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An Introduction to Activism

January, 2004


These pages are intended to perform three needed public services.

One is to inform people who might want to be active in the area of tenant rights of some very nasty people to watch out for, and to refuse to deal with. I am referring first of all to the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations, and then to other people who can victimize you.

The second purpose is to provide a case example by my own experience of the need for protection of people who commit to engage in community activism and service. The legal institutions we have in this country are archaic and barbaric. This creates a situation where it is unacceptably dangerous as well as degrading for people without money or the backing of a powerful figure or institution to be involved in the community. This renders inoperative any concept of community empowerment or participatory democracy, or an engaged citizenry.

The third purpose is to provide a base of information about FMTA, Federation of Metro Tenants Associations, and other predatory groups within the area of tenants rights in Toronto, which other people are invited to add to. This may in time lead, not to a revival of the old tenants rights movement, but a movement to a more advanced solution to the injustice embedded in all forms of rental housing. And, to an end to the insult to the tenants, taxpayers, and community service agencies of Toronto which is the existence of FMTA.

The foolish but inevitable criticism of it is that it is my own personal vendetta against FMTA. Reality is that anyone who really knows something about a villainous person or group of people, and can give warning about them, is likely someone who has been injured themselves. People can learn the easy way by a reflection on my experiences and insights. Or they can learn the hard way by their own experiences.

I do not claim to be an expert on tenant law or tenant organizing. There seems to be little reliable advice or legal representation for tenants in Toronto. I know of no professional tenant organizers and there is a limit to what such persons could do. In buildings where the residents have some money and organizing skill, they can look after themselves. In really poor buildings, the landlords hold all the cards and have aces up their sleeves.

There is no serious lobbying for tenant rights in Toronto. The city government funds FMTA largely as a preemptive strategy against being bothered by such lobbying. Traditional tenant associations are becoming obsolete anyway. There are fewer regular tenants all the time. The real solution for the tragedy of rental housing in Toronto and in Canada is a change to the entire system of shelter in this country, away from private landlords, mammoth social housing bureaucracies, and delusions of "ownership."

Of course FMTA is only the tip of an iceberg. There is an incredible network of 'poverty pimp' agencies out there. It includes legal clinics and extends into supposed political action groups like Toronto Disaster Relief Committee and Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. Most of these groups are sacred cows to leftist authoritarians who coalesce around the New Democrat Party. That is their cover. But in most of them the hand of conservatives can be seen in the back ground.

I have found that most lawyers who take cases on legal aid or on contingencies are affiliated with NDP. It seems most will act unethically against their clients interest to protect these sacred cows.


***

People are far too easy to manipulate. They need to practice the "Thalemic pause;" to wait until they have enough information before they attach a label to what is going on. Bullshit people and organizations who are not what they pretend to be need to be 'outed.' Those who do the outing need to be backed up; protected from retaliation and supported in making people listen.

No one has the right to be neutral in conflicts of this kind if they claim to be free and decent people. I am not happy with the attitudes most people take toward the attacks on me orchestrated out of FMTA, black balling me from access to legal services, and trying to force me out of all community involvement.

I have been in poor health all my life, but since it has improved I have attempted to be active in housing and anti-poverty issues. I say 'attempt' because there is generally nothing and no one to work with, and if someone tries to start something there are great efforts made to stop it or coopt it.

Whether I succeed in this fight with FMTA, what I want to spend the rest of my life working on is to develop a system of support for other housing and anti poverty activists who really are activists. Those who think social and political activism is about "fighting the good fight" and getting "a feeling of satisfaction" from serving the community, do not know what they are talking about. Fighting for the poor is about taking on those who gain by others poverty. It is high risk and high stress activity.

They have to be able to work with other people too, and not have been made so bitter that they are lost in it. Their brain circuits have to be undamaged and working in the proper sequence. I mean they cannot be trying to impose their subjective onto the objective. They must be taking their subjective from the objective and testing it against experience, as people should be taught to do at an early age. To me, the touchstone of a genuine activist is that they understand and appreciate what I am saying here.

Such people need their physical and emotional needs satisfied, and some basic resources to work with. They need to be able to count on being rallied to if there is an attempt to "take them down."

I usually do not count Marxists and anarchists as activists. Class warfare is not a good model for understanding the problem of poverty and injustice. There is really a conflict between three types of people. A fourth type, the Doomed, have been made powerless to help themselves.

I would guess about three fourths of people will be offended by the next three paragraphs. About one quarter will get it, at least partly. It is the one quarter that I want to reach.

There are the Screwheads, who have no conscience and will do anything to get power and control. Their weak points are that they hate each other even more they hate the rest of us, and they cannot think straight.

There are the great majority of Klunks, who have decided to get along by going along with the Screwheads. From adopting the screwheads subjective, they can not think straight either.

There are the minority of men and women who retain their integrity and ability to think straight, and so are hated by the Screwheads and Klunks, but are the only thing that saves them from the natural consequences of their follies. Sometimes the people of integrity are able to rescue the Doomed as well.


Tim Rourke

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