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Nyet, Comrade Jerksky

July 4, 2013

This is my first post in ages, and I’m glad to be back. Sorry for the absence, but I haven’t been too articulate as of late.  But Rico got his word back, and he’s happy about it!

Anyhoo, I’ve been speaking with a friend about “Zen-ing” out and going with the flow.  I’m not very mellow in practice, though I try to be in principle.  I’ve always found that a specifically Buddhist notion of detachment and/or eventual non-attachment a little too … I dunno. I am not interested in ignoring, let alone denying, my fundamental humanity — I’m as Klingon as I am Vulcan (sorry for that, but everything does relate to movies!).  I’m not out to escape samsara, either.

Rather, I muddle through, hoping to learn from experience.  But the key for me is to have a memory of the “selective” or “goldfish” variety. I mean that honestly. I also need to explain. If I find anything positive in a bad situation, I’ll hang onto it. But I forcibly eject the bad, and my jettisoning of the negative is often a total erasure….

Usually it’s the specifics, the details that vanish, whilst the overall tone and lesson are retained. I remember my dad was often a jerk, but by “redacting” the details of his jerkhood, I can consign that jerkdom, that jerkosity, to the very gulag where Stalin sent his proscribed functionaries: like the group photos in Pravda so clumsily air-brushed, with formerly essential Politburo members suddenly vanished as if they’d never existed, my memory has distinct and obvious doctored gaps which the vast proletariat of my consciousness just kind of ignores.

But of course, it is necessary for there to be, at some level, an aspect of me which is like a detached Western historian and East Block watcher, who studiously notes every movement of every apparatchik. That serves as the record of a life, and I suppose a life’s underlying text — aware but detached, providing a narrative arc or line-through or historian’s thematic account. When consulted in the proper frame of mind, it can teach the lessons of history so that I don’t repeat it.  I can in turn tip my hat to the new constitution, take a bow for the new revolution … and get out my guitar and play, just like every goddamn day, knowing that I won’t be fooled too often.



Premier Kathleen Wynne: Don’t Kill ODSP to Save It

April 27, 2013

ODSP – the Ontario Disability Support Program – is set to be transformed. Premier Kathleen Wynne (contact her here) intends to impose austerity measures and wreck the structure of the program. If she has her way, the Province will quit providing ODSP and OW supports, dropping this responsibility on the municipalities. That alone is rather idiotic, but what concerns us mostly is the impact on support recipients. This is what is on the books:


A) ODSP and OW are to be rolled into one program, resulting in:


1) A net increase in the base monthly rate for OW recipients, but a net drop for ODSP recipients. I’ve heard many figures and timelines being bandied about, but to my knowledge there is no official word on a proposed schedule or dollar amount for the new base rate. All we know is that it will be lower than the current levels, which for a single recipient max out at $596 for basic needs (food, clothing, etc.). The shelter amount, so far as I know, is not going to be touched, and I gather it will remain at (again, for a single recipient) $479.


No matter what, then, folks will be living on less than the current $1075/mo, which, depending on what index you use and where you live in Ontario, is already $3000 to $5000 below the poverty line annually.


2) All ODSP recipients will be required to enrol, like OW recipients currently, in the Pathways to Employment plan. That is, they will all be required to conduct monitored job searches and enter into employer-directed training programs (with a dispensation, upon review, for the unemployable). Yes – the government intends to make disability benefits incumbent upon mandatory employment schemes. The government is forgetting that most people on ODSP actually can’t work, or can’t find decent work, or don’t have physical access to such employment as is available. Almost every ODSP recipient I know who can work pretty much already does – and that despite some pretty nasty disincentives already in place (more on which below).


Of course, the government is also forgetting that such paternalistic stipulations impinge upon personal liberty and the dignity of free choice. Compulsion is not an acceptable principle of governance, and compulsion can take many forms: not just the form of threats, but also the form of the type of bad faith that puts people already at risk at a further disadvantage by having to constantly account for, justify, and thus humiliate themselves in order to obtain the essentials. It’s a matter of basic human decency.


B) ODSP recipients who require an income supplement to cover special dietary costs will lose it.


So if you’re on ODSP, make sure you don’t have Cystic Fibrosis, Huntington’s, Muscular Dystrophy, Congestive Heart Failure, HIV/AIDS or any of the many, many conditions for which you used to get an extra $30 to $242  in the form of a special dietary allowance. This is truly unfortunate and nonsensical. The conditions covered are severe, the need is obvious, and the amounts currently on offer are small.


C) ODSP recipients who work will lose even more than they already do under the Ministry’s clawbacks.


This is the disincentive referred to above. The Ministry has always (ostensibly) wanted us to work, and to encourage us to do so, it tacks an additional $100 to our support cheques during months when we report income earnings, as recompense, I suppose, for sheer fact of having a job … but of course promptly claws back from our cheque 50% of what we earned through work! There have been many complaints that this was unfair, so the proposal is to ditch that entire structure: no more 50% clawback on all income, but no more $100 bonus either.


Instead, the government will allow recipients a ceiling of $200, below which they can keep all earnings, clear of restrictions. Above $200, there would still be a clawback, however – a 57% clawback! I won’t do the math for you (these people did: click on “Backgrounder — Earned Income Implications” and scroll to page 3), but trust me: in the end, unless you report precisely $200 a month (at which point you break even under both the current and proposed structures), you lose.  It’s odd, but if you report ANY amount higher or lower than exactly $200, you will come out with LESS than you do under the current system. Bottom line: the government wants to mandate that recipients work, yet simultaneously penalize them for putting in more than 5 hours a week at minimum wage.


It’s a lose-lose-lose situation, with perhaps a fourth ‘lose’ tossed in given that there is no indication that the government will actually stand to gain by this.


Remember: this is going to be dumped on already cash-strapped municipalities: municipalities that are chasing their tails and panicking already on account of diminishing transfer payments and shrinking local tax revenues. Governmental logic: the fewer the jobs there are in a community, the poorer the community. The poorer the community, the greater the number of assistance recipients. Thus, let’s make those *communities* responsible for looking after more social assistance recipients than they possibly can, and make those recipients responsible for getting jobs that don’t exist.


It’s the ouroboros – the snake which devours its own tail. Perhaps the government really does see the poor as a nuisance, something to be dispensed with, and they’re hoping the snake will succeed at eating itself entirely, until it vanishes with a pop….


Mad Pride Toronto 2013: Call for Submissions

March 31, 2013

Hello, all!  It’s been a while, I know.  It might be a while before I post again, so I don’t want to forget the following call for submissions for Mad Pride 2013!  Once again, I hope to be involved.


Call for Submissions to Mad Pride Toronto 2013

Monday, July 8 to Sunday, July 14

Mad Pride is an arts, culture, and heritage festival created by
psychiatric survivors, consumers, mad people, folks the world has
labeled “mentally ill”, and those in solidarity with us.

Mad Pride is about:
•remembering and participating in mad history
•challenging discrimination
•advocating for rights
•affirming mad identities
•developing and empowering mad communities
•having fun!

Our lives and contributions are valuable and need celebration!

Do you want to host a consumer/survivor-driven event, performance,
talk, presentation, film, or panel discussion at Mad Pride Toronto
2013? Please let us know via our event submission form – which will be
available on our website at or by calling Tina at
416 926-9762 x 245. Contact:

Do you want to submit to our second juried Art Exhibition? We invite
two dimensional, sculptural, or time-based art submissions from
psychiatric survivors, consumers, and mad people. Contact: Martine at

If you are a consumer/survivor and would like to display/sell your
art, crafts, buttons, t-shirts, knitting, zines, books, music, baked
goods or promote your blog, website, group, network, idea, consider
requesting a table at the Mad Market. Contact:

Deadline: Friday, April 26th, 2013

Do you want to get involved in making Mad Pride Toronto 2013 happen?
Check out for more information on joining the Mad
Pride Toronto 2013 Organizing Committee and to complete a Statement of

Systems Theory, And Why Norms Are Good But Madness Is Better

August 14, 2012

I have yet again come up with a list of unsupported assertions.  They’re not remotely testable, and perhaps they make sense only to me (they’re based on my potted knowledge of systems theory) — but they are enough for me to confidently use them as a sort of quantum backgrounder or set of position points on how I view mental health issues.  Got your stompers on?  Then wade in! Read more…

The Author Asserts His Independence

July 27, 2012

What follows is a lengthy, and I hope rewarding, position piece that I initially wrote up in reply to two friends who commented on a declaration I made recently to focus on remunerative writing only.  (To date, I have done the bulk of my readings and writing here pro bono as a community volunteer.  I love doing so, but I also need to eat.  Writing is not just an art, it’s a trade, and tradesmen need to get paid.)   This is the original declaration, A Quick Note on Professionalism, as found on my literary blog. The specific prompt came from the one friend’s implication (so far as I can tell) that all labels are self-limiting, and especially that of ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) recipient.  In her own ironic way, she also riffed on the issue of trying to put a cash value on creativity. Read more…

Conditions at our hospital: an open letter to the Director of Patient Safety and Relations

June 12, 2012

GBHS: a slab o’ health. Copyright 2007, Wikipedia

I’m interrupting my self-imposed hiatus from activism to bring you a little (or rather, a big) something fellow Survivor Melanie Knapp and I have been working on.  It’s part of our Project for Positive Change in Grey and Bruce.  Here is the text of a letter we have sent to the Director of Patient Safety and Relations at our local hospital.  It’s our little  Wittenberg moment.  I’d encourage you to plough through it, long though it be, because it reveals in no uncertain terms what we’re up against here. Read more…

Mad Pride Toronto 2012: Call for Submissions … and a Hiatus in the Hiatus

May 13, 2012

© 2012 Sarafin

Unbeknownst to myself, I’ve found myself on hiatus while I work like the dickens (or Dickens, if you prefer) on literary and musical projects.  Yup.  My poetry proceeds apace (see here — and note that this page needs updating), as do the song lyrics (a new direction for me!).  The stuff has taken over my life, for which I am grateful.  But I do not wish to neglect WunderNutbar any more than I have to!

So I’d like to remind you all to clear some space on your calendars for MAD PRIDE 2012!!!  I think it’s going to be better than ever.  And we really want your involvement in this!  Read more…