Gent Family, Day 3

Not enjoying a beer at a Sloan concert…

seems a fairly modest sacrifice, and low on the list of tragedies befalling someone down on their luck, but I found myself actually more upset about this missed opportunity than many others during the challenge thus far. Jen and I had tickets to see the band Sloan at the Commodore last night, something we had planned for a while, and not food, so we attended, still recognizing that this is not the sort of opportunity someone on income assistance would ever consider on the budget they face. At the venue we were consistently “encouraged” to order ourselves a beverage, both by wait staff, likely dependent on the tips to meet anything like a living wage, and by our own internal voices, saying, wouldn’t it be nice to have a libation or snack to complement this night out – as we have at so many others.

“What do people on welfare do on dates?” Jen wonders aloud. “Like what if we wanted to have a good time? There are only so many strolls we could take, and besides we’d have to schedule when to soak beans.” We think about the indignity of expecting that poor people do not require entertainment or cultural experiences, let alone having enough to eat or a decent place to live. The show was tremendous, and I was particularly struck by the lyric from their song The Rest of my Life, where the entire crowd sings in unison “I know that I’ll be living it in Canada” – a proud anthem which not only rocks, but reinforces a sense of identity and pride in the national entity many of us consider one of the best places to live in the world. I felt the pride surging, but then reflected on some serious shame in how we treat the most vulnerable and marginalized.

I also further reflected on another public policy refrain from our brothers and sisters working, volunteering and supporting arts organizations, who are also consistently underfunded, and forced to hear the rhetoric of “tough choices” when told that we simply can’t afford to have resources allocated here. Investments in arts and culture are not recognized for the full value they create. Nourishment takes many forms, and humanity extends well beyond our physical needs, as does citizenship. Raise the damn rates!

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