “Guaranteed to keep your belongings safe from theft!”, “Works hard to keep you dry from the rain!”, or “Ensures you get a good night’s sleep on a cold wintry night!” shall ever be read in any rental or realty advert.
In just 30,000 years, shelter has transformed from being a means of protection from predators and the elements for Man during hunting and gathering expeditions to an over-expensive consumer product that requires pretty pictures and words such as the ones used in the embedded image in order to be sold. You know, like the iPhone, BMW, Guess? Jeans, and other useless things we can do without.
The moment the word “shelter” lost its meaning is when the importance of securing such for all, without opposition and without question, also disappears.