I Often Find Myself Where I Was Never Expected

I’m not sure I have ever been afflicted with writers block but I do suffer from long silences. I may not put pen to paper but I am usually thinking and as a writer it is always in sentences. Even in my thoughts I manipulate language in my mind. I am often shy about posting and am minus the motivation to speak my truths. Who am I to think another would care what I conjure?
I have a scapegoat for my most recent drought. I have been without paid work in over a decade but of late I am a member of the workforce. I was employed this past decade with speaking, writing and blogging but I am closer to conventional employment these days. I’m not sure milking 1600 goats is conventional but money for manual labour is.
The majority of my work history involves sweat and most recently stiffness. I was going to write sooner of my endeavor into employment but I wasn’t confident of my commitment. For me a disability pension has been a disgrace; I always felt less or worse, lazy. These past few weeks have convinced me again that I am neither. I challenge any twenty something to outperform me in a milking parlour. I’m not bragging, I’m crying.
Writing is a sedentary lifestyle or at least mine was. I sat and smoked organizing my passion into phrases. I have been a month without tobacco and officially a goat milker. I am also officially stupid as I have found a farm where it is my responsibility alone to feed and milk over 1600 goats. That’s two barns full of frustration. Goats are fairly friendly and docile but definitely devious. A goat can see an unfastened gate from a quarter mile and any and all will squeeze through a four millimeter gap.
I’m still trying to figure out if they like to be milked. Feeding is part of the process and though it is a distraction each and every goat knows how to kick off the milking mechanism with a mouthful of food. You might ask “how do you milk 1600 goats in less than five hours?” and some day when I have five seconds or more I will figure it out. The word exhaustion will have to be a clue for now.
When I found the help wanted advertisement I thought, “That might be interesting. I like goats or the three I have met.” I now realize intense is closer than interesting when you’re talking about 1600. I want to quit for the first half of my shift which morphs into I want to finish which is followed by a 35 minute commute where I can say I just milked 1600 goats. I revel in the fact that no other driver on highway 401 is saying anything similar.
It is an agricultural assembly line of sorts but no two goats are the same. Each goat looks different from behind. I don’t have much time to compare but I am recognizing the odd rear end. One goat is freakishly bowlegged and unequivocally the only cooperative goat in the whole flock.
I bought a quart of goat’s milk as a form of job security and I encourage all my readers to do the same. I am giving a one year free subscription to my already free blog for any who mail in proof of purchase. I as yet don’t know how goat’s milk gets distributed in the area but I wouldn’t be surprised if any litre had a spoonful from “my” goats. I can’t say these goats are sweet but a lot of love goes into a gallon.
I use a staff to herd the goats from pen to parlour. I bang it on the gates and walls to speed them from place to place. One goat calmly ignores me. Number 208 waddles along and scratches herself on any and all surfaces. She reminds me not to rush in my fever of frenzy.
Another goat inspires me. It is a young buck who has a triangular wooden yoke fastened around its head to prevent it from escaping from its pen. I find myself confused about six times each night as it defies its constriction and enters and mingles with each pen of goats. I too dislike being told where to be and though not as adept as this bugger I often find myself where I was never expected.

I had a meeting with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General Peter MacKay

I was sitting at an elegant table in the elegant Shaw Centre in Ottawa. We were gathered for the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health Champions of Mental Health Awards. The Parliament Buildings were to my right as was my beautiful wife and I was simply minding my own business. A senator who didn’t look anything like Mike Duffy came round the table and gave me his business card. I smiled and gave him mine.

I noticed the Minister of Justice Peter MacKay schmoozing and posing for photographs like some redundant rock star. He seemed pleased with himself. Without warning I rose to my feet and went and stood behind him as he was speaking to a groupie. I glanced back at my wife and she had the same worried look on her face as the day I proposed to her. I gave her a wink and she started shoving dinner rolls in her purse in case we were turfed before the taters.

“Hi Mr. MacKay, my name is Brett Batten and I’m an advocate. I don’t know if you’ve ever met anyone who has lived in solitary confinement but I have spent some time there.” “In fact I have” was his response. I wondered if they too were wearing a suit and tie at the time but my immediate thought was to recall ‘Bobby the Bullshitter’ who lived around the corner when I was seven. “We’re going to Disneyland.” “I’ve been to Disneyland twelve times.” I detoured the exasperation and mentioned that I would like to discuss the issue of solitary confinement with him sometime.

“Well, that’s the portfolio of Public Safety and my portfolio is Justice.” I wasn’t sure who thought who was stupid. “I understand that but as the Attorney General you have made statements regarding solitary confinement which are misleading.” “I don’t believe I have, what did I say?” I looked around for a second as I thought we were suddenly in the House of Commons. “You said Administrative Segregation was not similar to solitary confinement in other countries.” “Well, solitary confinement in Sarajevo is different from what we find in Canada.” “Well, we are not talking about dirt floors but the dimensions and more are quite the same sir. The United Nations defines solitary confinement as any incarceration that confines a person to a cell for 22 hours a day or more without human contact.” “Well I don’t always agree with the United Nations.” (Especially when it contradicts ‘the agenda’.) “Solitary confinement is used for sex offenders to ensure their safety.” “It is predominantly used for individuals with mental illness; it is a default response to a health issue.” For someone who didn’t say anything about solitary confinement Peter seemed to hit on all the points he made in his official statement.

I decided to give him the benefit of my doubt and asked who I could speak to about the issue. “You can talk to me” and he handed me his business card asking for mine. “Where are you from?” “London!” “I’m going to be in London in a week or two, maybe we can meet.”

“I was found Not Criminally Responsible and was the individual Champion of Mental Health here last year. Pretty much in that order.” He looked surprised and at the time I wasn’t sure at which. Maybe for a minute he thought ‘Wow, I could have actually spoken to someone found Not Criminally Responsible before I shoved the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act through Parliament.’ Nothing may come of this but at least Peter MacKay can say he shook the hand of someone found Not Criminally Responsible. Good on him!

It all sounds hopeful with him coming to London for Tea and Crumpets but like the rest of the electorate I expect his political promise to be broken. It was a formal event and I’m sure he was trying to appease me but I did drive all night to get home and vacuum in case he visits. He has my business card so I hope he enjoys my Blog.

As a public service Peter MacKay’s phone number is (613) 992-4621. Just tell him Brett gave you his number.

P.S. Please don’t call me at home, I’m expecting an important call.

Ignoring inflation it cost $550 000 dollars to deal with my mental illness institutionally.

I read an article in the London Free Press regarding policing and mental health. In a survey Londoners were asked :

“What do you think is the most important crime-related or policing problem facing the community and London police?”

Mental illness replaced downtown safety/bar issues in the top five. Why do Londoners believe that mental health is a police concern? If physical health is not a police concern why is mental health? If diabetics deserve doctors from start to finish why wouldn’t people with mental illness? If we are ever going to view mental illness differently we need to insist on medical interventions rather than law enforcement interventions. Part of the problem is the widespread perception that mental illness is synonymous with dangerousness.

Less than 3% of violence is attributable to mental illness in the absence of substance abuse. If ever we notice someone we suspect as hearing voices or disoriented in their thoughts or actions or somewhat delusional we might cross the street. The truth is that on both sides of the street 97% of our vulnerability to violence comes from the people who have no mental illness. People with mental illness are more often the victims of crime than the perpetrator.

When we allow law enforcement to administer to a health concern it is little wonder that the health concern becomes stigmatized, related to crime and associated with violence. If the police escorted diabetics to the hospital we would all have similar impressions about diabetes. Consider what we visualize, assume, think, feel and understand about mental illness. Now imagine having similar perceptions for a cancer patient. It would be unfair to the diabetic person or the individual with cancer but for the mentally ill it is as it would be for others with other illnesses; a barrier to treatment and a difficulty of rehabilitation.

Five years of my life have been spent under 24 hour care 7 days a week in an institution. Ignoring inflation it cost $550 000 dollars to deal with my mental illness institutionally. If a tenth of that money was used for comprehensive treatment in my youth, I might not be writing this.

A mental health clinician paid $60 000 dollars per year could have treated me for one hour a day for 70 years.
If we continue to fund and access policing and correctional measures to deal with mental illness we will forever feed the wrong end of the cow.

We do not fight cancer by building more cemeteries.(King)

When I first started living in the community after the forensic hospital I saw a psychologist once a week, a specialized therapist once a week and my psychiatrist at least once a month. Those supports were needed initially and they would have been expensive but it was nowhere near the near $350 dollars a day it cost to keep me in an institution. People can be monitored and treated in their own homes.

I could simply say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure but people might miss the point.

We leave mental illness unanswered and instead we deliver services mainly in times of crisis. Figure out the cost of an ambulance, two police officers and a truck or two of firefighters to respond to a suicide call and with any luck deliver that person to an emergency room and possibly a psychiatric unit for an indefinite period.

Now figure out how much it would cost for a therapist to prevent it in the first place.

If the financial realization is not enough for you consider letting heart disease progress to the point where invasive measures were necessary. With every other illness we prescribe the greatest amount of medicine at the beginning because to let any illness worsen is more devastating, difficult and expensive to treat. The social costs are immeasurable.

If you were ask a child how she feels about her father finding the best treatment for his heart she would likely answer the same for helping her father with schizophrenia. The best medicine at the beginning is not rocket science.

We are stupid to continue as we do but we are wrong and inhumane to do nothing.

Should a government be allowed to use the House of Commons to propel their party back to the seats they ignore us from?

What purpose or whose purpose is being served by Bill C-51? Certain experts have been excluded while the rest are ignored. The committee process should not be a formality. The input and scrutiny of a Bill by outside experts and members affected most by a law, should be respected and listened to so there is opportunity to alter what is basically a first draft. The Conservatives are so full of themselves they believe they are a government who only needs to make one draft. Time and time again they have rammed through legislation without respecting and listening to the voices of Canadians. When this government thinks it knows better than anyone they become an elected dictatorship.

Essentially, we have a Prime Minister who keeps little council directing a group of MP’s who won’t peep or pout for fear of the head. Employees don’t fear the boss for no reason. For this entire term how many conservatives have spoken up to question the decisions or direction of the government? A bunch of Yes minions are drafting Bills and we are expected to believe they are broadly democratic and flawless in their first draft.

Since when does a room full of politicians outweigh even one expert? I don’t know how governments work but I was under the impression that laws were made with every expert being considered and listened to. What if one of them sees a huge flaw in a Bill? Wouldn’t that assist the government in passing sound and fair Bills? If the Conservatives were building a backyard garden shed they would not borrow their neighbours Skill Saw, nor ask the guy with the construction sign on his truck to look at the plans they drew up on a napkin nor listen to the YouTube tutorial. Information? Who needs information to construct, alter and employ a Bill that will affect the entire nation on some level? Stephen Harper is near a one step composer who listens to few and fewer of us.

If you think what the Conservatives are up to isn’t calculated for party promise you don’t know this government.

I don’t know what you call the Conservatives as I neither know the term for a group of powerful and self important individuals who choose only fights with groups that alone are fairly insignificant in ability to apply political resistance or in any significant way tip polls in a direction to harm the government.
The Prime Minister and his henchpeople seem to think their expertise as law makers implies an expertise in one or any corner on how and all the ramifications of a Bill as it is applied to and alters the populace. I’m a simple guy but what are the odds of a room full of conservatives knowing each and every aspect of a Bill and how or what it affects when it is employed? So the office with 100 people in it can cover all aspects of such a complicated measure while the 35 million they govern have nothing to offer as far as knowledge, perspective or expertise? Is it democracy when laws are dictated to us instead of held up to see if anyone else could add?
What permission is given by the electorate to the elected that entitles them to alter the voting system and apply increased and arbitrary scrutiny powers to governmental agencies? We all love the conservatives but what if these powers fell into the wrong hands?

When the idiot I didn’t vote for was elected to represent me I assumed he would not use his fictitious mandate to alter my or anyone’s powers to vote or tread near issues that affect the rules that affect my privacy freedoms, freedom of expression or powers that would allow any government to detain or interfere with any of us. I would understand a need to quickly alter provisions if the country was at war but it is as much a political bus to catch as a terrorist. As a Canadian I consider such alterations not something a majority minority should institute on a nation without either finding a true majority or using a plebiscite. I believe all should be protected from such action if we aren’t already.

We have groups and people who are as, if not more informed than this government. Why would any government refuse to take notice of problematic aspects of a Bill if they are being pointed out by experts? If a government was crafting a law related to the healthcare of Canadians we would be aghast if doctors were speaking out but being ignored. If this government was listening to Canadians who have pertinent and informed concerns people would not be forced into the streets to protest for action that should be implemented at committee level.

Canadians depend on experts as part of the law making process. As well any individuals who would seem to be directly affected should each and all be able to inform the process of Bill making.

Why are the Conservatives kicking up clouds of divisions? It is somewhat frightening when a Prime Minister attempts to pit the country against itself. I find it dangerous and more than distasteful when anyone in power uses their governance to better themselves in an upcoming election. I do not want a government that pulls self interest Bills from their partisan strategy room. When the part of the process that truly protects Canadians from poor government is not given fair, open and conclusive and inclusive public scrutiny and regard it becomes dictation. I think it is unCandaian for a Prime Minister to wedge Canadians into preferential polls, and party fundraising. No government should be allowed to use the House of Commons to propel a party back to the seats they ignore us from.

One could be the other and what protects the individual protects us all. Canadians need to resist the fear and misconceptions this government is willing to spread on a nation for political strategy. We need to ask what is the magician doing or has done while we are being distracted by the rabbit.

Stigma and Ignorance are the By-products of Fear, Laziness and Embraced Stupidity

Stigma is an obtuse, overused and misunderstood word. It affects many and it is prevalent. What is it? Where does it come from? How do we fight it? Can we put an end to it?

Stigma is the steam that rises from boiling ignorance. The ignorance itself can harm you but it is contained in the pot and often kept under the lid of self. The steam is as dangerous and no less powerful. It is difficult to contain and often even escapes the lid, as actions and words. People are less frequently burned by the pot of ignorance boiling on the stove of stupidity; they are burned and scarred by the steam which flies in every direction when we reach to turn the burner off.

People cling to their stupidity and ignorance because it is safe, familiar and requires no effort. Ignorance and laziness perpetuate each other. I don’t have to access or disseminate information. I don’t have to think, change or challenge old perceptions and I do not need to find opposing information or views. I can revel in the incestuousness of my mental capacities and efforts. I don’t have to do much but defend my ignorance as I sit in my easy chair of indifference. I can shout opinions and spew a semblance of knowledge as though I am informed and important. To be the king of incorrect is to rule none the less and we all want to issue creeds even if they are not credible.

Most do not want to change their world view and we cling to what we know because even if it is wrong there is a power to it. We are competent in our incompleteness. Though in reality, we are complete in our incompetence. We don’t alter our world view in even small ways because it causes a huge shift in much of what we know and recognize. A paradigm shift is a new beginning and it is intimidating to start the race over or even have to backtrack to pick up what is missing or needed to continue. It requires effort to go over a series and system of beliefs. It is easier to remain self-righteous and defend what is incorrect than to journey into the difficult work of rearranging perceptions, presumptions and past efforts. It is easier to carry a suitcase full of misinformation than lay it down and decide what is required for the journey. In the end though, we carry the unusable, the unclean and the useless.

It could be likened to colouring with only two crayons. To use the whole box requires further mastery and further attempts. It requires learning, trial and error, mistakes and failure. To paint with a couple of colours a person can become proficient but the final result is often pathetic. It does not inspire, uplift or recreate anything real, as the world is made of all the colours, not just two. Many people would rather be the master of one thought than flounder in the fluidity of alternate information.

We would all prefer to sit on our pride than admit we are mistaken or worse, wrong. Admitting we are mistaken is a process of growth and the fruit of an elastic and engaged mind. I would rather a lifetime of not really knowing than believing half truths and mistaken ideas and theories.

To expand and contribute to the changing atmosphere of knowledge and information means you must embrace change. We all flee change to a degree. We eat the same foods because they are familiar and safe. We will experience what we know. There is little chance of experiencing a bad taste but the risk is never knowing a new flavour. We find comfort in the same friends for similar reasons and read the same newspapers to solidify our beliefs and world view. Familiarity is comfortable and provides a degree of safety in an unpredictable and quickly changing world. Just when we figure out how to program the VCR we have to purchase a DVD, BlueRay and then Netflix. Some of this is fun but some of it is frustrating and it involves learning and an openness to change. It can be daunting, intimidating and it all requires effort. However, if you cling to the VCR, you are destined to watch the same movies and you will become useless by being rewound continuously. You will not witness a changing, evolving and magnificent world. You may be comfortable; it might seem familiar or safe but as predictable and navigable as it might seem it is nothing more than a shame.

We were given minds not to make them but to change and expand them. We are meant to explore and create with them. We are called not to entrench reality but to uncover it. Few gems are found on a beaten path. They are found in far corners and usually require the effort of digging and sifting through what is worthless and unusable. Ignorance and the stigma that steams from its depth are worthless. It is pollution. Those that perpetuate and promote stigma are pathetic as they waste their lives wandering the same paths in the hope of becoming rich. Unfortunately, it impoverishes the entire village when laziness and comfort overpower imagination and curiosity. Thought. Nothing original can be found, dreamed or created from the comfort of conformity and the state of indifference and ignorance.

You Say “Healthcare,” I Just Shake My Head and Cry

I have no “craving” to return to the issue of smoking on hospital properties and it seems a lost cause but I will. Let’s just consider it a “bad habit.”

I was on hospital property myself yesterday. When I left the architectural brilliance and heat of the building itself I noticed a gentleman in his 70’s hunched over in a wheelchair. He appeared to weigh something near his age and seemed somewhat compromised. I imagine his struggles are profound even within hospital but he was attempting to smoke in the wind and cold about 40 feet from the hospital entrance.

It has been minus “21 Forever” here in Ontario and yesterday was no exception. No exception seems to be part of the problem. This man was breaking hospital rules and even the old rule of not smoking within 60 feet of a hospital entrance. I don’t imagine he had a rebellious heart or complete disregard for rules, I think he may have been unable to make it off hospital grounds and the temperature itself may have been a further hurdle. If my ears nearly freezing are evidence of anything his wheelchair wheels may have been frozen.

There needs to be more communication between agencies in the region. When the Health Unit and police agencies issue a cold weather advisory and warn people to stay inside it may be prudent to apply this information to hospital staff and patients. It may even be important to ensure that 70 pound patients in wheelchairs have a safe and suitable place to smoke. Maybe the blankets were being laundered but this gentleman was under dressed for what I barely endured with half the exposure. This individual is unlikely to quit smoking in his 70’s or in his proximity to illness. It may be a bad habit or a long time pleasure.

We can all be proud of moving in the direction of a “Smoke Free Ontario” but my grandfather shouldn’t be run over in the process. He wasn’t my grandfather or I would have brought him home from the illusion of healthcare he was enduring. He is however someone’s grandfather, “bully for you.” I hope some idiot or at least the compassionate committees who have brought us this far find satisfaction in such an individual being tortured in the guise of health and healthcare. If you think smokers are going to hell it is no less sinful to expose them to anything similar here on earth. Perhaps we should pray on this.

I wanted to take a photo of this poor gentleman but I did not want to remove my gloves which he was without. I also respect patient confidentiality and it would have been a blurry shot as he was shaking so hard. Oh well, the rightless wretch will soon be dead and we will not be so uncomfortable in our conscienceless ideals. The grandchildren who attend his funeral will no doubt find peace that his last days were dignified and comfortable. They will hopefully find comfort that he was “exposed” to the most advanced and compassionate healthcare available.

I’m not saying hospitals are being heartless but providing a wheelchair becomes ironic and disingenuous when a 70 year old patient is allowed to suffer from exposure and near frostbite. I was in the same elements for a shorter duration and in an appropriate winter coat and I couldn’t wait until I reached my frozen car. This gentleman was under dressed and unable to access proper shelter or even stamp his feet to provide a sense of warmth.

I don’t know how we get around ridiculous rules but I would suggest those who are making them spend 6 minutes in a wheelchair, in a jacket, in minus 20 degree weather. It may provide enough exposure to uncover enough empathy to enable true compassion if not sense.

Is London Police Chief Brad Duncan and Mayor Matt Brown A Power Couple?

Power couples can seem like intimidating forces and can be politically influential. I was following Twitter last night and happened on a few of London Police Chief Brad Duncan’s official Tweets. Apparently he was at the London Club listening to London Mayor Matt Brown’s address. Chief Brad Duncan made several Tweets and relayed information that was flowing from Mayor Matt’s mouth.

It seemed to me that Chief Duncan had already entered retirement and was either freelancing or employed by some local news agency. I think Twitter is a great tool to disseminate information to Londoners but I don’t think it should be any chief’s beat to inform anyone regarding municipal politics, provincial politics or federal politics.

I don’t care if Chief Duncan becomes a reporter or a repairman in his retirement. He can open a Duncan Doughnuts or even pull a few in a parking lot. When Chief Duncan reaches that point he is obliged to relinquish his sidearm, uniform and official Twitter account. If it is illegal to impersonate an officer it is near being unethical for an officer to impersonate a reporter. Possibly the chiefs Tweets are fair, ethical and proper but I would think Mayor Matt Brown and Chief Duncan would be unable to deny that the optics are poor and even the edge of ethical can be problematic.

Literally and figuratively if either the mayor or the police need to be “pulled over”, being too cozy with each other could impair the process and or result in a reduced fine. Considering that Chief Duncan is retiring I do not believe his Tweets or attentions are purely self serving but he is in fact planting seeds for the London Police Force and paving a path for his successor. Further, when the police promote the mayor’s agenda he may be inclined and or obliged to promote the police agenda. Both agenda’s may be good for Londoners but each may result in an increase in taxes or personally impact Londoners in other ways. What if Mayor Matt swallows too many suds? If he and the chief are even optically close or blatantly scratching each others backs it may impair rank and file officers in their duties. Londoners deserve fairness and objectivity not objectives.

If I could make a suggestion to Chief Brad Duncan or any other officer it would be that when in uniform or being official you need to remain on the appropriate side of the police tape. I would call Chief Brad Duncan’s attention to his own official motto. “Deeds Not Words.” Londoners really don’t need another reporter and I would expect that as a chief of police Brad Duncan would have his own reports and reporting to involve himself in.

I don’t care what Chief Duncan does in his spare time but if his hobby is the mayor I would suggest creating a new Twitter account where his name is not preceded by chief and it would be as important that his accompanying picture not include his uniform, hat or any other suggestion of authority. I don’t care if Mayor Matt Brown and Chief Duncan sleep together but when they are in office or acting officially they should keep enough distance so the hanky panky doesn’t screw Londoners.