November 9, 2012

Diary of an Advocacy Associate: It's time to lighten things up!

That past few posts have been full of some pretty heavy material.  I have to admit, I've been feeling  a little down thinking about all of the negative effects current government policy is having on the lives of people living on low incomes and on our communities in general.  Don't get me wrong, I very much enjoy my job, but just like many of you who deal with difficult situations in your work on a daily basis, it is important to lighten things up every once in a while.

Which is why I was so excited to hear this gem of a song on CBC radio a few weeks ago.

Shemekia Copeland: "Lemon Pie"

Now, I'm no music critic, but I do know when I hear a song that I like.  And, I ask,  what's a blues loving poverty advocate supposed to do when she hears a powerful blues musician singing about income inequality and the woes of the working poor today?

I did exactly what you'd expect; I drove as fast as I could to the nearest computer, searched the lyrics and listened to the song over and over again.  I wrote out the lyrics, I hummed the tune on my evening walk and I found myself wishing that everyone could have a really thorough listen to my new favourite song.

Train left the station, I didn't climb aboard.
Price of the ticket, was too much too afford.
And I saw that politician, I know you know his name,
waiving from the window of that gravy train.
I hope you weren't expecting more, than lemon pie for the poor.

Copeland takes the idea of a gravy train for the poor and turns it on its head.  What about the wealthy, she asks; the people who work for government, the politicians who receive rather large pay cheques compared to most of us.  Couldn't we say that they are on a gravy train too - what, with their permanent jobs (though politicians do need to worry about their jobs about every 4 years), regular wage increases and their ability to afford public transit or to take a private vehicle if they so chose.

And, if that weren't enough, the wealthy have access to all of these things merely by working one full-time job, not two or three part time jobs as many low wage workers are forced to do to get  by in our economy today.

Copeland goes on to comment on hunger; on doing your best to get by and watching others gain while you keep working harder just to afford the things you need to survive:

I'm hungry for a job, I'm hungry for a meal,
I'm hungry for the good things I'm too proud to steal.
I'm barely gettin' by, I'm doin' this and that
while people up top keep gettin' fat
And I hope you weren't expecting more, than lemon pie for the poor.

Rather than inundate you with information (important information on the increasing reliance on food banks to meet basic needs, growing inequality and increasing numbers of adults who live on low incomes) I invite you to listen to the video posted above and let the message sink in.  

What are we, as a community and as a society working for?  Are we simply aiming to have ever increasing GDP with little thought to how the benefits are used?  Or do we want to use our resources to ensure that everyone has an increasing quality of life?

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