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

Posts tagged ‘liberals’

there’s no incentive to work! why people stay on welfare (or remain homeless) for years and years… (hint: it’s not ’cause they like being poor)

The real reason is this:

Well, actually, it’s not so simple.  I can’t reduce this concept to a sound byte.  Sorry, TV watchers.  But this is a complex idea and will need to be explained in two blog-writing sessions.  I have to go to “work” myself this morning, so I’ll just begin this blog here then continue it later on tonight or tomorrow…

I’ve had yet just another fellow American tell me that safety nets, such as welfare, encourage laziness, that there’s no incentive to work when someone is given everything he/she needs by the government.

Ehem.

This was a very nice person, so I was able to explain my point of view, though not very well, I think, because it is complex.  How do I explain a concept that a semester of college work could perhaps barely explain?  (Yes, I do think there should be Poverty Studies courses in college.  The neo-cons are against this sort of thing.  They dislike the liberal arts in general–contains the word “liberal” after all.)  But the liberal arts teach us to think about each other, about why we’re all really here on this earth, about morality, about ethics, social responsibility and social injustice.  Right now, especially right now, we need to be thinking about those things.  For all their talk about “Christian values,” the neo-cons are anti-morality.  Their only concern is themselves, their money, their material things, and, yes, their taxes.  They don’t like taxes!

Personally, I don’t like poverty and despair.  I don’t like human suffering.  That to me is a much more serious problem than paying taxes.

But there ya’ go.  I’m not a neo-con, neo-liberal, Republic-con, or whatever they call themselves these days.

(Disclaimer:  if you’re  a Republican, rest assured that I don’t want to hate you.  In fact, I’m trying real hard not to hate you.  I know that only a few of you are addicted to money, greed, selfishness and mean-spirited, rugged individualism.  Most of you just don’t have an understanding of what is really happening in this country.  You’ve been misinformed or uninformed.  Without an understanding of how governments and societies are formed and have been formed throughout history, how can you learn of what is happening in today’s world?  So you turn on that TV set–some call it an “idiot box”–and just hope for the best.  Sadly, you make the mistake of turning on Fox News.  Naively, you trust the misinformation you’re given as “fair and balanced.”  And, being uneducated in history, sociology, and human psychology, how would you know enough to do any different?)

So there.

When people say that poor people are lazy and don’t want to work, that safety nets just enable them to not work what they are really saying is that poor people are inferior to rich people and that poor people should not have the right to pursue their own happiness but that only rich people should have that right.

Case in point:

Why is no one attacking rich people for being lazy and not wanting to work?  There are many people who were born into wealthy families who do not have to work. Yes, that’s right, they have nothing to do, nothing that they have to do.  They don’t have to work because their families are so rich that they can literally live off of their parents’ money and never, ever work a day in their lives.  Some of them become very apathetic and bored.  They begin spending their money on drugs and alcohol in a desperate attempt to alleviate the tedium by creating some obstacles for themselves.  (Poor people drink to forget about the obstacles.  The mega-rich drink to create them.  Go figure.)

Yet we don’t attack the lazy and irresponsible rich.  Why?  Because they worked for it, you say?  No, I’m talking about people who were born with  money, who never worked for it.  (I need to repeat myself here and will continue to repeat myself over and over again on these blogs because, sadly, one must repeat one’s self in order to get heard amongst the chaos and shouting in this attention-deficit-disordered, fast-paced age.  So I’ll try to make this simple and repeat myself enough times so that, I hope, some people will “get it.”

Point is this:  if we value  hard work so much (and I’m curious about that too) why do we not attack wealthy people who are lazy and don’t want to work?

(Sadly, I must work and not at what I love to do or am good at. Perhaps one day I’ll earn a living from writing these blogs or from writing in general.  However, now I must go to work at a dead-end, low-paying job that will cause me to become homeless again soon because that is the only kind of work I’ve been able to obtain in this Land of Opportunity, the USSA.)  So I’ll continue this thought later…

Okay, I’m just going to add this thought before I go.  Here’s what I would do if I were collecting welfare and food stamps, if I didn’t have to “work” at a regular job.  I’d spend my days working on my writing, writing more blogs, practicing my guitar, making my videos.  Yep, I’d be working at the things I do best.  Maybe I’d be able to make a positive contribution to society.  Maybe I’d be the next Michael Moore and make films that enlighten, educate, that make other people think differently about their society.  Oh, I guess that explains why some wealthy, powerful people don’t want people like me to really “work.”  They want us to work at low-paying, dead-end jobs that support corporate America.  They just don’t want us to work at anything that will better ourselves and our community.  And often those are the jobs for which we don’t get paid in money.  No one pays me to write these blogs, to make my videos, to produce my music.  No one pays me.  Not a penny.  I don’t even get donations.  Perhaps I should solicit for them.  But right now I want to be able to speak my mind while I still have the right to do so.  Soon the government will send in agents to arrest people like me, to shut us down for good.  I already have reason to believe that I’m on some sort of terrorist-wanted list.

But that’s the way it goes…

And I will continue this later…

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Et tu, flower child?

I thought that Wavy Gravy was just a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor, but then I saw this (and “Saint Misbehavin”’ is a perfect title, by the way):

(“Saint Misbehavin'” trailer)

and this:

(“Woodstock Nation” documentary)

and this:

(Wavy Gravy at Woodstock)

and this:

http://www.rippleeffectfilms.com/wwwavy  (“Saint Misbehavin'” documentary film official web site)

“What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000…  In fact, it’s everybody.  We’re all feeding each other.  We must be in heaven, man.  There is always a little bit of heaven in a disaster area…”

Wait a minute, wait a minute.  Wait.  Wait just one darned minute here.  I am NOT feeding anyone else here but myself.  Personal responsibility.  Self responsibility.  I take responsibility for me, myself and I.  That’s all.  You need to take responsibility for yourself.  I work hard for my money and I have just enough food for myself, thank you very much.  I am not giving any of it to you, Mr. Moocher.  Get your own food.  Get a job.  Go to work and make some money and buy your own food.  How is it my fault that you made the choice to come to this concert, to listen to music?  You could have stayed home.  You chose to commute out here just to listen to some music, and you don’t have the money to pay for your food, to pay the musicians, to pay the promoters, pay for your spot on my land?  So how is that my problem?  Do you know how much money we put into producing this concert?  How dare you come here on my land and dirty it up with your unbathed bodies, and then you want free food too?  Who the heck are you?  My fellow American?  Ha!  How do I even know that you’re even legally in this country?  Can you prove that you’re a U.S. citizen?  Show me some I.D.  Ha, again!  You’re all a bunch of moochers!

And while we’re on the subject.  I have plenty of money to see a doctor when I’m sick, so don’t come whining to me that you can’t afford to see  a doctor, that you don’t have health insurance, blah, blah, blah.  Stop being such a lazy, whining, moocher and take self-responsibility.  Get $30,000 out of your pocket and pay for those medical expenses yourself!  If you don’t have $30,000 then work for it.  Take on a second job.  Or a third job.  Or a fourth.  Heck, you don’t need to sleep at night!  Work!  Take responsibility, work, and pay those bills.

Ehem.  (She stops to clear her throat, taking responsibility for her own phlegm, of course.)

The Mad Bag Lady has spoken!

Point is, we no longer live in a society.  (A society being people working, living and cooperating together, i.e., as a group.)  We are now, hundreds of millions of us, a bunch of rugged individualists who happen to live upon the same continent but separately.  We don’t want to share.  We don’t want to care.  We are individuals accepting responsibility only for ourselves, not for each other, nor for what we do or say to each other but for ourselves as individuals only.  What I say and do to myself matters.  What I say and do to you does not.  Do you understand?  I am here to help myself not you, to get what I can for myself, not you.  Comprendez?

Oh yes, now I understand exactly what you’re telling me.  And there’s only one small problem with what you’re describing:  That is not a society.  What we have here in the U.S.A. is a former society.  Some might call us a failed society.  Rugged individualists who only care about themselves, not the greater good, not even their neighbors do not form a society.  They’re like men trying to be islands.  Can’t be done.  We’re all dependent on each other in some way or another.  When we try to do it all on our own…  Well, it might appear glamorous when we tell stories of ourselves riding off into the sunset–the loner, the rebellious lone ranger whom no one understands.  But in reality, outside of the story, doing it all alone just doesn’t work.  Yet we insist on remaining a society of loners.  Our selfishness and greed have made us lonely.

But, apparently, this was not always true, as the footage above suggests.  Apparently, there was a time, not so long ago, in which many people, perhaps the majority of Americans–believed that we were all in this together, a society of people working, living, playing, enjoying music–together.  Yes, we can exercise our individuality by experimenting with different musical, clothing and living styles, but we are all connected, united–though our individual states may vary.

–Rod Serling understood this, by the way:

In the”Time Enough At Last” episode, Henry Bemis finds that, as last man on earth, he no longer needs to make compromises in order to deal with other people.  He is now, seemingly,  free to do whatever he wants.  Yet he is unable to even read a mere book in this destroyed world.  Everything that he took for granted–the entire society that he had lived in–had been created by other people who’d come before him, his parents, grandparents, and a surrounding community.  Now, along with his fellow human beings, everything the human race had collectively created (and was about to create) was gone.  Could Bemis possibly rebuild an entire world–a world that took billions–no more than that!–of people to create over a period of centuries?  All by himself?  In one, single lifetime?  Now Mr. Bemis has all the time in the world to read his books.  To be the rugged individualist, at last!  And no other human being can stand in his way.  But when his glasses fall and break, he realizes, there is no other human being alive to repair them.  So his new-found freedom really isn’t freedom at all.  He is limited by his own personal resources.  Without a community of other people to help him, he can’t even read a book–though books surround him.  And, it goes without saying, it took an entire human race to write, publish and produce those books.  Just as it took a human race to create the technology for glasses, contact lenses and LASIK surgery.)

But it’s interesting to note that Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” series aired during the 60s.

So what happened to us?  Flower child, where did you go?  How did your ideals change from peace and love, seeking the greater good to seeking what’s greater for Numero Uno, the biggest, baddest iPhone, iPod, I…I…I?  What made us change from singing songs about “love is all you need” and “put a little love in your heart” to “Move, B—ch, get out the way…I’m about to punch your lights out…” (Ludacris), “F–k You” (Cee Lo Green) or “We R who we R… Tonight we’re going hard, just like the world is ours, we’re tearing it apart…” by Ke$sha (and she actually spells her name with the dollar symbol?  Can she make it more obvious why she’s in the music business?)

Watch this old interview with Jimi Hendrix and tell me, honestly, could we possibly hear a rock star TODAY speak with such down-to-earth, philosophical candor, humility and intellect?  Name one current celebrity who could say these words in a televised interview:

“We’re playing for our sound to go inside the soul of the person…and see if they can awaken some kind of thing in their minds…’cause there are so many sleeping people…  I don’t really live on compliments.  Matter of fact, it has a way of distracting me.  I know a whole lot of other musicians and artists that are out there today, they hear all these compliments…so they get fat and satisfied, and then they get lost and they forget about the actual talent that they have and they start living into another world…  Money is getting to be out of hand now…  Musicians, especially young cats, they get a chance to make all this money and…they lose themselves and forget about the music itself.  They forget about their talents. They forget about the other half of them.”

Whew.  Would someone like Jimi Hendrix even “make it” today?  And further, in this age of Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, would a mild-mannered, soft-spoken, thoughtful talk show host like Dick Cavett have any success today?  Perhaps if he changed his attitude and became aggressive, rude, loudmouthed and overbearing.  Yes, that would be more entertaining.  Why do we find that to be more entertaining?

Don’t get me wrong here.  I’m not on a “kids today are listening to the devil’s music” rant.  (I’m a bag lady, not an old lady, remember?)  And I like Katy Perry’s “Firework” which is currently number one on the USA Billboard charts.  I’m sure there are some nice, kind, soft-spoken, thoughtful, introspective, intellectual rock stars out there.  Somewhere.  Perhaps not in the US.  Perhaps not successful or famous.  Perhaps not anyone I’ve ever heard of.

But when we look at our culture, at the music, the films, the books, the everyday human interaction in today’s society how can we not see the death of idealism, the lack of community and the lack of love?  My question is, what happened?  It was little more than forty years ago, and now, suddenly, we’ve entered this era.  Not an era of “we” but of “me.”  We won’t gather at Woodstock, or anywhere else, unless we’ve got the money to pay for the tickets.  Partying, enjoying music, enjoying life in general is now a luxury reserved only for the wealthy.  (But then again, why gather anywhere with anyone when we can stay home and watch it all on TV?)

Yet many of us continue to lament the loss of the sixties.  We ask repeatedly, where did the hippies go?  Why did they betray us?  Did they all just “sell out,” deciding there was more money to be made in corporate America than in t-shirts, jeans, peace signs and good music?  Did those hippies who refused to let go of their ideals end up homeless and destitute, rejected by a society that no longer shares the same values?  Perhaps some of them have died off, following in the footsteps of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix who died “before they got old.”  Or perhaps they’re hiding behind suits and ties, heels and briefcases, afraid to rebel against authority, conforming in appearance, but wishing, secretly, that the 60s would make the reruns.

In a video above, Wavy Gravy refers to Woodstock as a disaster area.  Why?  Did he feel sorry for the crowd of young people who lacked food and other resources on their nomadic journey toward fun and good music?  Yet we look back upon that “disaster” and wish we could live it today (or relive it for those of us who’d experienced Woodstock the first time around.)  If that disaster looks so attractive to us today, then what does that say about us?  Could it be that the money and material things we’ve accumulated aren’t making us happy after all?  That hundreds of thousands of people gathering on an undeveloped plot of land without food, water or a chance to take a bath attracts us because we’re just that lonely?  That all we really need, rather than money and material things, is just to be around each other?  And to be without material things would just be “heaven” if we could all just be together, love each other and hear some great music?

If we know the above is true then why do we continue to work so hard just to accumulate more material luxuries?  Why have we stopped working at being better people and at getting along with our friends and neighbors and chosen instead to emphasize the need for material possessions in our lives?

The irony is that we could, collectively, bring back the 60s in a heartbeat.  Yes, anytime we’d like.  Right now, for instance.  But not as individuals.  As a society.  If a large number of us chose collectively to believe in, to support, once again, the ideals of community, of giving, of peace and love, kindness, of non-material things… If we chose to enrich our spirits rather than our bank accounts, to value the soft-spoken over the loudmouthed, the musician over the icon, the peace and love over the paycheck…If we made this choice to be the peace we seek in the world, and we did this all at once…all at the same time…

Would we hear the high-pitched scream of Wall Street, dying in agony for the last time?

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