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This is What Poverty Felt Like

WELLAND – As we sat in a room in the MacBain Centre in Niagara Falls, a dramatic analogy of poverty played out around us. Marvyn Novick and Peter Clutterbuck from the Social Planning Network of Ontario spoke to us on behalf of Poverty Free Ontario, and a strange thing happened.

The lights, set up with environmental conservation in mind, were to go out at set intervals after detecting no movement in the room. This happened several times, and as a result the listeners of the presentation had to perform wild gesticulations so that the light would return.

Watching this frantic communication to the great motion sensor in the sky, left me with a profound feeling.

This is what poverty felt like. The lights of the world had gone out, and one is left frantically flailing their arms in the darkness hoping someone will notice.

The only problem with this analogy is that poverty isn’t something that just happens. It’s caused by you and I: those that can afford to pay our rising bills, including HST, without complaint, who can afford niceties that we don’t really need, who struggle to come up with one or two cans when it comes to the annual food drive.

In order to ensure our own comfort, we have deliberately put those in poverty in the dark. It saves energy, money, resources if we just pretend that they’re no longer in the room, and we shut out the lights.

We sing a hymn by Shirley Erena Murray in our church, entitled Touch the Earth Lightly. In it, we are reminded at the dramatic impact we have upon this planet.

We who endanger, who create hunger, agents of death for all creatures that live

Whenever we sing those lines, I’m left with an unmovable lump in my throat. The problem with poverty is not just a religious matter.

Athiests, agnostics, whatever flavour of religion satisfies your palate; each of us need to work together, if there is any hope of eliminating poverty. It doesn’t belong to any particular political party either. Poverty requires us to acknowledge the inherent worth of our neighbours. Especially the one you don’t get along with.

The presentation at the MacBain Centre laid the foundation for this discussion of poverty with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, issued by the UN shortly after the Second World War. It was written and adopted to ensure one group of people do not mistreat, subjugate, or demean another group.

Yet that is exactly what is happening between those that exist both above and below the poverty line. We use language that refers to laziness and the pulling of bootstraps. We assume addiction and abuse. We claim squandered cheques and too much help and they won’t help themselves. Any words that can be used to lessen our collective guilt, we employ it. It lets us off the hook.

We feel better about ourselves. We sleep soundly at night, and what little we do about poverty, if any, seems grandiose.

According to recent statistics, we have seen an increase from 11% to 13% of Ontarians existing in poverty, or in other terms, 1.7 million Ontarians are below the poverty line, 400,000 of whom are children. Myths of poverty aside, one-third of those 400,000 children actually come from families where parents had full-time work.

Gone are the beliefs that having a “good job” met all your needs. Gone is the belief that only the uneducated cash cheques from Ontario Works or ODSP. (In fact 80% of those below the poverty line graduated high school, and 40% have some post secondary education). Families are now required to have two incomes at a minimum, leaving many to split time between multiple places of employment, just to break even. When we hear poverty, it often comes with the more heartstring- pulling adjective of child poverty.

While it is admirable to seek to improve the lives of children in need, we cannot forget that there are still more than one million adults and seniors that face each and every day without the basic needs for life.

At Central United, as well as other locations around our city, meals are served, by local organizations and churches. The visible poor aren’t often in front of our eyes, like the larger centres of Toronto, or Ottawa, but Welland struggles just the same. While there are familiar faces that come each and every meal, a certain percent of the group is always new.

We’re never sure what led them to our table that month, as the pain of poverty prevents many from sharing the difficult journey they’ve endured. We only know that for one brief moment, judgment is checked at the door, people are fed, and hope is shared.

If you’re like me, you wonder what you can do at all when it comes to the great chasm of poverty. In that moment, please realize that doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Know that there is a provincial election and ensure each of the candidates offer their party’s plan on how to combat poverty. Contribute to a food bank more than once a year.

Get the figures on how much on average those in poverty have for food per month and try surviving (and then imagine what a $100 a month healthy food supplement might do to your diet). Speak to those at the Hope Centre or other institutions around Welland that work to fight not just the symptoms of poverty, but the root causes. And if you’re still unsure where to start, may these words strengthen your resolve.

They were written by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw and attributed to Bishop Oscar Romero who ministered to the people of El Salvador, and offered hope during hopeless times.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted,

knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation

in realizing that. This enables us to do something,

and to do it very well.

Editorial by Rev. Chris Fickling in the Welland Tribune



One Response to “This is What Poverty Felt Like”

  1. http://www.facebook.com/notes.php?id=78294982489&notes_tab=app_2347471856#!/note.php?note_id=316262476777

    Dirty playbook tricks to pass around and to reference
    by Mediia and political spin, Find it post it ,educate othere on Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 8:46am
    Have someone call another cell phone in a crowd to make it ring when the opposition is on Camera or radio , this distracts from the anti Harper speal !

    Have radio stations play spots for NDP , LIB AND GREEN at half volume
    use neagative intonation on all but PC items !

    An assertion is an enthusiastic or energetic statement presented as a fact, although it is not necessarily true. They often imply that the statement requires no explanation or back up, but that it should merely be accepted without question.
    State what party is best at without providing evidence for this, they are using an assertion
    The voter, ideally, should simply agree to the statement without searching for additional information or reasoning.Bandwagon:
    Bandwagon is an appeal to the subject to follow the crowd, to join in because others are doing so as well. Bandwagon propaganda is, essentially, trying to convince the subject that one side is the winning side, because more people have joined it. The subject is meant to believe that since so many people have joined, that victory is inevitable and defeat impossible!
    Since the average person always wants to be on the winning side, he or she is compelled to join in.Or The subject is to be convinced by the propaganda that since everyone else is doing it, they will be left out if they do not.Card stacking:

    Card stacking, or selective omission, Involves only presenting information that is positive to an idea or proposal and omitting information contrary to it. It is extremely effective in convincing the public. Although the majority of information presented by the card stacking approach is true, it is important to omit information that will negate the effort to stack information in our favourGlittering Generalities:

    Glittering generalities are words that have different positive meaning for individual subjects, but are linked to highly valued concepts. When these words are used, they demand approval without thinking, simply because such an important concept is involved. For example, when a person is asked to do something in “defense of democracy” they are more likely to agree. The concept of democracy has a positive connotation to them because it is linked to a concept that they value. Words often used as glittering generalities are honor, glory, love of country,

    Lesser of Two Evils
    The “lesser of two evils” technique tries to convince us of an idea or proposal by presenting it as the least offensive option.
    This technique is often implemented during wartime to convince people of the need for sacrifices or to justify difficult decisions. This technique is often accompanied by adding blame to our oppostion. One idea or proposal is often depicted as one of the only options or paths. Name Calling
    Name calling is the use of derogatory language or words that carry a negative connotation when describing the oppostion. The name calling will attempt to arouse prejudice among the public by labeling the target something that the public dislikes. Often, name calling will be employed using sarcasm and ridicule, and shows up often in political cartoons or writings. Pinpointing the Enemy:
    Pinpointing the enemy will used extremely often in political campaigns and debates. We will attempt to simplify a complex situation by presenting one specific group or person as the enemy. Although there may be other factors involved the public is urged to simply view the situation in terms of clear-cut right and wrongPlain Folks:
    The plain folks plan will attempt to convince the public that our views reflect those of the common person and that they are also working for the benefit of the common person. We will often attempt to use the accent of a specific audience as well as using specific idioms or jokes. During speeches,attempt to increase the illusion through imperfect pronunciation, stuttering, and a more limited vocabulary. Errors such as these help add to the impression of sincerity and spontaneity. This technique is usually most effective when used with glittering generalities, in an attempt to convince the voters that the our views about highly valued ideas are similar to their own and therefore more valid.Simplification (Stereotyping):
    Simplification is extremely similar to pinpointing in that it often reduces a complex situation to a clear-cut choice involving good and evil. This technique is often useful in swaying uneducated audiences. Testimonials:
    Testimonials are another of the seven main forms of propaganda identified by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis. Testimonials are quotations or endorsements, in or out of context, which attempt to connect a famous or respectable person with a product or item. Testimonials are very closely connected to the transfer technique, in that an attempt is made to connect an agreeable person to another item. Testimonials are to be used often used in advertising and political campaigns. The subject should consider the merits of the item or proposal independently of the person of organization giving the testimonial.Transfer:
    Transfer attempt to make the subject view a certain item in the same way as they view another item, to link the two in the subjects mind. Although this technique is often used to transfer negative feelings for one object to another, it can also be used in positive ways. By linking an item to something the subject respects or enjoys, positive feelings can be generated for it. However, in politics, transfer is most often used to transfer blame or bad feelings from one politician to another of his friends or party members, or even to the party itself

    Defund the opposition playbook trick

    Proroguing shuts down investigation
    Harper’s decision cut off inquiry into possible complicity in torture.

    Harper has developed a reputation for being a bully.

    The telephone, with voice mail commands forcing us to chase our tail, was last century’s instrument of smallification. This century it is the computer’s turn to to make us feel small, forcing us up blind alleys on corporate websites in our quest to make our complaints clear, our presence known.

    How can you feel full-sized when staring at a screen that reprimands you for illegal commands, that tells you your name is unknown, that times you out

    delay the announcements of caucus meetings until after a meeting was scheduled after it had already started

    They want to communicate through the media, but don’t want to engage media, they don’t want to answer questions,
    “dumpster-diving” through the garbage of political opponents to retrieve embarrassing personal evidence against them

    campaigning ethics, incumbency advantage,
    mudslinging, personal slander, dirty tricks,
    video imaging, cybersquatters, spoof sites, subliminal messages, phone banks, robo calls , push polls, stealth campaigns, viral advertising, off the record, pseudo-scandals, online polls, opponent , reality checks, gaffe patrols, quick response teams, attack Web sites,
    attack blogs, propaganda, and nationalism, adwatchesRequiring media to be on a pre-approved list before they can ask the Prime Minister questions at press conferences.

    Party chairpersons walking out on and thereby shutting down parliamentary committees, = manual of “dirty tricks”===
    Get voters are so uneasy about leader(fill in the blank) that they’ll tolerate being kept in the dark. Reinterpreting every regulation to our advantage

    The use of “Demon Dialer” on a local television news storys during the time of
    election, Jams up phones so no questions get asked and the Candidate just delivers his script !

    Centralize communications for the entire government in the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office). Threaten Cabinet ministers and others with pain of dismissal if they fail to keep their mouth shut, or when told to open it to speak from the centrally prepared talking points.

    Economists advise that creating artificial scarcity raises the price. In this context it means that reporters will be less hostile and a little grateful for even a limited interview.

    Never let the PM face a “scrum” of journalists; never let him be “ambushed” in moving from his office to the Commons, for example. There is too great a chance of saying something unscripted, hence getting him “off message.” Just ignore the criticism from journalists—the base certainly doesn’t like them either.5

    Invite reporters from small-town outlets for interviews. Feed them the line of the day—near their deadline and watch them convert the press release into a major story with few changes. Have the press secretary call them later and tell them what a great job they are doing. Subtle, right?

    Use the social networking media—on a limited basis to target the young. In general, make more use of the new media—like feeding the Tory bloggers who are happy to disseminate the PM’s message without questioning it. Ignore the websites listing all the PM’s lies and factually questionable statements—and which provide evidence to support their claims.Frame the opposition leaders negatively with party-sponsored ads. Reinforce with party speakers’ jibes in Question Period—all for TV news. They lap up this stuff.

    Posted by Playalndnews | August 16, 2011, 3:46 am

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