dignity of risk

have been doing some research this afternoon for a grievance/ human rights case i am working on involving a workplace member with a head injury which has brought me to some interesting policy and case law. one of the avenues that i am exploring (only discovered today) is the concept of the right to “dignity of risk”.

dignity of risk appears to generally be an argument used in cases where individuals are assessed to have cognitive impairments – including mental illness, developmental issues, and neuro-injuries that are deemed to have caused long-term harm – cases where individuals are traditionally been denied the right to make decisions for themselves on the grounds that they are not able to make reasoned and informed choices, thus putting themselves at risk.

the concept is very simple – it hinges on the right to assume personal risk and thus make decisions for oneself – and proponents for this right argue that the only way we do develop, learn and grow as beings is through taking risks and failing or suceeding in the decisions we make every day. if this essential part of our being is taken away from us, then we are stunted – and to take it away from others amounts to a cruel discrimination which curtails all sorts of opportunities afforded to others every day.

the reality is – people who are classed as “normal” in mental functioning – are allowed to make their own decisions and take their own risks all the time – no matter how ridiculous they are, or how often they fail to learn from past mistakes. once you reach adulthood, there is virtually nothing stopping you from making really bad choices – unless you become classed as the “other” and thus incapable of looking after oneself.

it is true that some impairments are so severe as to put an individual at risk if they were not to be assisted in their decision making – but in so many cases, people with head injuries, developmental disabilities or mental illness are more than capable of making decisions in their own best interest – if only society would grant them the chance. there is such a great stigma attached to even slight mental impairments – as though we must return people to a state of childhood dependence rather than learn to deal with them on their terms. i suppose it is easier for us to take agency away from others than to adapt our own wants in a situation of relating to them. in this case i am working on, i really do feel that this is the situation – and so there is an undercurrent of every day discrimination that threatens to force this person from their job as if they are forever incapable because of an accident that impaired some functions (but not most of them).

dignity of risk is one of the arguments that might work in a case like this though, which is why i’m working late, trying to locate case law that might apply in a situation like this…. thought i would post my thoughts here as i worked through them.

i'm so worried about you

today i’m thinking about the expression of “worry” as a form of control over someone else. i used to believe that to verbalize worry for someone was an aspect of showing love or concern for their well-being, and that if someone “worried” about this or that aspect of my life it was only because they wanted the best thing for me.

but in recent months (through a lot of inner exploration) i’ve come to the conclusion that this expression of worry is often (though not always) a tool used to manipulate the other into doing what we want them to. “i’m worried about you” seems to be another way of saying “i don’t like what you are doing, and see what type of emotional strain it is putting on me (making me worry all the time) – so stop it now or you should feel guilty about it.” wow – that’s a powerful way of getting what you want out of someone, by putting the onus of change entirely on them rather than examining whether there is any real basis to have a fear or worry for them.

worrying in a general sense is a feeling of being out of control, or having a need to control one’s own situation – and i think this extends to a tendency to use it as a controlling weapon against others. i know now that this has been used against me in order to shake me out of making my own decisions, and to “put me in my place” as a daughter or as a lover when i have expressed my desire to do my own thing. in exploring how it has been used against me, i can see how i have used it against others in my life as well in order to exert control over the relationships i fear losing most.

i think if i can break the pattern of responding to those in my life who say “i’m worried about you” to me, then i can break the pattern of “worrying” about others – since fretting does little to actually change a situation, and even if it did, would be produced through manipulation which is not what loving and supportive relationships are based on. this is something i am going to explore in the next while.

as an old swedish proverb says “worry gives a small thing a big shadow, ” and that shadow casts a dark cloud on all aspects of our lives, particularly those who we love.

some good thoughts and resources on the topic of dealing with worry here

we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is

Kurt Vonnegut – one of my all-time favourite authors – the further on he gets in years, the straighter he tells it…. check out his recent opinion piece in In These Times –

commuting and moving and pollution….

this morning i woke up at a friend’s place way out in the fraser valley, and thus had to do what thousands of people seem to do every day – get in my car and drive for two hours to get to work. i just have such a hard time believing that there are people out there who commute like that 5 days a week, so monstrous is the traffic starting and stopping – watching the odometer creep as the hour ticks closer to the start of the working day.

it’s bad enough that we sit in these prisons called cubicles 8 hours or more per day, but to also spend 2-4 hours in the casket that is one’s car seems like truly inhuman punishment. what kind of a culture is it that normalizes such nonsense?

because i never drive in from the valley at that time in the morning, before today i have not noticed that first thing (around 6:30 or so) in the morning, the smog layer rolling out of the city is particularly striking in its toxic appearance. this morning was clear as a bell, except for the rolling brown fog blowing on an ocean’s breeze down the highway – making for some of the poorest air quality in canada. even worse is that once you are under the brown cloud, it becomes imperceptible as if to trick us into thinking that the air we are breathing is good for us….

i think it is time to move away – but here is my own dilemma about commuting – if i move to the sunshine coast it will be a trip at least a few times a week by ferry and bus into the city. can i handle that? i have never had to travel more than 25 minutes by bus (55 minutes walking) – and could i stand the idea of working from home a couple of days per week? every time i get close to looking for a place over on that side of the mainland, i stop myself by worrying that it won’t work out – that somehow i will destroy my career, my union work, and will be consigned to a life of singledom (which shouldn’t even matter, but when i’m on a roll with worrying it does).

but the other side of me wants just a little house with a garden and a fruit tree – which i can afford there – and i can’t afford in the city. it’s so ridiculous this conundrum of working class life – that where we can afford to live is not where we work, thus suspending us perpetually in a state of dislocation – never firmly rooted in the place where we live *or* where we work. i suppose that if we were more planted in one locale we might more fiercely fight for it, or steward it, rather than treating it as one more waypoint on the road to our consumer paradise.

at least i have a computer job, and it is feasible to work from any part of the province as long as i have an internet hook-up. a good friend’s advice last night and the brown cloud on the horizon this morning swung me back in the direction of moving up the coast for my physical and mental health which will surely deteriorate the longer i stay here…..

just another dry monday

another sunny day in east vancouver and i am reminded once again that the rainfall levels this spring are at an all-time low. why has the city not introduced water-restrictions yet i wonder? will it be like last year when they waited until the reservoirs were under 40% to tell people not to fill their swimming pools and water their lawns?

there is no question the amount of rain that has fallen in the last two months, and the early and rapid spring runoff will produce a mid-summer water shortage if we don’t start paying attention now. and by paying attention – i don’t mean the introduction of water-metering which only penalizes low-income people and statistically does little to curtail the water use of urban areas.

is this what the collapse looks like? not a bang but a long drawn-out whimper as the last of our resources trickle away?

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