what to do when activist worlds do not overlap

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what to do when activist worlds do not overlap

cognitive dissonance: crossing worlds
I spent after the morning in court with a variety of clients who have been arrested for minor charges that result from being poor and homeless I spent a large part of the day in drop in centres in the community. The range of problems with my clients confront is intense and varied. One of the individuals I worked with today is very disabled client who was told he could not apply for ODSP because his small workplace pension, $575, was too much income. His rent is $270. It was true he has too much income to apply for welfare but I see no reason why he cannot apply for ODSP. No one at the welfare office to explained the difference between the programs. He is on the cusp of eviction. Tomorrow I will take him to the ODSP office to pick up application process.
I met with a very young woman who lives with a combination of cognitive delay, anxiety disorder and physical disabilities. Her ODSP benefits have been cut off because she didn't send the additional medical documentation. She is currently enrolled in a for-profit film school and has taken an OSAP laon to pay the tuition. This is the first month she has ever lived on her own. She is $500 and no income. She is young, pretty and very vulnerable. We met at the drop in center. Together with staff from the agency we introduced her to the new emergency doctor and social worker to try to fast-track documentation to reinstate her ODSP and to help her learn how to stay safe so close to Toronto's homelessness.
I met with another client who has been homeless since she was 14 years old and was first hospitalised when she was in the third grade. She also lives with severe addictions. She has been sober for about 4 months and on ODSP. However 6 months ago she was arrested for theft under, assault and resist arrest when she twas accused of trying to shop lift some makeup from a drug store and got into a fight with a plain clothed security gurard. She is terrified of going to jail. Someone told her that she would not be eligible for legal aid. I told her I would represent her with or without legal aid but that I see no reason why LAO would not cover her case. She began to cry in relief. One of the social workers brought her coffee and they went to talk.
Then a massive fight broke out in the drop in. Chairs were being thrown. Staff and members were jumping in between the combatants. One of the member volunteers had been my client 3 years ago. Then she was a combatant now she is a peace maker. While my head was echoing from the screaming and the chairs my heart glowed with pride for her strengh.
Less than 20 minutes later I was sitting in a political meeting with mostly labour and student organizers. Good committed activist whom I respect and have known for many years but who I share less with every year.
I felt like I had moved to another country.


Yes the labour movement in this country failed the people....I remember working with the indigenous maya organizations of Chiapas at its height just before taking control of the State Government...everybody who worked, did anything was part of the social organizations...the jugglers in the streets, the people selling from their market stalls, whatever they could grow or get their hands on...when the crises came, tey couldn't strike...they just would shut down the system, occupy the lands whatever, till the authorities would show up to negotiate...

Yes I've been a poor peoples advocate, but wih a political agenda, organizing with the people on assistence, on UI, in the government housing complexes, with the people on the streets...and yes when the right issue or case situation came along...we'd take to the streets...

now its another era...other strategies are needed, but a political movement on behalf of the victimized of this wretched mafia capitalist system


I am finding myself less able to find emotional common ground with "straight" activists. They do wonderful work in unions and universities. However they are calmer than I am and often more idea focused than I am. I respect what they do but am not sure if I should still be working with them. Any advice?


I think it depends on the activists. I have had positive and negative interactions with them with regard to my clients. When I worked in the methadone clinic, I recall "Out of the Cold" people coming in to hand out leaflets and make sure the homeless people got sheltered on very cold days. We'd get them to leave some of the pamphlets with us so we could ask peope if they were keeping warm and tell them of places they could go if they needed.

But I can also recall one of my clients coming into the clinic intoxicated. He was alcoholic and a heroin addict, and we couldn't reach him; he has since died. Anyway, if someone is drunk, I have to refuse them methadone because the combination can kill them. So I refused to dose him and explained why; it's never a happy scene. A few minutes after he left the clinic, a couple of professional activists came in to berate me for refusing to medicate "Joe." For reasons of patient confidentiality, I could not tell them anything, so they left, presumably to spread the word about how heartless we are.

There's activists who are trying to improve things, and then there's the professional shit disturbers who like to break windows and say they are doing it on behalf of the oppressed people in the world.

I recall marching in support of Morgenthaler, back in the day. But I feel alienated from modern young feminists. They are into all this post-modernist identity politics bullshit that doesn't have anything to do with how people really live.

Anyway, just some random thoughts. I'm not sure that's what you meant, but I thought I'd share.


i recognise the post anything thought. I can remeber arguing ferociously about questions like could a lead hand be part of the working class but as Mass consumer capitalism has emisserated people my ability to see beyond my rage has deminished.