Thoughts on poverty and homelessness in the U.S.A.

Archive for the ‘Rich vs. Poor–Economic Inequality’ Category

The rich have the means to get mean and meaner… “the Rich are Getting Mean” revisited

I’d written in the past about a poor, struggling man I’d met in a city building. Both of us were there to resolve tickets we’d received by law enforcement, essentially, for being poor. What I mean is, it’s a crime in the US to be poor. Poor people seem to acquire all sorts of legal problems. In Southern California, for example, jaywalking is a serious crime. Mostly only poor people walk over there, of course. And if you can’t afford to pay the jaywalking ticket…well, you can end up in the slammer. Yep, people go to jail for crossing the street in California. I kid you not! A person’s entire life can be ruined by a single act of crossing a street when the walk signal (light flashes an image of a little androgynous human) stops flashing.

http://www.thestreetspirit.org/Dec2006/criminal.htm

But I told myself this blog would be extremely short. So here goes: My little experiment in writing more frequently but shortening the size of each entry…

This poor unfortunate man I’d met had serious health problems and was collecting disability. He was suffering quite a bit and struggling to pay his medical bills. “The rich are getting mean,” he lamented as we’d gotten into a discussion about the social injustice of our needing to constantly defend ourselves legally. (It’s as though we have to defend our very existence. Do the rich want us dead? Why do they hate us so much?) There’s always some ticket to pay, some ordinance or law to be violated, when you’re poor.  My car was ticketed and I had to go to court to defend myself for driving such an old, beat up used car. So I dropped my car off to a junkyard and proceeded to watch my life fall apart, as it was nearly impossible to find a decent job without a car. When I went to court, I had to show proof that I’d given up my car. I wanted to say, “I’m sorry I’d been driving such a stinky car and that it was polluting your fine California air. But I’d drive a much nicer and less stinky car if I could afford it. Really, I would.” But instead, I showed them the proof that I was carless and then began risking getting mugged by taking Southern California’s wonderful and exciting (nearly was assaulted several times!) “public” transportation system. Once I no longer had a car, I found that opportunities diminished for me in so many ways. People looked down on me because they saw me–horror of horrors!–walking in LA.  Basically, a lot of people didn’t want to be my friend. I couldn’t socialize with them anymore as I had no way of getting to the places where they went. (Unless, of course, a friend offered to give me a ride, but that would mean giving, helping, assisting another human being. But, of course, that would involve socialism and most of my friends were against socialism, so they wouldn’t dare help me in any way. I’m very grateful for that, though, because it gave me a chance to see what kind of people they really were. You don’t always get that chance when you have a lot of money and your life is going well.) And, as I said, job opportunities were very limited for me once I had no transportation. Most available jobs these days are not on the bus line and as public transportation increasing gets cut, that problem is increasing. (Hmm… so I wonder how it benefits society to force poor people to give up their cars when their cars don’t meet the strict environmental inspection standards set up by wealthy bureaucrats? But then I’m always wondering how it benefits society to allow the government and big banks to take away people’s homes just because people can’t afford to pay their bills. Yes, people should pay their bills but…do we really want to take away people’s homes and create a new population of homeless people?)

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/fr/bryan_stevenson_we_need_to_talk_about_an_injustice.html

(Okay, I’ve tried to embed the above video of Bryan Stevenson’s talk, but, for some strange reason, it won’t embed on this site. Every time I type in the code, it disappears once I save this blog. Yep, I type it in, hit “save” then open up the blog and everything I typed is gone.  This happened with my previous blog entry also. As you can see, though, the other videos embedded just fine.  Not sure what’s going on here.  A virus on my computer perhaps? A glitch on WordPress? Perhaps it’s the NSA virus? Anyhow, it’s odd. But I’ve got the URL typed up there, so if you’d like to view this wonderful video about poverty and crime, please click on that link.)

But this doesn’t affect the rich or even much of the middle class, so why do I even bring this up?  Yes, the rich are getting  mean, but so, oddly enough, are the middle class. They may not be the so-called “one percent” but they sure do think they’re better when they live in their gated communities far, far away from the riff raff, i.e., the poor.

And yet, perhaps ironically, the word “mean” as a noun refers to money, property or wealth. Yes, the rich have the means to be mean.

( Above video is from youtube.com/user/KafkaWinstonWorld )

So here it is–my first blog of the year!  And an attempt to make it a short blog entry.  Okay, I didn’t do as well on that as I’d hoped, but I’m getting there…  😉

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/149094/february-11-2008/philip-zimbardo

 

Even a bouncing ball needs a little help now and again…

Ever hold a ball in your hand then let it drop?  What does it do?

It bounces.

And bounces.

It continues to bounce for a little while.

But if you just let it go and don’t give it any more assistance, the bounces will gradually get smaller and smaller, and fewer and farther in between. Eventually, the ball will stop bouncing altogether. It might roll around the floor for a bit till it stops or hits a wall and is forced to stop. But it won’t bounce again until you pick it up and drop it again. (That’s if you don’t intervene and just let the ball bounce on its own, of course.)

But if you drop it then keep tapping it with your hand, you can keep it bouncing, maybe even get it to bounce higher, higher and higher! That ball reacts to your touch and depending on how hard you touch it, it could touch the ceiling, it could rise so high! If you hit it hard enough, your energy might propel it out the window.

Even inanimate objects require some attention.

Do you ever find yourself getting angry at that lazy, dependent ball that can’t bounce on its own, that keeps needing your help to bounce?

“Hey you, get your own bounce!”

Yep, inanimate objects are lazy. They don’t want to work and often refuse to move unless prodded by a human to move. That’s right, you’ve heard/read it here first. Inanimate objects are codependent socialists! Why, some of them are outright communists.  Think of the old-fashioned toilet that won’t flush itself, for example. The door that requires you to open and shut it. Or the road that doesn’t build itself, requiring a large group of human beings (collectivism!) to come together, cooperate and work as a team to build it. Yep, toilets, doors and roads are only some of the seemingly ordinary inanimate objects that support socialism. Don’t be fooled!

Sometimes even living creatures are commies. They may not talk about it, but it’s obvious from their behavior. What of the house plant that requires you to water it from time to time? Sure, if it were outdoors it might absorb water from the rain (still a form of mooching, if you ask me.) But there you are fostering dependency by keeping it in your house and taking responsibility for watering it. Why? If you were a truly self-sufficient American, truly devoted to ending communism and socialism around the world, truly patriotic and loyal to your country, you’d get rid of that houseplant (and any pets and children mooching off of you) immediately. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and tell them to do the same! Show us how to do it by setting an example. As Chris Gardner wrote, “The calvary ain’t comin’!”  Nope, no one’s coming to help you. You’ve got to do it all yourself because that’s what life is all about–self reliance!

So I urge you now to not be a hypocrite. Stop supporting the nanny state, codependency, communism and socialism. Stop helping others and, yes, that includes the houseplant. Keep it outdoors, let it soak up the sunlight and mooch off the rain water. Heck, it should just go out and get a bloody job already! What? “They’re not hiring house plants,” you say? Nonsense. Plants give off oxygen, dumbass. And everyone needs oxygen. Put those plants to work. Lots of people will pay for air. If you bring it, they’ll come.

Whew. Sorry for the rant. But honestly, I’m just so tired of the hypocrisy. We owe it to ourselves as Americans to be as selfish, egotistical and unhelpful to others as possible (again, that includes inanimate objects, pets, children, lovers, etc.)

…Otherwise…

(We need another drum roll, please. Oh wait. Dear, sweet, gentle reader, you’ll have to beat on those drums yourself. I certainly won’t do it for you. Beat those drums silly ’cause we need a drumroll! Or you can just imagine it. Can you hear the drum rolling in your head?)

Because otherwise…

Otherwise, we’ll be advocating socialism. Or worse, communism. Or equally worse, collectivism. And we absolutely don’t want that! Look how well selfishness and greed have solved the problems of billions of people around the globe…people from places like…

like…

like…

Okay, I’ll think of a country in a moment, but they’re out there. The countries thriving and living strong due to selfishness and greed are out there, and, eventually, I’ll be able to name them. Aren’t you listening to conspiracy theorists these days? We’ve all got to turn into selfish so-and-so’s immediately before it’s too late. If someone (or some thing) in your life seems to need your help, don’t be fooled. Explain to them that their problems are all their own fault, that they need to clean up their attitude, and you are not going to lift a finger to help them by enabling their laziness. Listen, help someone and they won’t help themselves. Refuse to help someone and they’ll… well, maybe they’ll rob a store for the money or maybe they’ll break into a bank or check into a homeless shelter, or maybe they’ll die because they didn’t get the help they needed, or maybe they’ll sink into depression and start drinking, or maybe the stress will cause them to develop heart disease, multiple sclerosis or cancer, but at least you won’t be advocating ‘socialism’ by helping them because socialism is very, very dangerous. At least you won’t be assisting their laziness. Besides, in attempting to rob a bank, some poor slob might learn skills, including independence and initiative, that might make them more employable once they’re released from jail. (No, I’m not advocating criminal activity, robbery, or theft. I don’t work for corporate America or the government, so why would I advocate such behavior? I’m simply stating what employers, sadly, are seeking from potential employees.) Most employers today look for “money-motivated” types, so being able to risk all for money is in vogue. Socialism is, on the other hand, helping other people. That’s what the word means. Don’t let those dang “liberals” convince you otherwise. And if you do something stupid like help someone in need then find out they weren’t a very nice person in the first place, well…

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And my memory travels back to a distant time when I was younger and had more faith in people. Perhaps now I’ve become more cynical and impatient. (Ya’ think? Though even in those days I was told I didn’t trust people enough, just to give you an idea of how far down the rabbit hole of mistrust and misanthropy I am right now.) Anyhow, I had moved to a new city and was looking for a new street. I got off the subway and looked around, but this small, suburban street was nowhere to be found. I asked a passerby about this elusive street. Do you know where XXX Street is? And I remember her answer to this day, as it will never leave my mind. It was just so typically American.

“I don’t like to encourage dependency!” she gruffly announced. Then she shoved a map in my face and told me to find the street myself. I looked at the map, dumbfounded. I didn’t know the area at all. In fact, it was the first time in my entire life I’d even been in that city, much less that neighborhood. I spent a few minutes searching the map, but I didn’t even know where I was located on the map much less the street I was searching for, so I didn’t even know where to look. I was very confused. After a few minutes of watching me look over the map, the woman became exasperated. “Oh!” She abruptly grabbed the map away from me. (It was her map, after all, and these days you can’t be too careful. Lots of map-theives out there looking for a handout, looking for someone to “help” them, the lazy bums…)

She then motioned toward the street with her hand. She knew exactly where it was but hadn’t wanted to tell me until now. She just didn’t have the patience for someone as “dependent” and “needy” as I was anymore. So she told me to turn right, head down that major street then turn right again and I’d see the small street I was looking for. She acted as though I was the dumbest person on earth and that I had a lot of nerve asking her for help. Why couldn’t I just pick myself up by my bootstraps and find the street myself?

I followed her instructions and found the street I was looking for. At the time, I was very young, so I didn’t judge the woman too much. I was puzzled by her resistance to just quickly direct me to the street. Honestly, it would have only taken a minute for her to just motion with her hand and say, “It’s just over there.” I was literally only a five-minute walk away from that street. So what exactly was the problem?

It seemed she felt strongly that she had to make a point that everyone should be independent and take care of herself without asking other people for help or directions. She felt she was perpetuating some sort of cycle of dependency by helping me find a street!

And yet if she had taken a simple moment out of her time (less than three minutes, really) to just send me in the right direction, I would have continued on my way and not taken up more of her (or my own) time. She prolonged the time it took for me to find my street by insisting I find it myself when I could not. She had knowledge but wouldn’t share it. (Nothing for free here in the USSA!)

Her resistance to helping me slowed everything down, impeded progress for both her and me. It took me longer to get to my destination and made the trip frustrating. If I hadn’t been able to find the street, I might have given up and just turned around and gone home. Simply put, it would have been much more efficient if she’d just pointed me in the right direction in the first place instead of wasting everyone’s time by attempting to make senseless argument about independence. So we’re not allowed as humans to get lost and ask for directions? That makes us lazy and dependent?

Sheesh.

Look, when we need help, we need it right away at the time it is needed AND we need the appropriate type of help. When other people resist us, judge us, assume we’re to blame, etc., that just creates a distraction that slows us down, sometimes discourages us altogether. This, my friend, is the reason why some people stay poor, remain on welfare, remain homeless, etc. Helping people empowers them, gives them the safety net they need so they can take the risk to jump out into the world and pursue their dreams. Attacking them for needing help when they actually need it just frustrates people, makes them feel helpless and hopeless and, quite often, causes them to give up.

Yes, sometimes we need help. Quite often, we need help. Almost always we need help from other people. And when we don’t get help when we need it and we can’t solve our problems without help, we can deteriorate, sink into depression, get overwhelmed and overburdened, develop health problems, behavioral problems, etc. (Poor people don’t live as long as rich people for this reason.)

That is what happens to poor people, to people who collect welfare for long periods of time, to homeless people, etc. No one wants to be poor or homeless. No one. People get stuck–not because they’re “dependent on handouts.” They get stuck because they aren’t getting the help they need when they need it. American “handouts” are half-assed, incomplete forms of shoving a map in a lost person’s face and telling a person to find the street herself.

Who’s helping the poor here in the USA?  Who’s really helping the poor? No one. I’m telling you right now. NO ONE. When someone’s lost and you send them in the right direction, you’re not perpetuating dependency. You’re being a kind, decent human being. You’re allowing progress. Let that person continue on their journey while you continue on yours. When one needs help from the other, the other will be ready because we share this world. We have to share. Now, I’m not speaking to kindergarteners here, am I? We’re all adults, no? Didn’t your parents/teachers/surrounding adults teach you this when you were five? We have to share because as individuals we can’t do it all alone. It isn’t physically possible.

We’re all connected. We all depend on one another, always. That will never change. Should you choose to leave society and live alone on a deserted island, you’ll still be dependent on nature and the changes taking place within it. You’ll be interacting with storms, crops that refuse to grow, soil that needs to be left alone for a while, animals that are hungry and want your food–or perhaps you as their food. Sorry, but rugged selfishness doesn’t work. Never has. Never will. Being kind spreads more kindness. Someday, it will come back to you and you’ll find that someone somewhere is kind to you when you most needed it. It’s wonderful, really, to live in a world in which people are kind to each other. And we could have that world, even here in the USA.

BTW, a note about the above videos:

The first video was produced by a former lawyer and homeless woman who creates provocative and intriguing political commentary, and has continued to create these videos even while she was homeless. Amazing. Just because you aren’t making money doesn’t mean you aren’t contributing to society. This woman is a perfect example of that. Making videos takes a lot of work.

The second video impressed me because this priest exuded kindness and peace. What he said about us breaking down the walls between us was beautiful and poetic. He honestly means what he says. He honestly cares.

The last videos of the young college students made me cry. “I’ve got a pretty good life,” the young man begins (and the tears began to flow–from my eyes, of course, not his.) So often I lament the lack of empathy and compassion in our spiritually impoverished nation, then someone like this guy comes along who causes me to have faith in the human race again. (Well, for a moment…)

I wish we could support the above video makers. Turn off the TV set and watch videos like the above, movies made from the heart and soul by people who are passionate about something important. Frankly, I found the above videos more entertaining and enlightening than anything I could watch on TV. (But then again, I don’t watch TV anymore, so I guess I’m not all familiar with the *$%#* gobbledygook screening on the idiot box these days. “Junky off!” as my granddad used to say.)

So there.

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