See the Cripple Dance | When the Four of Cups reminds us to resist apathy & cynicism even as we’re being attacked

Of all the worst traits I’ve witnessed in people around me – from within the most intimate social configurations, like romantic relationships, to the least, acquaintances and such, the one that irks me the most is apathy.

Recently I attended an anti-poverty march, protesting more cuts to social assistance.

I found out about it from stumbling into a flier taped to a hydro pole as I was walking home from the Greyhound station. Since I quit Facebook over four years ago, I’m grateful when people continue making fliers, taking the time to poster the city. I check bulletin boards and library walls of events.

I awoke early, struggled to get outta bed, and wore the same clothes I’d been wearing for four days, the same clothes I’d kept on as pajamas each night. Floral tights, black t-shirt, black hoodie. Black glitter miniskirt. I met a friend at the subway station and we walked to the park together, looking for a small crowd, keeping our eyes out for protest signs. We followed a winding road behind the Reference Library and descended into lush greens, the fresh scent of shrubs and weeds that had just been rained on, still damp, the cement path still darkened. It was quiet down there, a valley, life on city streets continuing over the bridges above us.

We found no crowds. We found no one at all. We’d walked too far so we turned around, climbed a set of outdoor stairs, and walked through the crowds on the main street again, attempting to trace the path of the so-called march. When we couldn’t find them, we took a quieter way to Queen’s Park, where they’d ostensibly be gathering at the end of their route.

No one was there. We strolled aimlessly when we arrived, and chose a bench to sit down, watching tourists take pictures.

As my body went from sweating to shivering, a few people came ambling up the path, one or two chanting quietly, a handful carrying signs.

After the election, which I wrote about in Trusting the Ace of Pentacles to Provide Access & Luck During Tumultuous Times, cuts began happening. The 3% increase initially scheduled to happen in September was scaled back to 1.5% – a mere $18 per month. What intrigued me about this particular march was that the call to action on the fliers demanded not a 1.5% increase, nor a 3% increase, but a 100% increase. 100%! That’s the kind of brazen audacity I’m into! And of course I don’t expect such a request to ever ever ever be taken seriously, but this kind of bold, unabashed shamelessness in demanding what we actually need is totally my style. The thing is, it’s not really that absurd: a 100% increase in social assistance rates for disabled people would only raise us to the poverty line. Knowing that, consider how ridiculous the 1.5% increase is after all. Despite changes being made to the provincial social assistance program after a 15-year review (how many recipients and those who’d been denied do you think died, or got sick sicker sickest during that time?) just beginning to happen over the last year or two, the newly elected conservative government is now overhauling the program again, holding a 100-day review in which no welfare or disability recipients are being consulted, and on November 8th, we’ll find out what’s next. Realistically (oh, how I loathe that boring but necessary word!), more cuts. We just don’t know exactly how much yet.

The Collective Tarot, the Next World Tarot. Pixie’s Tarot

The figure in the Four of Cups sits under a tree, arms crossed, stubborn.

There’s something they’re refusing to see, refusing to acknowledge. Focused on the cups in front of them, it’s as if they’ve lost their preripheral vision. Admittedly, this does happen to me when I’m anxious and cranky, angry or irritable. It happens when I need to make a plan but don’t fucking feel like it.

As the date approaches, November 8th, I know I need to make a plan. Many of us need to make a plan. Not just a DBT-based Cope Ahead plan, though I’m working on one of those, too, but something bigger. Much bigger.

Yeah, I’m tired of this question, but: How are we gonna care for one another?

Back to the protest.

Less than twenty people showed up.

A few of speeches were given – some written, some impromptu. I wondered how each individual felt, those holding the mic and those witnessing, listening, nodding, shouting. I wondered what they were thinking about. Why they came, what they’d hoped for, what they’d do afterward. If this would be a memorable day.

I wondered who they invited, if anyone. And why those others did not attend.

The speeches continued. Some told personal stories, others shared statisics and more numbers. An open mic was encouraged. There was plenty I wanted to say, speaking as someone who’s been on social assistance for eleven and a half years. Like, chronic poverty kills. Chronic poverty, stress, and food insecurity destabilize our nervous systems, immune systems, and mental health. Sickens, isolates, kills. But I felt unprepared. And worried about erupting in rage, desperation, incomprehensibility. The crowd was small but engaged, introducing themselves, encouraging and consoling one another, fighting together. I wasn’t nervous about speaking to them, I know they would’ve appreciated me and cheered me on – it was those hiding behind the brick facade of the provincial legislature I was worried about. I imagined them back there, our voices getting through but being ignored, laughed at, or mocked. Ridiculed. Then, too, I didn’t want to take up space. I’ve spoken in public about poverty and disability so many times already.

Not much happened. It’s not like I had high expectations or anything, but still, I felt disheartened.

When I see what’s happening to social assistance, what’s already been happening and what’s looming, I want strikes and protests and riots. I want real, consistent, dependable alternatives to the system, new ways to survive and care and love. I want enough of us to show up that we cannot be denied, and I want us to get so much more skilled, consistent, and trustworthy at building alternatives to the system. I want folks who aren’t on social assistance to give a fuck about us, to show up. To say something, do something. I want every political candidate, elected or otherwise, every landlord, boss, techie start-up bro, every rich and famous actor, to live in our so-called homes on our incomes, no savings, no safety net, no rich family, no inheritence, and see what happens to their bodies and minds, see what happens to their social lives, their imaginations, their sense of self.

Even these wishes, absurd wishes that’ll never come true, and even if they did, wouldn’t result in creating the worlds so many of us would rather live in, don’t feel like enough. Wanting somebody to deeply feel the consequences of poverty isn’t enough toward ending poverty altogether, ending capitalism, ending the racism and ableism and sexism that capitalism has rendered through our lives and our bodies throughout generations. But it’s nice to think about.

In The Collective Tarot, a figure is locked within a bottle, on their knees with their hands on their hips, sitting as if posing for a photograph. They’re well-dressed, a tie and a vest, hair fixed behind their ears. In a way, they’re protected from the world around them, safely enclosed. Looking on but not participating. Remaining untouched, unmoved. I think about the politicians in Queen’s Park, refusing to acknowledge the protest that was happening at their steps, safely ensconced behind their desks in their expensive suits in a building with security and surveillance, cops forming a barricade of their cars and bikes and bodies at the entrance, and I think of the wealthy and non-disabled who don’t have to think about social assistance, who can afford to ignore us with no repercussions at all – those who don’t even know that we exist, don’t know what they’re ignorant of or that they are ignorant at all. Then, too, I think of those of us who have become socially isolated through illness, poverty, disability, watching worlds and possibilities and connections slide further and further from our view, staying home, looking through windows, through screens, protected in a way, maybe, but not exactly by choice, confined, hidden, a kind of punishment.

I think of smashing all those bottles. How loud it might be if we all smashed a bottle at once.

Of all the worst traits I’ve witnessed in people around me – from within the most intimate social configurations, like romantic relationships, to the least, acquaintances and such, the one that irks me the most is apathy.

The Four of Cups is a rendering of apathy.

The Spolia Tarot

Not just a lack of concern, or a lack of knowledge, but a refusal to engage, a refusal to become involved, to become informed and active, when one has the power and ability to do so. A stubborn refusal to see (or search for) all the options available when one is feeling disaffected, disillusioned, or helpless.

The Next World Tarot shows a figure in a loosely-tied pink bathrobe, sitting on a boardwalk along the water, painting their nails and blowing them dry. Interpretations will differ depending on who this figure represents in a reading. Is she the careless privileged ignoring protests, or is she the poor and ill, taking care of herself as best she knows? Maybe she’s having a shitty day, and has decided not to bother getting dressed, but to paint her nails her favourite colours and daydream instead. What if those of who are poor, sick, and disabled could stay home and trust those who care about us, or claim to, to go to the protest, to yell and fight and make a mess, and then come see us, bring us food and stories and well-wishes, and let us rest while they keep fighting? What if staying home weren’t misread as disengaging, checking out?

Or maybe this is a vision after the protest. Self-care, mindful recuperation. To rest without feeling like everything will then fall apart.

Cristy Road writes: “It feels as if she has been in the middle of this argument for centuries.”

For me, right now, the argument is: Relinquish hope or resist? Accept scraps or demand more? Allow harm or protect myself and my friends? Feel the shame and despair of poverty or love myself and relish in each moment? Let fear and grief fester or process them thoroughly? Become apathetic and impassive or curious and optimistic?

I’m scared, and I know it’s gonna get worse. But talking about worst case scenarios isn’t defeatism – it’s a chance to get prepared.

Strangely enough, I’d drawn the Ace of Pentacles the day of the march, too. Trusting in good luck, tangible luck, during harsh times. Taking action to cultivate that luck, to invite it in, to share it.

As alluring as apathy might be, it’s too easy, too familiar. Too self-interested, even. To remain stubbornly cynical or avoidant, to delay creating strategies to cope ahead (for the day of the news, and the season and year and years to come) would be to invite the worst, to set oneself up for failure and deeper despair. I’d rather challenge myself. I’d rather examine the mystical cup given from the sky, hold onto it. I’d rather cultivate the emotions, the dreams, the resistance, the actions, that make me want to live. I’d rather refuse to be destroyed.

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