She Speaks: Who are you really mad at?

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When we get upset with working class people who are fighting for a living wage, when we say they haven’t earned that and don’t deserve that and pummel them for details on Where Will The Money Come From, it is very conveniently forgotten that the Walton heirs (of Walmart fame) have collectively inherited upwards of $163 billion US. No one earns that kind of money – it can only be gained by exploiting people down the production line. A minimum wage that means people can’t afford an apartment, childcare, continued education, or retirement savings is a theft by those controlling the system. These are people worth over a billion dollars taking food from the mouths of children. It would be a laughable caricature if it weren’t the truth of our lives. A system was created and is being upheld to benefit a tiny few at the expense of all the rest of us – and I put ‘all of us’ together because I doubt anyone reading this, regardless of income, has a billionaire on speed-dial. Eight men (of course men) own more money than half the planet. Is it really the minimum wage Wal-Mart staff you’re angry at? Or is it just easier to kick sideways when kicking up never lands?

When we lash out at people addicted to drugs for costing taxpayers money, for not understanding the value of life, for not acting “rationally” in a completely irrational world, we can put aside the fact that almost every addict has experienced trauma, that they feel alienated and cast aside, that they feel grief just as strongly as any of the “rest of us”. We can forget that abuse, trauma, poverty, and existential fear drive addiction and other “anti-social” behaviours. Can we call ourselves a society when we decide who’s in and who’s thrown out? Maybe it’s easier to rail against how much addiction and mental illness cost the province than realize that our medical system and social supports are outdated, stunted, and constantly playing catch up. Canada is an extremely arrogant country, and especially in the arena of social supports. Portugal implanted a radical drug policy: “Portugal’s policy rests on three pillars: one, that there’s no such thing as a soft or hard drug, only healthy and unhealthy relationships with drugs; two, that an individual’s unhealthy relationship with drugs often conceals frayed relationships with loved ones, with the world around them, and with themselves; and three, that the eradication of all drugs is an impossible goal.”  We aren’t going to get rid of drugs. We shouldn’t want to get rid of people who are addicted. What else do we have? The attitude I’ve witnessed toward recent overdoses in Muskoka is more akin to ‘they had it coming’ than ‘how can we save the lives of our friends and neighbours?’ Every person has the opportunity to shift from blame and shame to courage and compassion. It’s become too easy to hand wash away the issues we face as a community – but the hard thing and the right thing are often the same.

It’s very easy to pretend to be a preserver of life when it comes to abortions. Who wouldn’t want to be an advocate for literally the most ‘innocent’ and voiceless amongst us? Men who will never need to make such a decision – many who’ve never managed to consider why a woman would consider terminating a pregnancy – make sweeping decisions and punishing laws about women’s bodies all over the world. As soon as that baby is born, however? If it’s poor, it’s no longer worth fighting for. If it’s a person of colour, it can expect racism and oppression. If it’s disabled, the fight for supports will be a lifelong battle. If it’s a girl, she’ll be subjected to misogyny and as long as those men are in charge, they will never work to eradicate that particular form of violence. This isn’t an argument for life, because the people I see in the comments section saying that abortion is murder are the same saying that junkies deserve to OD. It’s about control. Again, how much easier is it to kick a woman who is considering abortion than it is to fight against the poverty forcing her to make that decision, or the abuser who will use that child, if it were born, to control her? Why are the anti-abortion crowd so quick to tell women what to do but nowhere to be found when it comes to fighting for more supports for mothers and children?

Whenever I am on social media, I see the divide between community members stretch out like a chasm, impassable even by the tightrope many of us often try to walk. The living wage, unions, tourists, addiction and mental illness, homelessness, sexism and racism, even dog sledding is at the heart of a rampaging debate. Everyone chooses their side: their own, the government’s, the unborn, the oppressed, the animals, so many even decide to speak on the behalf of money, as if money isn’t the biggest microphone around.

I don’t have a pithy way to tie all these examples together. The thread running through is so obvious to me that I can’t believe I’m going another round on this. Sometimes when I walk outside at night, I look at the stars and scream for an intervention from… someone (aliens, AI, heck I’d even taken heaven at this point), someone or something to make it so glaringly obvious that we are stuck in the same battles, that we are fighting the wrong ‘enemy’, that we are being used as pawns in a machine with greater strategy than we could ever imagine. I don’t even like the militaristic language here because I feel like I’m feeding that machine.

I guess I would just ask that we listen with the intent to understand, that we love with the hope that it helps, that we see each other for who we are and not what we assume or project. That we try on the moccasins – and allow ourselves to wonder why they hurt so much and ask if there’s anything we can do to help. There always is.

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Kathleen May (Photo: Kai Rannik)

Kathleen May (Photo: Kai Rannik)

Kathleen May is a writer, speaker, and activist. Her work in our community includes co-founding the long-running Huntsville Women’s Group, being a Survivor Mentor in the pilot survivor-to-survivor program through MPSSAS, co-facilitating instinct-unlocking workshops for women through I Got This, working as a host and community producer of Herstories on YourTV, volunteering with Women’s March Muskoka, and her role as a front-line counsellor at a women’s shelter. Kathleen is a 2018 Woman of Distinction for Social Activism and Community Development and also received the Best Author award for her 2018 submission at the Muskoka Novel Marathon, a fundraiser for literacy services. Her dream is a sustainable women’s land co-operative in Muskoka.

4 Comments

  1. Tanya Sprathoff on

    Well written Kathleen. I agree that the rich stealing from the poor and not being able to love our neighbours (all of them) as ourselves has all kinds of negative societal repercussions. But I will take exception to this comment, “Why are the anti-abortion crowd so quick to tell women what to do but nowhere to be found when it comes to fighting for more supports for mothers and children?” I am happy to report that there is in fact a wonderful group of dedicated individuals in our community who are pro-life, and very specifically provide support to any woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. Not only that, they provide support to their partners and other family members, as some of these women already have children. This support encompasses a broad range services but ultimately is about being there, available and listening, to encourage and build confidence, to be a safe place and also provide some real time practical help. Whatever that looks like for each woman, as every story is unique. And it doesn’t end there. Should a woman chose an abortion and suffer some emotional trauma from the experience, this amazing group is there again. They offer post-abortion support and counselling provided by women who have walked that road themselves in an atmosphere soaked in love, compassion and zero judgement.

    It is easy to get caught up in a negative spiral when we see all the injustice around us, but we need to break free and remember there are people around us on the same page, actively working to love their neighbour. So keep doing what you do Kathleen, bring to light the injustices, but let’s also shine a light on those doing good and celebrate, so we can be encouraged by the silver lining growing on that dark cloud.

    • Sandy McLennan on

      Well thought-out and written.

      The problem of our time is the dividing line you speak of. The invention of the other as enemy is surprising and sad.

      I get it: why write here or wonder why, again and again. It’s just one’s conscience.

      I think the Portuguese thinking/acting on drugs is correct, anyway, so glad you gave details here.

      Good luck to you, thanks for your helping work. Good luck to us all.

  2. Rob Millman on

    Well said, Kathleen! It’s truly embarrassing that a small country like Portugal has a more enlightened drug policy than Canada. We can learn from everybody: This seems like an excellent place to start. Apparently, the recent overdoses in Huntsville were caused by purple heroin generously laced with the opioid, Fentanyl. This procedure (reaching epidemic levels in B.C.) increases the toxicity approximately thirty fold. As you allude, mental illness and addiction are usually concurrent; with the former generally preceding the latter. Mental illness is a disease; ergo, blaming most addicts for their escape mechanism is blatantly unfair.
    .
    As a feminist and pro-lifer, I shouldn’t even pass along the following. But as it bears on your continual theme of patriarchy… A wag on Facebook (consider the source) recently averred that: “If men could become pregnant, abortions would be available at Jiffy Lube.” My sincere apologies to any whom that offends.

  3. Brian Tapley on

    Well said, Kathleen!
    There is somewhere, and you refer to it as “I don’t have a pithy way to tie all these examples together.” some extra bit of information that we somehow need to figure out.

    If one could figure this out, put it all together in context and then successfully run to be our leader, that would be fantastic. So far this has not happened, but it needs to happen.

    You mention the economics of our situation and mostly I agree. I have the feeling that something is not right with our country. For example, a democracy, any democracy, will only work if the majority of the people who vote it into existence are of similar education and in a somewhat similar economic situation. I doubt very much if that tiny percent (I think you said 8 people) who control most of the wealth think like the majority of the rest of us and going the other way, that street person sitting on the sidewalk probably thinks about things even more differently but we all get one vote. The ultra rich tend therefore to try to influence things in a non democratic way, they have to as there are so few of them and the result seems to be showing up in the USA today in the form of their totally dysfunctional government!

    As a small business operator here in Ontario, I feel kind of trapped by our system. We have bureaucratic masters at every level who attempt to dictate our every move but really don’t care at all about our sucess. They get paid regardless (or so they think). They are usually well paid with tax dollars and many have completely lost touch with the real world struggles we all have. We pay so much tax to maintain this bureaucracy that there is little left for other things and this sadly includes increased wages.
    One has to pay the ever rising costs of business, (utilities, insurance, supplies etc.) and at the end of the day, still make enough $$ for the owner to make the whole project worth the effort. We are running very close to that point when small business is simply not worth the bother. This is sad as this type of business is what built our country in the first place.
    I hope you can find a solution to this.

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