bravery [2017]

by request, my resignation from VANDU – august 24 2017

As a board member of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, I have a clear responsibility to the members — as a peer organization, given our history and goals, this responsibility is serious, and beautiful.

I mean it when I say that serving at VANDU is the most challenging and meaningful work I have ever done. That is how much it matters. That is how real it is. And members, people, I want you to know how strong you are. And your generosity. I know you’ve told me things you’ve never said to anyone, and your bravery means something and I get it.. I meant it when I said that I wanted to know what you think. I meant it when I said that all of us down here live lives that are realer and more honest and smarter than the people who look down on all of us. The people taking over our neighbourhood. The ones we fight.

I walk up the street, every day, I get the engine revved. I am set for the fight. I love it, I’m good at it. I will fight for all of us every day. All night, any time. Let’s all go fight.

But that is it. Look at the fighting. Look at how the workers are treated, look at how people treat each other. If this was happening at another organization, we’d be outside protesting it.

Today, I am resigning from the board of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users. I do not want to hurt the membership – I am resigning to empower the membership; that is my responsibility.

I will not participate in a so-called leadership structure that enables, enforces, and rewards the ongoing and systemic exploitation of human suffering and experience. The raw needs of poverty and addiction makes bullying not only a standard practice, but an actual enforced and rewarded behaviour.

This is deeply, deeply sick.

Everyone, it’s not ok. It’s not ok that we talk about justice and liberation and then learn and see and become forced to believe that the way to express strength is through causing harm. And by making that act of harm a mark of authority, and strength, we become the thing we pretend to fight.

I reject that, and I am confident in that rejection. Months ago, I said that only acts of bravery could end the cycles of death that we are experiencing.

I see such bravery everywhere.

At VANDU, the cowards are in charge on every level. I urge the members to reject that. I urge the workers to strike. Be brave — because you are. It does not have to be this way.

Do no harm. Gentleness is not weakness. Arrogance is not strength. Justice is love.

We must take care of each other, because no one else will.

Above, I said “we become the thing we pretend to fight.”

I am concerned with the actual fight. And what you need to know is that I can’t do that at VANDU.

I’m not a coward.

I have things to do.

Stay safe, be brave. Let’s go.