I NEED YOU TO STAND WITNESS

CN: mentions of suicidal ideation

For the last little while, I’ve been struggling quite a bit. I’ve been trying desperately to fix the situation I was left in last year. I’ve been just barely getting by with help from friends, by taking out more debt, and by surviving off of stores I’ve had sitting by just in case.

Rather than getting any easier however, things have just been getting worse. My roommate had to move to BC for work and while I was able to find someone to take over his room, the rental agency had issues with him replacing my former roommate on the lease. I couldn’t very well leave my old roommates name on it, and my own financial situation means they are not willing to have it be in my name alone.

As such, I had to give my notice for the end of summer.

I knew the rental situation in Ottawa had gotten worse in the years I’ve been living at this place, but even so I was unprepared for the reality I am facing. The rent costs have skyrocketed to such a point, where $300 over what disability considers a reasonable housing allotment gets me a room in a house with six other people, and I can forget about the house being accessible, meaning I have no idea what to do with my wheelchair, let alone how to be able to live in a place I can’t physically navigate.

Essentially, the way things stand right now, at the end of August I am homeless.

Many of my friends are in similarly difficult positions, meaning that they’re not really able to offer assistance, even in the form of a couch to crash on.

Unless I can find something, my options look like they will be to move in with my parents. The result would very likely be losing a vast majority of my possessions, having to give up all or almost all of my animals who provide me with emotional support, and moving to a town where I don’t have any real friends or any of the emotional support that I have from people here. I will lose access to the MP who has managed to do so much for disability in the short time I’ve known her. I will no longer be able to medicate in the comfort of my home but be forced to endure the elements as well as a fair amount of shaming regarding my use of them – both of which will have negative effects on my health. When your body reacts badly to cold, not to mention being immunosuppressed – having to stand outside in freezing weather multiple times a day is not exactly conducive to healing.

And why? Why am I in this position?

Have I been a bad tenant?

Absolutely not. I’ve never paid my rent late. I’ve often made improvements to the unit I live in or at the very least gone out of my way to maintain it in a good state. I participate in the community, I help my neighbours, and I do my best to solve problems rather than cause them. When I’ve found myself living in good places, I have gone out of my way to promote them and encourage other people I know to be good tenants to look at these places for a place to live – meaning I often provide my landlords with free advertising.

I am in this position because even while acknowledging that wages haven’t kept up with the rate of inflation with regards to food, oil, and housing – (two of which are not actually taken into consideration when calculating the rates of inflation), this is even more the case for disability.

The support given to disabled people is a poisoned pill of sorts – yes it provides financial support and health insurance, but the financial support is insufficient to allow you to actually live as an adult person and it’s in a very real sense a prison that keeps you trapped in poverty.

Disability supports are often not actually about saving disabled lives or about creating a society where illness and disability are not a death sentence but about creating the illusion that something is being done while actually punishing people for daring to continue existing.

The hardships imposed by disability are such that it’s not uncommon for many of us to end up with severe depression and suicidal ideation. We are often forced to wonder whether there is even a point in continuing living since clearly we are unwanted and worthless. Many of us are forced to beg– either on the streets, or like I have been doing through crowdfunding. We beg just to be able to get our meds, or have food, or be able to afford the very things we need to survive. We beg for our lives – the exact scenario that disability supports where theoretically created to avoid.

We are treated like criminals and children at the same time, being expected to send in every single dollar we’ve managed to receive either through begging, work, or even just as gifts. If they deem that the medical expenses we spend them on aren’t valid enough, or the gifts too generous, the result is to cut our benefits- meaning money that we hope can be used to maybe pull us out of this poverty whole instead can result in us being punished for HAVING that support. We are required to provide them with our back accounts and statements. The assumption always being that we are all just waiting to take advantage of the system.

What makes it all worse is that for some people doing the fraudulent thing or sometimes even the illegal thing might be the only way possible for them to stay alive. I am not condoning committing fraud or breaking the law but I am acknowledging that there are times when those actions are not the result of choice or free will but necessity. In the same way that you can’t be prosecuted for a crime you were forced to commit at gunpoint, we need to acknowledge that when the choice is starvation, extreme pain, or even death – then the actions taken to prevent those occurrences are similarly being done under duress.

Even within a system that oppresses everyone who is on it, there is still the interplay of other privileges. If I wasn’t as familiar with law and how to get the most out of policies, I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am – and that’s me saying that while risking homelessness.

If I didn’t have the support of friends and readers who help me by supporting my patreon or buying my art or sending me money frequently to help me buy my meds and just get by, then very likely I would have starved, ended up on the streets, or even died long ago.

If I didn’t have a support worker who recognized my meds as being legitimate medical expenses, then my access to my meds would have been severely compromised and I would likely have spent a lot more time in the hospital than I already do.

If I wasn’t white and so more likely to receive pain meds and treatment from doctors, then my ability to do the things that I do to get by would be severely compromised.

Its just one of the ways that privilege can exist even when facing undue discrimination and hardships every day and further shows why gatekeeping with regards to access is so very dangerous.

While disability support is an improvement over what the situation used to be, there is a massive need for a shift in attitude regarding its existence and the existence of welfare as well. Right now, people who are on these forms of support are considered worthless and as though their continued survival through the existence of these systems is a privilege and gift bestowed on them by those “actually” making a contribution. We see this in the rhetoric around both forms of social support as well as in the ways it is structured to be difficult to qualify for and set up to remind us every single day that we are scum who are lucky to receive the crumbs from the tabled of our betters and selfish for wanting more.

The horrible irony of course is that that same attitude and set up actually causes more drain on society. Someone who doesn’t have enough to live on, and who is punished for earning the remainder needed by having the original support cut and thus further becoming not enough to live on – is in turn forced to beg.

Our economic system is based on the need for both consumers and employees. Both acts – being a consumer, and working, contribute to economic health. We pay taxes on purchases just like we do on our wages. Moreover, the use of services and the consumption of products creates a demand for those services to be provided, and for those products to be made. Regardless of which political tactics we are talking about – the supposed creation of more money to spend through tax cuts or the creation of more money to spend by lessening the financial burden of basic survival in the forms of programs like socialized healthcare – the end goal is ultimately always the same: to encourage people to spend more money.

The marks of a healthy economy are when the populace is spending freely – buying houses, buying cars, going on vacations, going out to restaurants, buying toys, buying cereal, and so on. Wealth generates more wealth, while scarcity, in turn, generates more scarcity. When people don’t have enough for basic survival needs like housing, like food, like healthcare, like education, then they can’t spend money on things falling outside of those categories. Without the demand for those products, there becomes little reason to create a supply and so those industries dry up and disappear. We’ve seen exactly this result in the last several years in every single industry that has been so called “killed by millennials.”

If I can’t afford to even rent myself a bachelor apartment far outside of town, with no access to public transportation, to grocery, and so on – than what are the chances that I will ever be able to buy a house. And when that condition is Imposed on me by employers who won’t pay me a living wage, or by a society that decides that my having a disability means that I must live in abject poverty – then how fair is it to place the blame for that industries death on my shoulders. How am I considered the one to have delivered the fatal blow when I lie here dying next to it, too weak to lift myself let alone a weapon?

By being too poor to even acquire the necessities of survival, I become unable to contribute to the economy either as employee or as consumer. At that point, I do become a burden on society since the support I receive neither fulfills the stated desire of allowing me to live despite my impairments nor does it channel its way back into the pockets of those contributing to the support being provided. My being a burden is not actually an implicit aspect of being on disability and/or being disabled but is being imposed on me externally.

When people complain about having to pay taxes to provide social assistance and object to increases in the amount of support provided – it becomes akin to tying someone’s legs and arms together, and then complaining about having to carry them and blaming them for it.

When the discussion, as it so often does, ends up focusing on eliminating disability through eugenics programs and just letting those who are too sick to work, or whose disabilities mean they can’t navigate the inaccessible worlds we’ve created: it’s like tying someone up while they slept, throwing them in a pen with starving lions, and claiming that you didn’t carry any of the blame. That it was just “survival of the fittest.”

The inaccessible world we live in that creates unnecessary barriers for people with certain physical impairments were created BY US. By human beings and our decisions of how to build our homes, how to structure our societies, by our decisions of who to value and who to cast off as being less than.  See also intersectionality.

We have the knowledge, technology, and ability to make inaccessibility a thing of the past. Many of the people who exist on disability wouldn’t have to rely on it if there weren’t so many barriers kept in place to prevent them from being full members of society. If those same barriers didn’t make tasks that should be simple take twice as long, so that merely taking care of yourself becomes a full-time job – not because you aren’t able to but because other people’s decisions are preventing you from being able to.

One of those barriers is the presumption that our inabilities are inherent to our disabilities and not externally imposed on us. It’s the presumption of incompetence that ends up leading to other people believing they know better than we do what we need, or when we need it, or how we need it.

It’s the starting assumption that I have nothing to offer to society and that my being allowed to even struggle rather than being instantly eliminated is a gift being given to me. That when I do offer something to society, that it’s something outside of my disability and done in spite of it, rather than as much a part of me as my disability is. That my accomplishments are somehow more impressive because I’m disabled and so I’ve overcome some “internal” flaw, rather than being impressive in their own right and made more so because I’ve overcome externally imposed barriers put there by those admiring me now and who refuse to accept their role in erecting those barriers.

It’s the attitude that our needs our somehow “special” rather than just needs like those of any other person. That providing those needs to us in the same was that they’re provided to others is somehow more of a burden and so a gift rather than a fucking necessity.

It’s the assumption that our physical impairments are necessarily social ones as well, without acknowledging the ways in which the social barriers are being erected by you in exactly the same ways that the physical ones are.

It’s the presumption that being abled is somehow the “normal” state and that all of us exist as abnormalities rather than accepting that our existence is as normal as yours and that while some of us may never become abled, the same cannot be said as a potential possibility for every single abled person out there. That eventually every abled person reaches a state much closer to ours if allowed to live long enough, so that every creation of accessibility is ultimately self-serving rather that generosity.

It’s the act of segregating us from society so thoroughly through inaccessibility that you can pretend that we are so few as to statistically be non-existent. That you can pretend that this pain and suffering is only imposed on a few rather than an increasingly vast number of people. That you can pretend that its so rare that it doesn’t happen.

It’s the act of willfully making us invisible than claiming you didn’t see us.

I refuse to be invisible. I refuse to be silent as I’m being suffocated to death by people who claim to give a fuck whether I live or die, then tell me to stop being dramatic when I ask them to stop killing me. And I’m not alone. Where will you be? Standing beside us and as our witness? Or will your willful ignorance and willful blindness make you another hand at our throats?

{advertisement}
I NEED YOU TO STAND WITNESS
{advertisement}
The Bolingbrook Babbler:  The unbelievable truth is now at freethoughtblogs.com/babbler

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *