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

Posts tagged ‘Van Gogh’

Homeless Heroes…

Thought I’d give some credit to today’s inspiration.  On a Scroogle search today I came across Djelloul Marbrook’s article, “The Homeless as Prophets and Heroines.”  As a self-professed, mad, bag lady, I was,needless to say, intrigued.

Here’s a link:

http://newsblaze.com/story/20100612112133delm.nb/topstory.html

Madness is often defined as “abnormal” or unusual behavior.  That means, anyone who is different might be considered mad.  As many of us know, homosexuality was once listed in the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as a mental illness.  Today, that is no longer the case.

And so, with the swiftness of a pen across paper, or perhaps a finger tapping upon a computer keyboard, thousands of people were suddenly “cured” of their madness.  Someone decided they weren’t crazy after all, and so they were cured.  Just like that.  Madness, thou art a fickle disorder…

With this thought in mind, I came across another web site:  www(dot)PaulaJCaplan(dot)net.  Caplan wrote a book entitled, “They Say You’re Crazy: How the World’s Most Powerful Psychiatrists Decide Who’s Normal.”  She writes about how a tiny minority of our population decide what constitutes sanity or insanity.  Why are we allowing a small number of “experts” decide what is “normal”?

Mental illness does exist, and I’m not trying to suggest that those who really do suffer from it shouldn’t get help.  I’m simply stating that in our society we are moving toward accusing those who are different or who just don’t fit in of being mentally ill.  We are moving toward enforced conformity.  Part of the reason for this is our fast-paced society.  We just don’t want to take the time anymore to understand someone else or to learn how to interact better with people who are different from ourselves. We’d rather force them to conform than allow them to continue to challenge us and our status quo with their eccentric and unusual behavior and lifestyle.

Some homeless people are mad-crazy.  Others are just mad-angry or mad-nonconformist.  Some people live in poverty because their talents and skills are just not appreciated in a financial way by our society.  This is often true of artists.  It is heartbreaking, but I’ve seen some very talented musicians who were homeless.  They strum their guitars and sing their songs on the street still believing that someday, someone will discover their great talent…  And it just doesn’t happen.

Sorry, but it doesn’t happen that way anymore, not for most of us.  Perhaps it never really did work that way.

You could be the next Rembrandt or the next da Vinci, and no one will ever know.  Our society just doesn’t reward creativity.  We need artists.  We watch television, go to see movies, read books, gaze at pretty paintings, but we rarely consider the lives of the artists who wrote, painted or filmed that project.  We take artists for granted.  We take what they create but don’t feel the need to reciprocate.

Okay, I’m going off on another tangent here.

Suffice it to say, artists are only one type of homeless hero/oine.  Artists create whether or not we are paid for it.  We write, paint, sing, strum, even though no one is listening, watching or paying us for it.  Our society understands this and continues to just not pay us for it.

There are other homeless heroes–the “battered woman” who flees abuse and ends up in a shelter with her children, the runaway teen, also fleeing abuse and sleeping on the street, the Chris Gardners who refuse to work at minimum wage jobs and accept a life of poverty who’d rather be “free” living on the street than be controlled by the system.  They think their “ship” will one day come in.  It never does.  Their spirit breaks.  And they give up.  (And once they do give up, they become the “crazy” homeless people we often see on the street.)

And then there’s the artist who keeps creating–today’s Jean-Michel Basquiats who are never discovered.  Their art and the joy it could give us will never be known.

Because we’ve created a classist (as opposed to a classless) society.  One must have an agent, a manager, connections, a cool outfit, a cell phone, and the “right look.”  One must be “18- to-look-younger” and have a product that “sells.” Da Vinci and Rembrandt wouldn’t “make it” today.  Neither would Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Chaplin, or Charles Dickens.

We’re missing out on a lot by relegating the poorest among us to permanent destitution, by refusing to help those in need.  What we fail to see (as a society) are the richest that lie hidden within each and every human being, no matter how lost and forlorn one might appear on the surface–the hidden talents, wisdom, and intellect–contributions that each and every one of us is capable of making to society, once we are allowed to thrive, to pursue our own happiness and rise up to our fullest potential.

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