“It’s hard to do it because you gotta look people in the eye and tell ‘em they’re irresponsible and lazy. And who’s gonna wanna do that? Because that’s what poverty is, ladies and gentlemen. In this country, you can succeed if you get educated and work hard. Period. Period.”
— Bill O’Reilly, part of the problem
In the July 20-August 14, 2010 issue of Monday Magazine, Victoria, British Columbia’s alternative weekly, Stuart Hertzog of the Vancouver Island Social Housing Residents Association, wrote an letter entitled “Your Home, Your Rights.” The letter addressed the ever-widening gaps between socio-economic groups in Western society. People are not only falling into these cracks but, in a roundabout way, are being coaxed towards them.
Hertzog’s letter referred to a woman being evicted from low income housing because she reportedly regularly used medicinal marijuana to cope with chronic pain and terminal illness. But it is not just those evil pot smokers who are being marginalized and treated like lesser citizens. After conducting research into the policies of BC Housing, it became clear to me that fair treatment of people some consider ‘irresponsible and lazy’ — the elderly, low income, disabled or terminally ill, for example — is a fairy tale concept when it comes to political reality.
Hertzog also wrote, “Too often, subsidized housing residents living on low income or suffering from some form of disability suffer bullying abuse or have their rights trampled by uncaring or over-zealous social housing agencies. Often the victim is medically challenged or a senior.”
Our most vulnerable citizens are being evicted, not only from their homes but from society itself. Through systematic abuse and constant reminders that they are lesser humans, many people are being forced to silently accept whatever they are given. They are conditioned to believe that what they get is what they deserve — and fear of the unknown keeps them in line.
In a society which equates worth with job status and financial assets, being disabled and below the poverty line instills feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. Social alienation is inevitable as is the destruction of a person’s spirit and self esteem. When the very systems which are supposed to help people actually hurt them, people lose much more than those with luxuries could ever understand: perspective, hope, love, friendship, faith and trust.
Mother Theresa once said, “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody — I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”
To live on the sidelines of life in loneliness, isolation and rejection is extremely painful. Humans are social animals who need companionship and acceptance. To be dismembered from society by being subjected to this kind of ‘hands off’ torture, to be treated like one doesn’t matter because of age, gender, disability, sexual orientation or what have you, adds enormous insult to injury.
During the past six months, British Columbia policy makers decided to impose additional financial burdens on those with disabilities, including the elimination of an already-meager shelter allowance.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think taking away a person’s only means of survival in order to incite them to ‘try harder’, is like screaming at a child with a broken leg to stop feeling pain. Mahatma Gandhi said poverty is the worst form of violence.
I suppose for those who don’t get it, it is easier to look the other way. Cover our ears and hear no evil, see no evil. Getting involved in the sometimes ugly reality is too hard for most people, especially if they are fortunate enough to be born into affluent circumstances which afford them the luxury of comfortable choice.
But to threaten someone’s security by punishing them for being disabled shows that we have most certainly forgotten what it means to be human.
“Handicapped Parking Only” ricky.montalvo @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
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