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

Posts tagged ‘peace’

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.

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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