Lori Fox compared it to after a car accident, when a few days later the reality of the experience kicks in and the panic and madness of it all sinks in. This is how Fox views the nervous breakdown that occurred at the end of their book.
The book, It has always been a war: the radicalization of a working-class homosexual, was released on May 3. This is Fox’s first book, an accolade that sits atop an impressive stack of essays, articles, stories, and newspaper clippings from leading national and international publications (which includes writing for the New.)
Fox’s collapse, documented in a personal account published in the Globe and Mail, squarely targets a system that fails to deliver mental health services to working-class people. Refusing therapy and offering prescriptions for drugs that didn’t work, Fox descended into a near miss of self-destruction.
And Fox, unlike most, isn’t keeping quiet about it.
“That we have this two-tier system is a shame. The way we treat people who cannot afford to pay for private care is a disgrace. What happened to me – what is happening to others, even as I write this – is a disgrace.
Fox is a freelance journalist, laborer, worker, waiter, working-class 30-something struggling to earn rent. A rent that is only increasing. One chapter is titled “Other people’s homes, rent is documented by dollar value, whether or not utilities are included, and by year.” For the owners, the chapter is deliberately destabilizing.
Fox arrived in the Yukon in 2012 and found plenty of work, but the housing situation was dire. During three years of precarious housing, Fox interviewed former minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, Pauline Frost, when she was homeless and living in a van.
Fox told the New in a May 26 interview that they had “seen the territory getting more and more expensive and having fewer and fewer options for the working class over the past decade.”
Fox criticizes Whitehorse elites, government employees and resource extractors who congregate in the capital. Fox cites the gap in median household income between Whitehorse’s $93,600 and Ross River’s $45,000, or half of Whitehorse’s median income.
“People in communities, especially rural ones, tend to make less money because they don’t have access to those government jobs,” Fox says, “The disparity is amazing.”
Fox’s heart rests on the working class, people who work in low-paying jobs and don’t own property. The book dedication 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 creators, builders and doers of this world, and everything in it belongs to us.
The book is Fox-raw: Railing, Angry, and Exposed.
“The book is incredibly vulnerable. I’m incredibly direct and really frank with very difficult things. And I don’t pull any punches.
They add: “And it will not be a surprise to anyone who has already read what I have written”.
It’s always been a war is a mix of essays and stories, some already published, many not. The book takes a longer view. The book looks back at childhood and why it matters, and how the truths that have arisen remain. And then that can change.
Fox airs their arguments through a reading of incidents, accidents, and injustices; through jobs and places related to perseverance and hard work.
Fox wields a sharp stick against preference systems that ignore those without financial means, non-white skin tones, or varying genders and sexual orientations. A system that serves to make those who love it most, more comfortable.
For example, reflecting on Saltspring Island, British Columbia, Fox describes the division between landowners and laborers on the well-maintained island.
“It was an island of the rich and their servants.”
They described how the only places to live were on the property of landowners who wanted work in exchange for housing.
In another chapter, while thinning fruit in the Okanagan region of British Columbia, Fox wrote, “I just want to know why a man should have two houses and an orchard full of fruit when other people in his village don’t even have a bed or a place to keep their beer cold.
But Fox looks beyond that. A childhood chapter reveals the stubborn toughness of their brutal father, but acknowledges that he is not just one thing. Fox understands the complexity of the human condition and a larger logic of the systems that created it.
“There is not a single story, not a single direct 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 away from us. This is what patriarchy is. That’s what capitalism is.
“We cannot be exempt from responsibility for our actions. It’s okay to buy sweatshop-made sneakers and drive gas-guzzling, carbon monoxide-spewing SUVs and live guilt-free on stolen land, because that’s 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 should be.”
“The way the world is today, right now, is not the way it should be.”
Contact Lawrie Crawford at [email protected]