Lori Fox likened it similar to after a car crash, when days later, the reality of the experience floods in and the panic and craziness of it all sinks in. That’s how Fox views the nervous breakdown that occurred upon completion of their book.
The book, This Has Always Been a War: The Radicalization of a Working Class Queer, was released May 3. It is Fox’s first book, an accolade that sits atop an impressive pile of essays, articles, stories and newspaper clippings from prominent national and international publications (which includes writing for the News.)
Fox’s breakdown, documented in a personal re-telling published in the Globe and Mail, is aimed squarely at a system that fails to provide mental health services to working-class people. Denied therapy and proffered prescriptions for drugs that didn’t work, Fox spiraled into a near miss of self-destruction.
And Fox, unlike most, doesn’t keep quiet about it.
“That we have this two-tiered system is a disgrace. The way we treat people who cannot afford to pay for private care is a disgrace. What happened to me – what is happening to other people, even as I write this – is a disgrace.”
Fox is a freelance journalist, a gig worker, a labourer, a server, a 30-something, working class person struggling to make rent. Rent that is only going up and up. A chapter is titled “Other People’s Houses, rent is documented by dollar value, whether or not utilities were included, and by year.” For homeowners, the chapter is deliberately unsettling.
Fox came to the Yukon in 2012 and found work plentiful, but the housing situation dire. During three years of being housing insecure, Fox interviewed the former minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, Pauline Frost, while homeless and living in a van.
Fox told the News in an interview May 26 that they’d “watched the territory get more and more expensive, and have less and less options for working class people over the last decade.”
Fox is critical of the Whitehorse elites, the government workers and the resources extractors who congregate in the capital city. Fox cites the median household income disparity between Whitehorse’s $93,600 and Ross River’s $45,000, which is half of the median income of Whitehorse.
“Folks in the communities, especially rural folks, tend to make less money because they don’t have access to those government jobs,” Fox says, “The disparity is incredible.”
Fox’s heart lies with the working class, people who labor in low paying jobs and do not own property. The dedication in the book reads: “For my people, the working classes, who cook the meals and pick the fruit, who serve the tables and stock the shelves, who work the gigs and deliver the orders. We are the makers and builders and doers of this world, and all that is in it belongs to us.”
The book is Fox-raw: railing, angry, and exposed.
“The book is incredibly vulnerable. I’m incredibly blunt, and really upfront with some very difficult things. And I pull no punches.”
They add, “And that will not be a surprise to anyone who has ever read anything I’ve ever written”.
This Has Always Been a War is a mix of essays and stories, some previously published, many not. The book takes a longer view. The book looks back to childhood and why it matters, and how the truths that came to be, remain. And then, can change.
Fox spreads their arguments through a read of incidents, accidents and injustices; through jobs and locations linked together with perseverance and hard work.
Fox wields a pointy stick at systems of preference that ignores those without financial means, skin tones other than white, or varied genders and sexual orientations. A system that serves to make those most like it, more comfortable.
For example, reflecting upon Saltspring Island, British Columbia, Fox describes the split between the landowners and workers on the well-groomed island.
“It was an island of the rich and their servants.”
They described how that the only places to live were on landowners’ property who wanted labour in return for lodging.
In another chapter, while thinning fruit in the B.C.’s Okanagan region, Fox wrote, “I just want to know why one man should have two houses and an orchard full of fruit when other people in his village don’t even have a bed and a place to keep their beer cold.”
But Fox looks beyond. A childhood chapter reveals the stubborn harshness of their brutish father, yet recognizes that he is not just one thing. Fox understands the complexity of the human condition, and a larger rationale of the systems that created it.
“There’s no one story, no one straight narrative that can be told about a person, no matter how much we would like there to be,” Fox writes.
The book’s back-and -forth moves between specific events, and huge ideas. Small incidents are juxtaposed with larger concepts.
Fox writes, “Every little act of cruelty, whether intentional or not, makes us a little less than we were, than we would have been. It takes something from us. That’s what patriarchy is. That’s what capitalism is.”
“We cannot be absolved of responsibility for our actions. It’s okay to buy sneakers made in sweatshops and to drive gas-guzzling, carbon monoxide-spewing SUVs and to live guiltlessly on stolen land, because that’s just how it is.”
Fox challenges the status quo, and believes in our ability to change. They write: “So many things, really, are the way they are because we are taught — because we assume — that the way things are, is the way things have to be.”
“The way the world is today, right now, is not the way it has to be.”
Lawrie Crawford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Yukon News