worked 24 hours Friday to Saturday–9:30-5:30 at a rape crisis centre and then from 10:30 to 8 am at a night shelter for women. whoa. I loved and hated so much about it, and i’m still knackered. The women who come into the shelter are the abandoned ones, mostly. Young women with greasy hair and furrowed brows; middle-aged women with no teeth, and swollen hands and feet; no old women at all. .
They are haunting.
Most of them are Aboriginal. One came in with a young woman. showed her where to sign in, where to get soup, where the bathrooms were. Said to us, the staff, “last night I brought in another new one” and smiled at the girl and at us. They had soup and bread and talked to some of the other women. Then the young one went over to use the free phone and the older one left. I thought for a minute there that I heard the girl on the phone crying. When she hung up, she thanked us for the soup and left. Another woman came in, and she said something about how she couldn’t function so good since her mother died. She cried a lot, and she was high and her hands shook a bit. I touched her shoulder. I said, “I’m sorry”. There’s a lot of “I’m sorry” going on, and not any “let’s get the fuckers who did this to ya” (at the very least).
This is one of the richest countries in the world. And all the “life skills” and “training” and “rehab” and “social programs” go to the folks who already have life skills–they can find the sweet places to sleep out, they can find the place to get a shower, they can teach each other how to manage, they can look out for one another and spread the word about danger or opportunities. Not to romanticize the “plucky poor”, mind you. There is such suffering that no “life skills” program in the fucking world can touch. Because they don’t get to the root of the problem. There is no room or space to grieve. There is not enough responsibility in the lives of those who line up for food, line up for a bed, line up for dental treatment, line up to go to insite* to shoot up, line up to get condoms, line up to get a pap smear, line up for ‘beauty night’…There is sooooo much money in that neighbourhood, but none of it gets to the Beautiful People. But even if it did, it would leak through their fingers like water, because cash after a lifetime (or even a few years) of lack and neglect doesn’t fill the hole.
There’s none of that “life skills” stuff for rich people. Rich people are the problem. But they don’t have to go to rehab or training or soup kitchens or beauty night. They get to be “eccentric”. They get to go to Oxygen bars and spas and therapists, even if the problems they have are the same as the poor people–lack, despair…no meaning, loneliness…they could do with some training, too, some of ’em, the rich people. ach.
I spent some time around some rich people. They’re very nice. They’re terrible with money, though, and kinda stingy. Polite, though, they always say “please” and “thank you”. The ones I hung out with anyhow. But it was weird. ’cause sometimes they were all mad and stuff, and they didn’t say, “I’m really mad”. They’d giggle, kind of. some of them. or their voices would get all sharp and monotone at the same time. Or some of ’em would go real quiet. Or they’d talk a lot and use big words and say things that would take the discussion waaaayyyyy over there, where we had not been before, and then it all got confusing.
Unequal distribution is the problem, Wealth is the problem, NOT poverty. Poverty is a problem because of wealth. If no one had too much–if everyone had enough–just enough–not too much or too little–we’d be much closer to justice and peace. Maybe everyone should have life skills training, too. but let’s not let the rich people run it, ‘kay? and for chrisssake let’s not let the men run it.
Every woman who came into that shelter, every one of them, and every woman who works at or calls the rape crisis centre and every woman who is born female and grows up to be a woman knows about male violence. Maybe some of us have not experienced it first hand, beyond, say, the odd cat call, or the pornography that popular culture has become or a teacher or co-worker or colleague saying something like, “women have achieved equality, why, I can tell you about my next door neighbour’s cousin’s ex-wife, she took him to the cleaners! and now he can’t see his kids either. Men have fewer rights now!” or some such trash.But we all know we have to watch out for the men. we have to be careful around them, and we have to be careful outside, especially after dark. We are also told we have to watch out for the strangers, but really, it’s the ones we know, the men we like, work with, play softball with, love, trust, depend upon, who are more likely to attack us. idiots. they do not understand the great gift they are throwing away.
bah. anyhow. after a shift at the night shelter, and it was a slow night, too, I was thrashed for THREE days. even today, the fourth day, i’m still not firing on all three cylinders. bah.
I am too old for this kind of thing.
*InSite is North America’s first safe injection site. Where people can go to shoot up drugs “under the watchful eyes of caring professionals”. It is a source of employment for earnest young researchers and social workers and nurses and so forth, and it is handy because the addicted can stay wired, but not be so much trouble ’cause of overdoses and leaving their rigs lying about everywhere.