My name is Nathaniel and I work in the service industry.
I can brew the most intoxicating Espresso beverages Seattle has to offer, I can set a table properly(nicely folded napkins), I can make sandwiches, clean toilets, I make sure that your 97 year old grandmother you have forgotten about eats three meals a day, I pressure you into buying a very expensive stereo system that you are thinking of getting for your daughter’s graduation present, I make your yard look beautiful, (just like you had it in England), I listen to your problems, I resolve your complaints, sometimes I talk far too much to you, I get tired and fed up, I quit, I get fired, I get my hours slashed, I walk out swearing at you, above all I serve you coffee.
You are a professional, you have done so well for yourself that you now own a Sport Utility Vehicle, you wear nice suits, talk about stocks and bonds as if you knew what you were talking about. I watch you (the customer) in between your breaks, talking with your colleagues about the case that you just won. The line-up goes right out to the door, I am yelling orders as fast as I can take your “hard earned” cash: “Short in a tall, 120 degrees ¾ full, soy, no foam, non-sweet vanilla, latte!” I diligently place your three cents of change into your waiting palm. I notice lots of rings on your finger.
One of them is your wedding ring and the most prominent one is from the University you graduated from. I would love to rip those vile bands off of your hands and throw them into the gutter, the very same gutter that you so blissfully keep me in. Well, I am only here to serve you coffee.
Almost everywhere you go you can get coffee was serves at the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen back in Nanaimo, my father gets coffee in Indiana State Prison (the same prison where the state uses another kind of liquid to cease human life), my mother would have coffee on a Tuesday afternoon while she’s lying on the couch with a migraine. When my coffee serving skills aren’t up to your standards I get fired and use my savings to go to somewhere where you might send your children on Spring break.
When I come back and face reality, I realise that I must get a job and when rent day nears and I still have yet to secure a job I must apply for welfare.
There are so many names for welfare! On paper they make it sound like something good, almost human with such euphemisms as: Social assistance, BC Benefits, Income Assistance. Off of paper they make it as degrading as they possibly can. In order to be eligible for Welfare in the province of British Columbia you must attend these job-training sessions.
A room of sad, desperate, humans who are forced to beg for a few dollars to sustain life. While you are on welfare you are required to attend regular job training seminars. The aim of these sessions is to get you off of Welfare and into the job market as soon as possible. Surprisingly, this is not done by the provincial government but by a private firm that is contracted out by the government.
The job search counsellors are very professional, upbeat, outgoing, and middle class. They are people just like you! They went to university, got their degree and on graduation day they had a picture taken with their mom and dad, prominently displayed on their desk.
All of these counsellors have a university education. My counsellor had a master’s degree in architecture. This was his side job. The jobs offered are strictly related to the tourism and service industry, you know, flipping burgers at McDonald’s, serving drinks at a restaurant, cleaning rooms, just serving people like you. They made it out to be like getting a job in this industry was the noblest thing that one could aspire for, they did not mention (nor did anyone else in the whole welfare system for that matter), aiming to get a career such as theirs.
This would require a university education, something that Canadian society makes blatantly clear, is not the place for poor people. Do you not see something wrong with hiring university-educated people to encourage the unemployed to aspire to be drones for some menial employer?
All of us were “born into” welfare. From the time we were born our mom was on welfare. She was a single mother. People would always ask that horrible question “Who’s your dad” or worse “Do you all have the same dad?” We all have the same father and mother. My parents were married years before any of us were born. My mother was emotionally unavailable, negligent, and ambivalent in her parenting. The Government of Canada deported my father back to his country in
1980. He’s been in jail since 1981 or ’82. The police told me that he was accused of conspiring to kill a county prosecutor, a lawyer, someone like you. This man (who is presently a judge in the Indiana court of appeals) has two kids the same age as my brother and I. I never knew my father, saw his face, heard his voice or anything. When I asked the officials in America why he was in there they refused to tell me as it was not “public information”. They will only make it public information when it is used to humiliate and belittle the inmate’s family but if it is used to help them get ahead in life they keep that from you.
I finally did get the court transcripts from his trial (After paying someone like you $50 to learn my own history). I think it would have been so much easier to have a dead father than a father who is alive but away, forever. I’d have a grave to visit and leave flowers at. Instead I got a group of corrupt officials who in an effort to advance their own career decided to play god and take our dad away for a reason that I believe to be unjust.
For better or worse I wanted more than anything in life a father, but this was robbed from me. Some might say that you can’t miss something you never had, well I do. It’s left a hole in me big enough to drive a truck through. In about 1990 my mother got a new boyfriend. This boyfriend was a heroin addict and would shoot up in our presence and abuse us, my own grandmother would tell us how bad we were for making up such “horrible lies” and when I confronted my mother about the heroin needles that were all over the floors of our house she made some lame excuse that kids from the neighbourhood had left them out.
It was primarily for this reason that I was in foster care off and on throughout my childhood, (as were my siblings). I was even sent to a special hospital for children with mental problems and that month was the happiest of my childhood. Turns out that my mother needed to be in the nut house and not me.
All three of us became permanent wards of the Ministry of Children and Families. My social worker did whatever he could to enhance my quality of life. I felt that he cared about me in the same way that a parent might. When he put faith in me I never wanted to let him down. My experiences with the ministry while in care were almost always positive ones. My worker was always responsive and effective in his actions and above all he treated me as an adult.
The Government of British Columbia used to have a program that assisted former permanent youth in care to finish or continue their education, get job training, or complete a rehabilitative plan that helps them overcome personal problems that prevents them from being self sufficient. This program is for former permanent youth in Care who were in care until their nineteenth birthday and are under twenty-four years of age. The ministry was our Parent and as such, wanted to make sure we had a good opportunity to be a functioning adult.
As most permanent wards did not have parents that were financially (or emotionally) able to support them during their University years, the ministry assumes this role and as my social worker says “we are happy to do it.” This program levelled out the academic playing field for youth from care. We do not have the resources that our middle and upper class peers do.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development statistics show that they had 161 youth agreements in force for 2000-01, and 6100 youth in foster care. The number of former youth in care represents a tiny minority of post-secondary students in British Columbia and you think this acceptable, as university is not the place one like me should be. You make University as inaccessible as possible to me.
You think it is unfair that your tax dollars are wasted on giving me a “Free ride” while you have to shell out “big bucks” so that your child can go to the same University that you did. You think that we should get off our lazy asses and find a job, work to pay for University the same way that you did, besides, you are a very good charitable citizen! Over your morning coffee you read a story in the Vancouver Province about the plight of those poor young people who end up as prostitutes.
You really feel sad and obliged to do something to help these people so you make a tax-deductible donation to a shelter fo street youth! Oh you truly are a nice citizen indeed! Of course, one thing that article did not mention was that about 70 percent of the youth that end up in the “trade” have been under the care of the Ministry of Children and families at some point in their existence (How can you call this a life?).
You claim to care but obviously you care more about your own money. As a measure to save your precious tax dollars you voted in a government that slashed the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s budget by thirty percent (the post majority program was cut). When I phoned my social worker to get post majority funding to go to university (I had been accepted to two of the three I applied to) he informed me that there was “no more money for post majority”, meaning that the government had cut the program. Hesuggested that I make some phone calls. I did just that.I phoned someone who I thought might be sympathetic to my plight.
This man had a mother who supposedly taught him to be part of the solution and not the problem. In addition to being a foster parent he was also counsellor, probation officer and regional director for corrections. Yes a corrections officer, he would know better than anyone else would the plight that the children of inmates face.
This man assured me in a most sincere and compassionate tone that the ministry had no plans to cut post majority and that post majority would remain. This man is none other than the “honourable” Gordon Hogg, Minister of Children and Family Development. I guess in your world you get honour for screwing the poor.
You would love to see us scrape together a pitiful existence at some Fast food joint but if we ever want to rise up and become someone you do whatever you can to make this impossible. Your children get sent to private schools and when they are in public schools you make sure that they get three meals a day and study hard after school so they can get good marks.
I am a smart kid, and I did okay in school good enough to get into university anyway, but it was kind of hard to focus on my marks when I had to perpetually worry about where my next meal was coming from (our mom didn’t feed us well), or if when I got home from school my mom’s heroin addict boyfriend had shot up and was going to abuse me. None of this matters to you, it only matters if I had good marks or not.
The kids who had the opportunity to get those marks are often your kids, kids from the middle to upper class. You could afford to send them to school but since they have excelled the university offers them a full scholarship. Why do you keep us down? What kind of sick satisfaction do you get from our suffering?
I ask you this and in the time I’ve been waiting for your response I think I know why. Our poverty and misery is your ugly creation, and you fear us because you fear that ugliness within yourself because you know deep down inside that nothing you create could ever be beautiful or good, you are incapable of this as your heart is as black as the future you have created for us.
You are ugly through and through and I hate you. But then again, I am just here to serve you coffee, my opinion and thoughts are meaningless to you. As you are my worst nightmare I shall soon become yours. I refuse to take your bullshit any more and plan on doing something more meaningful than you do. In time others will follow my example and you will be left alone to make your own damn coffee.