Tuesday, 21 April 2015


I find that with the coming American elections (yes, we feel the effects even up here, the neighbours to the north), I am more and more disturbed by the political rhetoric of privilege and entitlement.It isn't so very different in Canada. The questions of who gets the "rights" of citizenship are always relevant issues.

I have a problem. Nothing new, just the reiteration of every problem I have ever had, playing through my brain on a loop.

There is a lot of talk about who deserves to be helped, supported, subsidized or assisted by the government (ie, the people. You. Your tax dollars.), and who should be told no. While corporations get bail outs and tax breaks, single parents get assistance cuts, homeless citizens get their shelters and housing options removed, working adults have to try to live on less than what a lot of the complainers pay for coffee, seniors and people with disabilities get shamed and marginalized, immigrants get ridiculed and reviled, people on welfare get drug tested and judgements based on what is in their grocery carts.

So who is deserving? Let me give you a clue - not the corporate entity.
Everyone else. EVERYONE. Every human being deserves to have what they need to live a healthy, secure, enjoyable life. And those who have this by whatever means they have achieved it have no reasonable cause to say otherwise.

But what about welfare fraud? What about illegal immigrants who are breaking all the laws to get here? What about drug addicts and lazy bums who don't want to help themselves?
Yes. They deserve to live and thrive and be happy. All of them. Even those who have committed crimes and are incarcerated deserve to be treated like human beings. There will always be people who will take what they are given and waste it, refuse the help they are given, or try to harm those who try to help.

There are people who are mentally or physically ill, who need to be supported and monitored, even though they may not want to be helped. Drug addiction and substance abuse are as much a result as a cause of poverty. There are addicts at every economic level. Are we really saying that only those who can pay for it should get help? That only those who follow a strict set of moral and philosophical views (at least outwardly) deserve our support? I guess I betray my socialist soul here, as I say that when we make these decisions, we are letting down our society, our fellow humans. Just because you don't like someone, doesn't mean they deserve to die. Because you feel someone is wrong, doesn't mean they deserve to be treated as garbage.

A person on food assistance should be allowed to buy cookies and treats for their kids now and then. And for themselves, too. Why is this so hard to take? A treat can make living in poverty less miserable. Of course, if you see poverty as a moral failing, it colours your perception of "deserving" to enjoy life. People don't generally choose to be poor, though, nor are circumstances always due to poor choices. We don't get to choose where or when we are born. We don't get to choose what our neighbourhood or school is like growing up. When we become adults, we can make some choices, but much of what we have depends on what our parents had. If we as a society can give people a better start, hopefully we can change some of these outcomes, but only if we start with that premise that everyone deserves that better start.

Just because someone is poor, doesn't mean they deserve to die of preventable causes, because they can't afford to see a health care provider. Just because someone has a long term or permanent health issue does not mean that they do not deserve health insurance. Medical procedures should not be based on whether the patient can afford them. Frankly, those who need to get themselves or their families medical treatment don't deserve to be reduced to poverty to get the help they need.

It comes down to feeling deserving, at a basic level. Feeling worthy of existence. Like a basically worthwhile human being, whatever our circumstances. 

I have never entirely managed this on an emotional level. I remember very clearly when I was 14, and talking to a school counselor. She asked why I didn't come for my appointment, and I told her it was because my teacher wouldn't let me go without a pass, and I had lost mine. She then asked why I didn't have the teacher call her and get her okay.
"Because it wasn't worth it. I'm not that important. I don't deserve special treatment."

Deserve. Special treatment. Important. Worth it.

Now I fight for my kids to get what they need at school. So they can be as successful as they are capable of, because I know they are worth it. Not because they are in any way more important than every other child in school. Because they are equally important. Because they need what they need, not what other people feel they are worthy of, but what all humans deserve. A chance to flourish. The means to enjoy life. The opportunity to contribute to human society.
They are deserving. We are deserving. We are valuable. We are worth it. All of us.