Social Work as a ‘Bullshit Job’: Critiques of Social Work’s Potential for Social Justice in the Context of Professionalization and its Code of Ethics

I recently participated in a focus group examining “contemporary social work students’ responses to social justice practice principles as stated in the Social Work Code of Ethics”, and thought I’d collect some of the ideas I had shared about the topic. Some see the code of ethics and mobilization within the profession as a venue for the furthering of social justice, but a broader analysis of social work and my experience in the field has led me to find this problematic. I do believe, as Bonnycastle’s “From Social Equality to Compassion: A Critique of the 2005 CASW Code of Ethics” expressed, that the code can illuminate trends that are occurring in the field. Bonnycastle specifically suggested that the trends seem to sway towards neoliberalism. The removal of mentions of egalitarianism and humanitarianism from the code’s preamble was telling, but I believe that even the elements of the code referring to […]

Anarchist Re-Imaginations of Mental Healthcare

Today, I attended a great talk by Bonnie Burstow on anarchist re-imaginations of mental health care, entitled ‘Toward a World with Commons and without Psychiatry: an Anarchist Vision’. The talk spoke to a lot of my concerns having worked in the mental health field for the past couple years, but also spoke to some of my aspirations for the provision of mental healthcare in a collective manner. Firstly, Burstow outlined the foundations of the contemporary mental health field and its interventions into the lives of those deemed unwell – parens patriae and the responsibility of the state to protect. Parens patriae (parent of the nation) is the notion that the state – like a ‘patriarch’ – could and should intervene in the lives of people when the state deems it to be in the people’s best interest – as defined by the state. The second foundation is the idea that […]

The Mental Health Field and Our Complicity in Police Brutality and Repression of Racialized People

During Canadian Mental Health Association’s annual Black History Month panel today, I was pleasantly surprised, even shocked, to see Kabir and Letanya representing the Justice for Jermaine campaign at my office. They gave a great talk about the circumstances behind Jermaine Carby, another young man murdered by the police and someone whom was going through the mental health system, as well as the context of police brutality – as did Jordon Veira and Tennial Rock.  The talk focused on the important and urgent need for continued opposition to the police and their targeting of Black and other marginalized people. However, often missing within the mental health field is acknowledgment of our complicity in this brutality we claim to oppose. Just as the police has a long history of supporting state and capital in the subjugation of racialized people, psychiatry and the broader field of mental health has not only assisted in this process […]

Thoughts on umbrella revolution

Had a great lunch with Elene and Tings Etc to discuss the ongoings in HK, gaining a lot more insight. I know a lot of fellow leftists have been skeptical about the nature of the protests in HK and whether it’s worth supporting. A lot of the criticism is legitimate (though there is also a caveat). Firstly, it does appear that unlike the early-2000s (when I was living in HK and involved in the democracy movement) where an economic critique was very central to protests, the economic critique (never really picked up by the Western media in the first place) has become less emphasized. Secondly, a nativist discourse (apparent to anyone who has visited HK in the last decade) has become stronger and stronger. I have found it odd that unlike my past experiences, the languages has moved from ‘Democracy in China’ and supporting our Chinese compatriots, to ‘Democracy in […]

Thoughts on the Rob Ford Scandal

I’ve been following the Rob Ford scandal intently for the last couple days and as much as I hope I am wrong, I think he will survive this debacle and the fault lies entirely with his opponents. It’s all an issue of framing. The issue has been framed by the media and his opponents as a question of individual morals – a politician that smokes crack and lies about it should resign. But the context is completely left out and without the context, Rob Ford becomes a sympathetic figure … a figure that the very people the left should count as allies, the disenfranchised, the oppressed, can connect to . This context that has been erased is that the policies he pushes for are the very policies that are the most harmful to the people being drawn to Ford. Instead of the focus on the specific act depicted in the […]

Life in Jane and Finch: A Product of Apartheid, but also of Resistance

In the late hours of Monday, 11 February, the tragic news of a young child killed by gunshot hit the news with “Jane and Finch” becoming front and centre in headline after headline. As a community mourns, dozens of ‘internet warriors’ have also gathered, but instead of commemorating the life of a young man, they have come together to sling racist vitriol at a community that has suffered tremendously through oppression and marginalization. Even considering the ‘low-level’ of discourse that often characterizes the comment sections of various news outlets, the comments that have followed this tragedy have been especially notable for its violent and vulgar nature – for the sole reason that this is not Rosedale; this is not Forest Hill; this is Jane and Finch, a neighbourhood with one of the highest concentrations of racialized people in the country. All that which would be unacceptable and inappropriate when directed […]

‘Welfare Fraud’ – So What?

Reposting from one of my facebook arguments: Nathan, you have mentioned a great deal that is problematic – time is limited, so I will just focus on the point regarding welfare fraud. Outside of the fact that your neighbours’ financial status is really none of your business, this is really an issue of framing and by removing the context, its quite easy to paint a picture for the purpose of reinforcing problematic discourses. So, let’s bring back the context … rates of fraud in the welfare system is 20x less than the rate of fraud in the income tax system. The emphasis in public discourse and in your discussions on welfare fraud is but an example of poor bashing, a non-issue made into an issue.  But, really, if we take another step back, even this fact is besides the point. If there was really widespread welfare fraud … so what? […]

Football and Resistance

Anyone who knows me well, would’ve heard me harp on and on about how awesome football (soccer) is, and how we’re going to have a social revolution come out of the stadiums … And while I tend to exaggerate, once again, we hear news of the connections between football as a space for organizing and social change. This time, it’s Egypt. (via Ryan Hayes) Over the decades that have marked the tenure of Egypt’s “President for Life” Hosni Mubarak, there has been one consistent nexus for anger, organization, and practical experience in the ancient art of street fighting: the country’s soccer clubs. Over the past week, the most organized, militant fan clubs, also known as the “ultras,” have put those years of experience to ample use. And, it’s apparent that the Egyptian government and neighbouring governments have taken notice. The Egyptian Soccer Federation has suspended all league games, to prevent fans from […]

Choi Yuen (菜園村) Villagers Protest Eviction Plans, Continuing a Long History of HK Indigenous Resistance

Recently, there’s been news reports of confrontations between the police, security guards and demolition workers on one side, and villagers/outside solidarity activists on the other, in the village of Choi Yuen. A couple days ago, I posted an article on the loss of more rural villages in Hong Kong, as a result of urbanization and economic changes. However, this is not the case for all villages. Many villages continued to thrive and rely on farming, but they too are facing the same fate. But, instead of the village youth, attracted to employment in the city, migrating out, villagers face eviction by the state and private developers. In 馬屎埔 Ma Shi Po, private developers used loopholes to evict villagers. The village was slated for demolition, in order to implement the North East New Territories New Development Areas plan – a major infrastructure project for private housing development. Chan, an activist, explained […]

Right of Abode in Hong Kong Granted for Mainland-Born Children

For all its faults, the Hong Kong Catholic Church was pretty cool on this issue. A major issue of status in Hong Kong is that of Hong Kong families with children and spouses born in Mainland China. As a result of the one country, two system policy, (and colonialism .. and British immigration policy to ensure that there would not have been a ‘flood’ of Hong Kong people going to the UK) there are separate citizenship categories for those in the Mainland and those born in Hong Kong. Despite a Hong Kong supreme court ruling that children of Hong Kongers born in the Mainland should be granted Hong Kong citizenship in 1999, the Hong Kong government appealed to Beijing. Beijing ‘reinterpreted’ the law, indicating that the children would not be granted status in Hong Kong. By early 2002, thousands of Mainlanders and over 4,700 children faced deportation to the Mainland. […]