Ratlrcast – Episode 4 – Stuart Clark

Episode 4 – The Ratlrcast Stuart Clark

Stuart is a 40 something LAN and TSM Administrator for one of the larger insurance groups in the world. His other ventures also include photography and consulting services for individuals and small businesses. Stuart is passionate about citizen engagement particularly in local government and open data. He also does work at The Unlab . We talk his early influences, the power of flight, community engagement, and his about his secret work for NASA Stuart also does a dramtic reading. You can follow Stuart on twitter @stuartclark or visit his website : http://stuartclark.ca/ Join me for more interviews at http://www.cageratlr.com

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The Ratlrcast – Episode 3 – Dr. Mike Battista. aka Phronk

Today I interview that madcap that insightful maven Phronk. Mike has recently received his PHD in Psychology from the University of Western Ontario and works as a research analyst at a leading IT firm.

Mike is a prolific tweeter and has a popular blog @ http://www.phronk.com/  Mike has presented at Ignite London and most recently at Podcamp London 2011 on the effect of horror movies – do we really like them.

You can follow Mike on twitter @phronk and don’t forget about the bacon festival on July 1st – http://www.eatlocallondon.com/2011/06/the-great-canadian-bacon-festival.html

Join me for more interviews at http://www.cageratlr.com

Why this is the best fathers day ever

Many of you know that my beautiful daughter has a mental illness and that her life, as well as that of  my wife and I, has been a struggle for many years. She has Bi-polar disorder. It’s an medical  illness not a choice.

Recently she got in allot of trouble in school. The result is that she is suspended, probably her 8th or 12th time this year, and the police are involved and we’re in the shit. Her school principle has worked hard with us, as has her EA’s and teachers but they have only so much patience and only some of them understand how hard it is to move forward or the context of mental illness and it’s effect on our girl. But because she can’t control her anxiety level and the way she feels when she’s anxious she can be at times violent and verbally abusive. She has little control of her emotional state when stressed.

So if you want to know what this translates to in real life read on.

My daughter never got to be in a school play. My daughter never got invited over to friends houses. My daughter never had friends in school. My daughter talks about ending her life and how no one in the world cares about her when she is in a heightened state.

But this year, her first in high school, she actually has some friends.. As a matter of fact one of her school friends felt so bad for my girl over what recently happened and wanted her to feel better and cared for so much that one of them came across town to give her a “feel better” gift. This is a good thing. This is an amazing thing. This is a new thing.

My wife and I have attended hundreds of meetings since she entered the school system, we have argued, advocated, pushed, cajoled, begged, and have never once stopped trying to make the people in our community understand what our daughter and by extension  others need. We have also spent a huge amount of time advocating for other parents who have as bad and many times worse experiences with their child, school, service providers, because my wife and I made a promise to do everything we could so another parent didn’t have to go through what we did.

In Ontario there are more than 450,000 children and youth who have a diagnosed mental illness. Of this huge group only 1 in 5 are getting any help at all and suicide is the leading cause of non accidental death in Ontario. You can add up cancer, diabetes, car accidents, and everything else together and it does not add up to the number of young people in pain that end their life. We as a province fund helping parents and their children in as small a way as possible.

Today, this 15th fathers day for me, we had to talk to our daughter about how serious things have gotten at school. This isn’t the first time we’ve had this conversation, it’s about the millionth, but this time the police have been involved and the stakes are higher. Our girl freaked out and was terrified. We talked through this, we had to all take a time out, but we came back together to come up with a plan. We’ll try this plan out and it might work or it might not. I hope it does. I always do.

Some of you have tried to be “helpful” and said to me “ well she just needs to be disciplined, your too easy on her.” Some of you have said “ she needs to learn the consequences of her actions and if she ends up in jail well then she’ll learn.” Some of you have said “ have you tried this vitamin or that miracle cure” or once someone suggested putting a collar on her and giving her an electrical shock when she’s “misbehaving”. Many have said that this is behaviour and behaviour needs to be addressed. It’s not behaviour. It’s a symptom. Any of these “suggestions” are the equivalent of saying to someone who is a paraplegic that “ if you wanted to you’d just get up and walk”. But because it’s a mental illness well that’s not the same. But it is.

The reason this is the best fathers day though is that fathers day, as every day for a caring dad, is about doing the hard work of raising your child so that they have the options to get to the place where their dreams lead them. For any parent it is never a straight forward process. There are always struggles, hurts, triumphs and worries. But for me is is a privilege.

It is a privilege to be a father. It is a privilege to have my daughter in my life. It is a privilege to struggle with her and to keep trying and trying, especially when things are hard and especially when were in the shit.

This is my best fathers day ever because I get to be a father to my daughter.

Shame and the social help

James Shelley, a London thinker, posted something on  his blog http://www.jamesshelley.net that got me thinking about victims and heroes. Part of his point was “ Your closest circle of human relationships is comprised of individuals who are neither victims, villains or heroes toward you (or one another). Where power triad exists,common unity is altogether impossible. This ought to give us pause when we consider the manner by which we run “social programs” as a society. It seems that most altruistic, religious, and community service organizations are founded upon doctrines of heroism: “We will save you!” Tragically and inadvertently, many of the best intentioned social programs thus reinforce the power dynamics that victimized clients and recipients in the first place. The whole system needs a serious rethink from the roots of human interaction up, not from the rhetoric of hero ideologies down!”(please read the whole post here)

I have very briefly met James at Pod Camp London 2011 where he spoke eloquently about whether  to create, consume, or stream and where we as individuals fit on the continuum. The ideas behind this speech seem to come form his post here and I encourage you to read it. James is a thoughtful contributor to our ideas on society and the world but in his post I think there is something else to think about before heroism and victimhood and those roles within assisting our fellow humans. That thing is shame.

Shame is defined by the free dictionary as” A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace” and according to cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict, “shame is a violation of cultural or social values”. This is for me the sticking point and the place where we need to start in our value of anyone that by their own admission is suffering. That part by the way, by their own admission, is the fundamental step for me in offering my resources to anyone who asks me and is also the place where shame inserts itself in to the communities collective will to help and that individuals sense of self.

The formula for me goes something like this. I need help with X, where X is the issue I’m facing. If I need help with X then I must be less than or less capable than those people who do not have this issue. I feel this way because my society says that if I need help with X then I am unworthy or pitied in society. Because I have issue X and cannot deal with it myself independently then I feel shame. I feel shame because I have violated a cultural or social value of self reliance and the ability to take care of myself and my issue. If I feel shame then my status in my own eyes and societies is lower than those who do not need it and I swing easily into victimhood. If I am a victim and my status is lower then the helper or the hero,  then the helper or hero has a higher status. Then we end up exactly in that unequal power dynamic James was talking about: victimhood and heroism.

I think the place we must begin to work on as individuals is that sense of shame when we need help. This is true for mental health, violent crime, rape, poverty, homelessness or any other destructive social/medical force at work in our communities. We must work on removing the shame of needing help. That for me is an individual struggle and something once achieved can be passed on to our children, family, and friends.

Now you might say, and quite rightly, what about those people who are already feeling that shame and helplessness/victimhood? What can we do to help them? That is a loaded and dangerous question for me because personally I need to examine why I want to help. Do I want to be the hero? Do I want to feel superior or tick that “do something good” box on my list of things to do?  These all raise my status and raising my status for me leads to my being the hero.

What I have begun consciously thinking, and not always successfully, is that my first responsibility is to offer my status as equal to anyone that may need my assistance. My second responsibility is to find out if my assistance is needed or asked for? My third responsibly is if it is asked for then to offer that assistance without raising my status and lowering someone else’s. My greatest responsibility though is to not treat any of these issues like they are an obstacle in my day or an inconvenience when my assistance is sought. I cannot ignore pain and I can only assist if I see the person I am assisting within the same status as I see myself. Also as importantly I can only offer that assistance if i am capable of sharing it.

If we can begin to think consciously when we see someone who is homeless/in poverty/in crisis/in need of comfort in this way then maybe we equal what is often an unequal relationship with our fellow community members. While this is not a clean, works in every situation , good for everyone , answer to our collective welfare it is something for me that can work and if we work on it we may be able to eliminate the creep of shame.

Lets stick it to those folks on welfare one more time – UPDATED

THIS STORY IS NOT TRUE – NO NEWS SITE OR THE GOVERNMENT OF NEW BRUNSWICKS WEBSITE HAVE ANY REFERENCE TO DRUG TESTING WELFARE RECIPIENTS 

A friend and really decent man posted on Facebook something that floored me.

Here’s what he reacted to which was posted on Facebook”“New Brunswick is the first province that will require drug testing when applying for welfare (effective July 1st)! Some people are crying this is unconstitutional. How is this unconstitutional?? “

Bill responded this way

“First of all, the idea that people should have to pass a drug test to qualify for welfare is ridiculous. Is the system abused? At times. Show me one system in our society that’s not. I suspect more six figure business people are guilty of tax evasion or fraud. And also, maybe this didn’t originate in this province but I don’t know anyone who works and has to pass a drug test. Where are they getting this every working person shit? While we’re at it why don’t we stop giving healthcare to people who smoke? And there are people who have posted this on my own friends list who work and wouldn’t pass a drug test to save their lives. Not only that, there’s people on my friends list who are guilty of all sorts of shit and yet sit on their pedestal and post bullshit like this.

What really pisses me off is that there are very few people who post things such as this that actually know what they’re talking about.  They see a chance to save a buck and they jump on it without any serious consideration.  Rather than cut off the life line for people who struggle with addictions why don’t we focus on fixing the problem?  What do you think will happen when they no longer have the money to eat or live?  Crime goes up and every precious penny you saved (not really because drug testing is not cheap) is going to house them in jail or put more police in place to deal with the crime.  In all honestly, this idiotic plan would likely cost tax payers more money in the long run anyway.

I’m not against checks and balances but let’s not just target those who are desperate.  Let’s start at the top of the food chain and work our way down.”

My opinion is this – it’s easy to pontificate from the middle class or wealthy safety of our collective perch, but I work with people at the bottom of the food chain every day and I have to say that almost all of them would do anything to get of welfare. Here in Ontario it’s hard enough – see my post on this –  but now there is a rumor the government of New Brunswick has added drug testing for those on welfare as of July 1st. Happy Canada Day!

These were some of the comments on Bills Post:

  • Sometimes you just have to hit rock bottom. As long as those that are on welfare using their money for drugs, all we are doing is enabling them. There are lots of people out there that have to pass drug tests for their jobs. Anyone who w…See More
    15 minutes ago ·
  •  I’m in law enforcement and I’m not tested. Are teachers tested before they teach children? How about daycare providers? Should we drug test everyone who wants a student loan from our government? I don’t want a few bucks in student loan money to go to someones drug habit.
    11 minutes ago ·
  • All I read was people who smoke shouldn’t get health care, which I agree with
    10 minutes ago ·
  • This is in reference to welfare and welfare only. Im yet to see legit reasons why anyone is on welfare for more than a few months its intended to help ppl get back on their feet, its not meant to be lived on for their lively hoods.
    9 minutes ago ·
  • Dont say its lack of jobs, I have nothing more than high school. I was fired from a job, and within 2 weeks i had a job, and most of that time I was not even trying, I could have probably started sooner.
  •  out here, most people are drug tested for jobs…why not test those who want a free handout. If you need welfare, you shouldn’t be buying drugs with it. If you’re an addict, tough.
    6 minutes ago ·
  • The point is it shouldn’t be in reference to welfare only. It’s saying that the way welfare is used is abused. I’m saying that we should not just be targeting those on welfare. There’s lots of places where we waste money in our society. It’s wrong to target one specific group of people.
    6 minutes ago ·
  •  drug test everyone!
  • Its hard to get ‘back on your feet’ when the government requires you to use up all of your entire savings and sell all of your assests before they will even give you money. Imagine, getting the BARE minimum where you can’t even afford half of what other people see as necessities. People who do get a job on top of their welfare, get that money taken away. How does this help someone get out of the hole?
  • I agree, drug test everyone. Great idea but once you do that you’ve no longer saved a dime. So what was the point?
  • I will piss in a cup…… Done. who wants to test it.

    4 minutes ago ·
  • those deserving get, those who don’t don’t…

    4 minutes ago ·
  • Plain and simple, everyone should be free to do what they please. There are always people who will abuse something, there is no way to have complete control (ask parents, they try to do that daily with their teens). But just because a few people abuse something – doesn’t mean that everyone should be affected.

    4 minutes ago ·
  •  if people are using the system properly…then a drug test shouldn’t bother them. Only people abusing the system are pissed, cuz the free drugs are over…

    3 minutes ago ·
  •  well anyone who legitimacy uses welfare should have no problem with being tested.

    3 minutes ago ·
  •  If I was poor and living the way people have to when receiving social assistance…I’d probably want to be DRUNK off my ass every day.

    3 minutes ago ·
  • And the idea of someone who is an addict doesn’t deserve help is exactly the kind of ignorant thinking that ought to scare the shit out of most Canadians.

    3 minutes ago.
  •  help the addict, don’t give them money to buy drugs3 minutes ago ·
  •  Every resolution to the problems, its the ones who abuse who make a stink about it. They tried food stamps ppl just sold them. Should we make the recipients provide and itemized statement of where they spent their money?

    2 minutes ago ·
  • it’s a stupid ignorant and back ass idea. I know 100’s of people who for what ever reason are on welfare. It’s easy to say “get a job” or I did this or I did that but the fact is once your on welfare, something I am fortunate enough to have never experenced, its incredilby hard to get off. they don’t allow you to have more than $1000 IN assets, you have to show your bank records, your hydro bill, and liquidate rrsps. Learn something about this before you jump in and try treating people like they’re people and not an annoyance that you can pontificate on.
    I can’t begin to tell you how sickening it is to see people piling on because they think that “those welfare types need to be put in their place.” or ” Well if they had nothing to fear what’s the problem?” THE PROBLEM IS IS THAT IT’S DEGRADING AND INHUMANE TO TREAT PEOPLE LIKE THEY’RE A PROBLEM!
    Here’s a story I heard – man gets caught stealing something. He’s in a wheelchair and he’s there cause he has flesh-eating disease from injection drug use and he’s gotta steal some stuff because:
    1. The pain medication he’s on can’t be taken with the methadone which he was using to fight his addiction.
    2. His Doctor is away on vacation and forgot to refill his prescription.
    3. He needs something to kill the pain he’s in both mentally and physically.
    4. It’s the weekend and he’s got no access to his worker.
    So he gets arrested for theft and the result is that he’s humiliated, he’s in pain. and it cost us a fortune in police, jail,  and medical attention rather than funding the care that he needs without pre conditions. We need to be making sure that he has everything he needs to get his life back to where he wants it to be. You think he wants to be an addict? You think people want to be on welfare and have to justify everything you spend?
    What happened to the idea that we are our brothers and sisters keepers because we want them to be our keepers and care givers when we need it.

Ratlrcast – Episode 2: Kevin Van Lierop

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Today I interview Kevin Van Lierop  – Energizer at Emerging Leaders London Community Network/ Podcamplondon 2011/Social Media Documentarian at LOLAfest/ and Owner & Photographer at MugShot Lounge,

Born and raised in London, Kevin has been ‘schooled’ in a combination of disciplines which he has found a unique way to combine into a love and passion for the places he calls home. From heritage studies, to urban planning and education, Kevin has a strong connection to both the University of Western Ontario (King’s University College) and Fanshawe College.

Prior to coming on board with Emerging Leaders London as it’s Community Energizer, Kevin worked both as a Research Associate and Faculty Member at the  University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College, respectively. In addition and more recently, Kevin started his own business dedicated to creating unique, relaxed and engaging photographic experiences at events across the region; you may have heard of it, it’s called the MugShot Lounge (www.mugshotlounge.com).

We talk about Emerging Leaders London, Battledecks/Teleportation and Time travel and about his vision of London Ontario – also Kevin does a dramatic reading. You can follow Kevin on twitter @kvl or visit his website : http://www.kevinvanlierop.com

Join me for more interviews at www.cageratlr.com or download the podcast here: Ratlrcast Episode 2

Ratlrcast – Episode 1: Titus Ferguson

Episode 1 – The Ratlrcast – Titus Ferguson

Today I interview Titus Ferguson of rtraction/The Unlab/ and Podcamplondon 2011.

Titus is an active leader in new and social media field in London Ontario. He has been the Director of New Media at the Lola festival, Co-founder of Unlondon and Co-founder of the Geek Dinners. Titus can be found on Twitter @titusferguson or his website http://titusferguson.com

We talk about Podcamp London 2011, the Unlab, and about the future of new media in London Ontario – also Titus sings for me.

Join me for more interviews at http://www.cageratlr.com