April 4th, 2008

alice lost in labyrinth

Let's do more than talk about change.

I was moved to comment on a post by Matthew Good entitled: "Spare Some Real Change?"

I’m on welfare at this very moment while waiting for other sources of living income to come through.

Even if it’s for only a temporary time, or if the reason you are on welfare is completely outside of your control, there is a feeling of guilt and internalized shame (common in our society of poor bashing). There are so many myths about the welfare system (the ‘make taxpayers feel that everyone on welfare are committing fraud’ scare campaign worked rather effectively), and many people don’t know that often whatever money is received is often immediately paid back / taken back by the government as soon as employment / insurance / or whatever other monies are received, even if that means the person goes without money for a further amount of time so that the debt is repaid. It’s not a free ride nor an enjoyable one. I remember when 30 bucks or so was cut from mother’s who were receiving welfare because it was said they were using it to buy beer. Incredulous to punish everyone, insulting and it only made things worse.

Where I live, I have seen the other consequences of the system, where people who have to decide between food or rent and can’t run the chance of being evicted, decide to turn to selling drugs (or themselves) to make ends meet. Or, through so many different factors and from being pushed further down into the ground, they give up. Sometimes, there just aren’t any legitimate jobs available in an area and without the funding to relocate or the ability to do so, people get trapped in a cycle of poverty. Without access to funding for education or effective government programs (totally gutted in the past few decades), it can be a very demoralizing experience.

People often don’t realize just how close they can be to being the person on the street, or alone having to submit all of their personal details to receive next to nothing to scrape by. With the manufacturing industry and other sectors of the economy going through some difficult changes, people who once felt secure about their income and would never have thought of themselves as being ‘one of those people’ are soon finding themselves in line at the welfare office. Employment (Unemployment Insurance) qualifying factors have been tightened so much that many are surprised when they find themselves even more worse off. Suddenly, they’re on the inside of the outside and things look much different.

The percentage of people who “abuse the system on a regular basis” are so minimal, so very very small, that the amount spent on investigating possible fraud cases is tremendous in comparison to the actual few cases where welfare fraud has occurred. Again, that assumption of people and stigmatization is just one of the many things that is preventing real change.

I think dialogue between those who have been there and those who haven’t is extremely important in making change that isn’t just all talk.

A thank you from someone below the waterline.
Related: Larry's Flickr set, "Homeless in America" in which he spoke to most of the people for whom he photographed.
paper heart and pen

Hearing Ted Hughes at Plunkenworth's

posted in greatpoets

Hearing Ted Hughes at Plunkenworth's

Our friend dropped in again,
the one who always says
he's met some rather famous poets,
like Billy Collins, Seamus Heaney,
Mary Oliver,
boasting he's taken them out for beer,
that in their drunken state
they've read his work
and said it was the best damn thing
they've ever seen on paper.

It's been difficult to prove him a liar,
authors and their tours
have coincided with his claims
but this time he was sloppy,
saying that he'd heard Ted Hughes
last night, at Plunkenworth's,
that run-down gallery in the core
that exhibits skateboard
art and molds of vomit
by its barely-on-its-hinges
front door.

He's been dead now for a decade,
we said, snickering, knowing we finally
found the lie,
that he'd admit it's been a charade,
the name-dropping, the tales
of autographed books
(that we've never been allowed
to see).

But he didn't blink an eye,
unfazed, undaunted in his delivery,
saying that Ted had read
a dozen new poems,
one about Plath,
how he would have rushed
to save her,
turn off the oven,
inhaled the toxic fumes
himself if he only could,
calling it "Sylvie's Stove"
and we corrected him,
saying it was Sylvia, not Sylvie
and he said no,
that was an affectionate name
he had for her, very French
as he really loved the language,

that he'd come back from the grave
just to read it,
even if but a single person
listened, believed
that he was sorry,

that the dead
could be so sorry.

- Andreas Gripp