Friday, May 19, 2006

If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride*

* If wishing could make things happen, then even the most destitute people would have everything they wanted.
What is everything we want?
Sure we all at some time have fantasies of big houses, or fast cars, shopping sprees, world peace.
Well ok world peace is probably something nearly everyone wants.
If you really break it down what most people want is shelter, food and a way to support themselves.
Lets examine those issues.

Shelter

How many of us take home for granted?

Oh I can't wait to get home. Going somewhere for the holidays? No I'll be staying home. Look at this piece of merchandise I just bought for my home. Wow the weather out there sucks glad I can stay home. Home is where the heart is . There is no place like home.
HOME a word with so many connotations and yet so many have no home.
I t is comforting to some to think of the homeless as those who have mental illnesses, alcoholics, lazy bums and while none of the afforementioned deserve any less concern or respect the reality is many of todays homeless are people and families with jobs.
Unfortunately, so many of todays jobs are so tenuous and so low paying that people can simply not afford to keep up with their rent.
The governments we are dealing with today do not see long term issues, do not see that x+y=z, they have no concept of pay little now or lots later, they simply want to appeal to the average voter's greed. It works too. How many governments have we seen elected again and again on a platform of dismantling the few social programs that had been ensconced into the Canadian culture.
The few affordable housing programs we have are often ghettos that perpetuate the sense of hopelessness the poor commonly feel.
It is easy to point to these ghettos as examples of how "those people" have no appreciation of what they are given.

What are they given?

Neighbourhoods which are the last to recieve funding. Neighbours who feel the same sense of hopelessness about the future you do. An address with a stigma attached. (perfect for job hunting) Children growing up recognizing the same sense of ostracism, of not being good enough, of not having the right ....anything.
What of the children growing up in shelters? Do we expect them to have a sense of community? To understand what it is to part of a whole? Do we even care as long as we don't have to see them?
Imagine instead integrated communities, nuclear families, one parent families, same sex families, singles, couples , seniors and every permutation therein.
T o have a place to call home is something that strikes at the heart of each and every one of us. That we can so callously deny it to the most vulnerable in our society speaks volumes.

Food

The very thing that enables us to continue to exist from day to day. The thing that we most literally cannot live without.
Yet far too many of us rely on the charity of foodbanks for our daily bread.
Many would consider us a just, sober and sane society, yet we allow so many of our citizens to beg for their dinner like stray dogs.
To deny someone food is to starve them. To starve someone willfully is to commit murder. Yet we refuse to give the neediest members of our society enough money to eat on a regular basis.
Too many are chosing between shelter and food. Too many mothers are starving themselves so their children can eat.
How ironic that the diet industry rakes in approx. 60 billion a year (yes that is a b) while so many go without.
Imagine the how many lunch programs, good food boxes, organic community gardens that kind of money could support.
Imagine every child going to school with a full belly, a good lunch and the promise of a good dinner.
We know the importance of good nutrition on learning, future health and even future earning capacity. You would think the accountants would see the value in small output for large savings.
In the end we cannot call ourselves decent, in the end we cannot call ourselves protectors of human rights, in the end we cannot justify allowing anyone in our country to go hungry.

Jobs

It is a common myth that one only needs to want to work and a job will magically appear.
This is a myth perpetuated by those with a stake in vilfying those least able to stand up for themselves politically.
Globalization, mechanization, plant closures, poverty have all played a role in the lack of available jobs.
Capitalism in and of itself plays a role as it demands a certain level of unemployment in order to keep profits high and workers scared.
The job market is becoming more keenly divided between low income service positions and upper level careers.
It requires two of these minimum income jobs to provide even the most basic needs for a family.
Leaving single parent families living in poverty. Welfare rates are even less.
The availability of decent paying jobs continues to decline, welfare programs are gutted, and governments tell us we cannot afford social programs yet they provide businesses with larger and larger tax cuts even as CEO wages rise at alarming rates.
As middle level income jobs disappear, benefits disappear, workers are hired on a part time or contract basis, we rush towards a society with very sharp divisions between rich and poor.
Divisions not only of money but of ability. The ability to attain an education, the ability to posses shelter, the ability to dress properly in order to gain employment, the ability to keep oneself properly nourished.
A society which does not provide education to all cannot call itself enlightened, a society which does not provide food and shelter cannot call itself humane, a society which does not care for it's most vulnerable can no longer call itself society at all.

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