How to Triumph over a Noisy Flock


A source who prefers to remain anonymous (because he fears that the feathered "friends" shown at right will peck him to death) attended more than a year of grueling, unproductive meetings in the name of re-vamping his state's long term care system. Here are his tips:

1. Never go alone. Even if you only have one "seat" at the table, which is usually the case, get someone to go with you. They may have to sit in the public seating area -- if there is one.

2. There's no public seating area? Demand one. This is public policy reform in action. Is the public not invited to attend? Better yet, demand more seats at the table for your friends.

3. Be clear about who you represent. Tell them why you're at the table, and what you know to be wrong with the system. Don't be surprised that they have no clue. This will change, but only if you stay at the table.

4. It may be expensive for you to travel to meetings. If you need financial support to get there, ask the bureaucrats for help. If they say no, ask around at Vocational Rehabilitation, your local CIL, or the Statewide Independent Living Council. Ask the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council and the state's Protection & Advocacy office. Ask! If you're hooked into a local advocacy group, see if they'll support your travel expenses.

5. Learn their language but don't speak it. Prepare yourself to be surrounded by birds who squawk unintelligibly. They talk about minimum standards, quality performance, licensure, spousal impoverishment, rate-setting, shared risk, negotiated care plans, phew! (Dignity and independence are empty rhetoric at these meetings. Even when you hear those sacred words spoken, don't expect fundsucker definitions and ours to agree.)

Make them explain themselves. Literally say, "What does that term mean?" You aren't the only one at the table who can't swallow the jargon. Even in this high-flown company, you can feel comfortable using your own language. Yes, they will find talk of people being locked up and segregated "inappropriate," or offensive. You may even get a chance to explain your terms.

6. You will get angry, no question about it.Show your power by staying cool as much as possible. No, it's not easy.

7. Point out the fallacies and the myths that set up the old system. They threaten any genuine reform. Demonstrate with your own experiences.

8. Act like you own the place. Consider yourself a Quality Controller. Get comfortable. Let them know your views are more important than those of the guy sitting next to you who profits from locking up our brothers and sisters.

Take a big space at the table. Let them run and get your coffee. You are the most important person present because you've been a captive of the system. (You haven't? Then bring somebody who has.) Having been on the receiving end of the "services" they're talking about, you are the expert.

9. Bring facts to the table. Use them when you make what they'll call wild allegations about the horrors of long-term "care." Get your hands on deficiency reports on institutions. These are public documents and will surely get people's attention.

When one of these suckers talks about something you don't know about, get informed and bring your information to the table next time.

10. Never give up. Never give in. You're the only person present who can speak from the expert end-user perspective. Insist on being heard. Then bring more people to the table who can speak truth to power. You are not alone.



fundsucker meeting
Do these birds look familiar?





fundsuckers in their human disguise

Here are the same birds -- the way most folks see them.
Read the field guide and you'll be able to spot fundsuckers for what they are when they line up at the trough near you.


wanted poster for yellow-bellied fundsucker


A Field Guide to Long-Term Fundsuckers

Back to Flocking with the Fundsuckers

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*Scott Chambers, cartoonist and visionary, may be reached via email at Mouth bought the rights to use these cartoons first, but Scott holds the copyright to them. For reprint permissions on the cartoons, address him directly. Mouth holds the copyright, ©1998, on the article. Although Mouth invented the term fundsucker, we are delighted to see the term in wide use. To see the original fundsuckers, click here.