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  • Volume Eight, Number Seven: October 2003


    They Say I Get My “Money For Nothin' An' My Cheques For Free”
    A Mental Health Consumer Speaks out

    Contrary to being productive, I am burden to society, according to the current conventional societal mindset; thus, my value is often challenged: my worth, or lack thereof, as a member of the community.

    However, although I'm not officially "employed," I do have what basically amounts to a job or jobs. Indeed, I contribute to society, albeit in a way that produces no independent pay-cheque.

    I can recall one psychologist saying that, according to the "being employed" mindset dominant in our society, Jesus Christ and Mohandas Gandhi must have been failures, for they were not "employed." Of course, there are many who'd react indignantly to this analogy: "How can you compare yourself with Christ and Gandhi?" Nonetheless, if I may use an analogy to justify the above-mentioned analogy: one of the two lines may be a meter wider than the other, but they are both definitely parallel.

    Yes, I have the necessary knowledge to be employable; but I do not have, among other employability qualities, the under-pressure-coping skills that are required of an employee.

    Nevertheless, Social Services perceives and treats me in a manner that says, "Hey, if you're physically intact, you should be digging ditches."

    Also acting as a formidable hindrance to my employability: I cannot help but try, all-out, to perfect my job performance; and the more I attempt to do so, the more I seem to screw up -- thus angering my employer, which results in greater amounts of my self-esteem and confidence being chopped away.
    But the way I see it, sooner or later it won't matter anymore, anyway.

    At the current direction and rate-of-change of society's fiscal ideology, i.e., "Tax Cuts All Around," I believe that our social safety net will eventually disintegrate until it is but a shell of its former, fairly-adequate condition.

    According to the prevailing contemporary libertarian philosophy and prevalent moral-relativism, only the fully employed and the wealthiest will (should?) survive.

    According to this line of thought, I, propagating that all people should share in what the world has to offer, am the immoral party. With today's dog-eat-dog capitalist mentality, up is actually down, and white is actually black. Also, I've noticed that, with rare exceptions, as a person acquires great wealth, the more compelled that person feels to amass even greater wealth.
    It's not only sad, but it's also quite frightening.

    The above may be why contemporary mainstream-party politicians (including the modern NDP in BC, at least when they're in power), while strongly supportive of health-care and education funding, find it politically necessary to distance themselves from the social services (that proverbial third leg of the tri-legged chair) or (the pejorative-term) “welfare” ministry. For, as I bluntly put it in political perspective, "Everybody tends to hate the welfare recipient."

    And there's not that much respite for the handicap-status welfare recipient. There's resentment toward those of us with the $45 annual bus pass, regardless of the fact that the bus-pass holder may be much too nervous and too preoccupied to drive him or herself around, let alone have to deal with the plethora of reckless drivers and road-raged maniacs out there.

    I guess it's true about general human nature: that it's difficult to feel empathy/sympathy for the less fortunate unless one endures the potentially bitter fruit of life for him or herself. It appears that if we cannot relate to the misfortune, we subconsciously question whether it really exists.

    So, until that day when the mentally-ill and unfortunate begin to really matter to all of society -- until that day when humanity can manage to obey but one of the Ten Commandments, "Love thy Neighbour" -- this world will remain for many a place antithetical to the longed-for utopian society.

    -- Frank G. Sterle, Jr.

    Wonks Pay for Olympics

    "The Times Colonist reports that the Vancouver Island Health Authority hasto cut its budget ("Island health takes a hit"). Our Liberal government's policy wonks spent $54 million on their failed web site and committed $600 million and counting for the Olympics, but they can't find money to keep  from increasing the  waiting lists for surgery.

    "So we see that the Liberals' priority is to spend our money on  a technological propaganda gimmick and to subsidize a jocks' exhibition for the rich rather than to support health care for the average citizen. Shame!"

    It is scary to see that all of the future planning by VIHA is on how to cut the budget, privatize and contract out. Nothing about patient care. It reveals their priorities and outlook.

    Bruce Partridge

    Liberal Health Ads Just More Lies

    Government health care ads running in newspapers across the province this past week are a clear signal to taxpayers that the BC Liberals have abandoned their New Era election promise to "eliminate wasteful spending on government propaganda."

    Over the last two years, this government has spent millions on ad campaigns designed to get out the so-called "facts" on their health care policies.

    Taxpayers have every right to wonder if this is the best use of scarce health care dollars, especially given cuts to long-term care and home support programs, higher Pharmacare costs, longer surgery waiting lists and closed hospitals.

    The public should also be concerned about the quality of information provided in the latest round of ads.

    Government claims that health support workers earn up to 30 per cent more than their counterparts, for example, have a limited shelf life.

    That's because this fall, as a result of privatization, thousands of health support workers at flagship health facilities that serve our entire province.

    In fact, they'll earn 30 per cent less than the national average. Decades of progress towards pay equity will be lost as the purchasing power of these workers slips to levels unseen since the late 1960s. The foreign corporations they work for will pocket much of the difference.

    The legacy of the BC Liberals will be a whole new generation of underpaid and overworked cleaners and dietary workers who will be expected to cope with a complex and potentially dangerous post-SARS health care environment with very little training or experience.

    Those are the cold, hard facts about our health care system and you won't find them in any expensive government ad.

    Chris Allnutt

    Secretary-Business Manager

    Hospital Employees' Union

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