09/04/2014 05:47 EDT | Updated 11/04/2014 05:59 EST

Premier Is Massaging The Message To Distract From Facts In Teachers' Strike


I like massages. I like the complete and total relaxation they give me. I like that for an hour at least, there is less labour in breathing, in being. Once after a particularly stressful semester, I had to have massages weekly just so that I could sleep at night. My body was in so much pain, having twisted itself into several knots in response to unrelenting stressful situations in the classroom.

Somehow massages have become a focal point in the B.C. teachers' contract dispute. B.C. Premier Christy Clark said on Wednesday that negotiations could flow if the teachers' union ended demands for "unlimited massage."

(The B.C. Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker later clarified that a proposal for $3,000 in massages for members in chronic pain had been taken off the table.)

At first when the tweets and comments about the $3,000 massages began to surface I ignored them. That was such a preposterous accusation -- surely everyone knew that teachers would not be asking for luxuries like spa massages. But the tweets persisted, not unlike the pain I experience when I know I need a massage!

I could not believe the malice, the meanness in the deliberate twisting of our proposal to increase the amount of massages that someone who experienced chronic pain and discomfort could claim.

Why would anyone want to deny someone who was suffering from fibromyalgia some relief so that they could do their job?

But the disparaging remarks about massages kept spewing all over social media. The taunts about them could not be quelled. The onslaught peaked when the premier took to broadcast media to amplify the discrediting of teachers who dared to request physician-prescribed massages. She was so indignant about this proposal from teachers that she displayed her disdain over and over again throughout the broadcast.

But her disdain was based on incorrect information.

Teachers had not requested unlimited massages. That was what was already granted to another public sector union -- a union that the province had already signed a contract with. A public sector union whose unlimited massages was somehow well within the "affordability zone."

When they learned of this, citizens were confused. If unlimited massages were within the "affordability zone" for one public sector union, why was the teachers' request for a modest increase in the number of massages available to them outside of this "zone?"

If the premier is insisting that the teachers' proposals were in line with what other public sector unions were getting, how did the unlimited massages she had granted to other public sector unions make sense in light of her response to the teachers' proposal?

So much confusion for B.C. citizens and taxpayers as they watched the premier massage her message about fiscal constraints.

I can imagine that it could cause quite a few knots of tension to develop in citizens who voted for a premier who would at the very least be well-informed about the salient issues at stake in the billion-dollar negotiations with teachers.

One would expect, given all the assistants and secretaries who work on her behalf, that the premier would have accurate information available to her. One would expect that at the very least those assistants ensured that their boss did not make a fool of herself in front of the entire province.

But on Wednesday, it became clear that one would be expecting too much.

Information is an interesting thing. It can so easily be manipulated and twisted and turned into something that does not actually inform but instead misinforms, dis-informs. Orwell had much to say in this regard.

Information can sometimes reveal the truth but it can also distort it, turn attention away from what is actually going on.

Pay attention to what the B.C. government calls the unaffordable demands of teachers and you may miss the fact that the government considers education assistants and learning specialist teachers as salary benefits for teachers. A salary benefit in the same way a nurse would be considered a salary benefit if doctors would allow the premier to get away with that twisted logic.

And if you pay attention to all the ruckus about massages, you may miss the fact that teachers are being asked to give up their Charter rights in exchange for a promise of better learning conditions for students.

No amount of massaging a political message can detract from that fact.

But are you paying attention?

B.C. Teachers' Strike 2014

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