Meet the Homeless, Listen to Their Stories, Realize They're Just Like You [and me]

"It's comforting to believe the line separating the homeless from you is Hulk-strong and neon bright, that their situation reflects some failing - moral, spiritual, intellectual - that you, righteous soul, do not suffer. Comforting. But then, self-delusion often is...Life happened to them, same as it happens to everyone." writes Leonard Pitts of the Maimi Herald in his article today about the disconnect between between those attending the DNC in Charlotte N.C.and homeless there and everywhere else including your home town and mine. He says of the poor, "...they deserve what anyone would want. Not a handout nor even just help, but first, an acknowledgement that they are there." In reading this moving article you'll meet many homeless people, you hear their stories, you'll realize they're just like you [and me].

Believe it or not poverty is already a crime in many places in the USA and beyond. Examples: in NYC, it's an arrestable offense to put your feet up on a second seat, or set a bag on an empty seat beside you; in parts of Florida, it's an arrestable offense to declare, upon being wakened at your legal campsite, that you have nowhere else to go; people have been ticketed for feeding the homeless; some communities have laws against sitting on the sidewalk, even against GIVING a panhandler a donation. And of course, you can sit in your car all day long...but don't dare try to sleep in it!

We here in Canada have slightly less draconian laws and a slightly better social safety net but we still have grinding poverty and homelessness. We still have countless folks who have to choose between eating and paying the rent not just in a few major cities but everywhere across the Great White North.

Pitts' article and others focus on the invisibility of the poor in America's current electioneering cycle. They also focus on some of the hatred directed at them by many who should know full well that they themselves are only one check away from the sidewalk themselves. It's the same story often up here, blaming the victim isn't exclusively an American psychosis, it seems like human nature. But is it or is it a manifestation of ignorance and fear?

What is human nature is being a conformist. As every evolutionary biologist will agree, we evolved for eons in small groups as hunter-gathers and conforming with the predominant views meant acceptance, protection in times of danger and shared resources in times of need thereby giving our genes a better chance to be passed on. In today's world we are constantly bombarded by a predominant worldview as well and having been genetically molded to conform, so conform most do. Acceptance of this absurd conformity from an outside viewpoint looks irrational but it's 'The Stockholm Syndrome' writ large.

The media, especially advertising, constantly pounds out the narcissist drumbeat that individual comfort is the highest goal [most folks even agree to be called consumers]. Accepting this worldview of materialism as our goal means those who don't share in its fruits, by choice or by circumstance, are by definition outside of the group - 'others'. From this writer's point of view, the only viable alternative is being a non-conformist, a dropout and an outsider by choice. The only metric worth measuring is the level of living at and understanding that we are all in this together.