Future historians will record that the mental virus of equality took over human minds shortly after The Enlightenment,™ a moment of insanity in which it was declared that human desires were more important than real-world consequences, as exhibited in tradition and natural order.
Since that time, our societies have rewarded whoever expresses equality in new and widening forms. Find someone who is not enjoying life, and do something public to help them, and it builds up your own reputation.
For this reason, we now have a culture of people who fawn over the poor, homosexual, women, minorities, transgenders, the retarded, and the insane. This society adores its broken and lost because we can use them to promote ourselves.
Consequenly, the homeless have sort of a dual role. They are pitied, and therefore valuable as pity cows for those who want to show off, but they are also dangerous, since the ones who are not simply alcoholics tend to be insane and on drugs.
Twenty-five years ago, Spike Gillespie punctured some of our myth by tackling the voluntary homeless in a story called There’s No Place Like Home…(That’s Why I Left):
The longer I pursued their tales, the more it became clear that their pickiness was purposeful. If they shunned my compassion and my smoked turkey, it was to show me what they hold true: They make the rules. Most will tell you that’s why they’re out on the streets. They’ve convinced themselves it’s the ultimate form of freedom.
Beyond the freedom factor, there are a few other tenets held sacred and spouted regularly out here: Cops are bad; the system is evil; Armageddon, in the form of class wars, is right around the corner; work sucks. In the loose tribe they have formed, which breaks down into sub-tribes, it is clear they discuss these things regularly amongst themselves as they sit, all day long, doing not much of anything. For self-proclaimed anarchists, they are organized ideologically.
But inside each individual mind, separate storms brew. I had problems discerning which of these kids really were better off sleeping and pissing in public, and which were merely playing out a melodramatic extreme of youthful angst and rebellion. The ones who did talk to me all claimed they came from screwed-up families. Reluctance, apathy, and a level of hopelessness that simply could not be regarded as facade gave a tone of sad truth to some of the stories out there.
In other words, these are the products of a broken civilization, exemplified in its terrible parenting. Before sexual liberation, winos and hobos were well-known; they were alcoholics and social dropouts, respectively, who wanted to escape.
They were escaping parents, society, abusers, or just their own demons, who like most demons cannot be outran, only out-thought. To them, being miserable and impoverished on the street was better than knuckling down to the father or teacher they hated.
With sexual liberation and the ensuing disintegration of the family, their ranks swelled, filled with people so angry at their origins that they possessed only an impulse to destroy:
The others, mostly, aren’t trying to work out their problems. They won’t acknowledge there is a problem. For some, this is because they have shut down, while others know they can go home and will go home, at least for awhile.
If we help them out, we encourage them to avoid changing. If we shun them, we get the big “fuck you” to our faces and behind our backs and give them fuel for their angry fire. It is our “system” that provides the food stamps many of them get — around $115 a month each — and it is our “system” that provides the spare change they more often than not spend on beer and drugs. We could offer them a job and a roof and they would scoff at us. This all runs through my head as I sit for hours with them, on sidewalks that reek of urine. My sadness at the fact they’re out here is often tempered by a desire to throttle them and shake them awake to see how pathetic it is.
That feeling — that they were hated or unwanted or someone wanted to shake them — is, I think, what got them here in the first place. The truly fucked-up ones are the ones who weren’t given any choices or any skills at making choices at home. In their minds, no matter how exaggerated, they escaped tyrannical rule. But they haven’t gotten over the need to hate somebody, and with mommy and daddy out of the picture, that leaves the rest of us to bear the displaced burden.
What may be most interesting here is how they rebel against control with more control. When someone tries to control you, the natural instinct arises to control your situation more as a way of driving off the other control.
However, this continues the control virus, and requires the individual to live for the purposes of maintaining external power, which seemingly would be the opposite of having freedom.
In the end, our homeless problem came about through control. The more we replace culture with bureaucracy, the more we control, and thus, the more people rebel and end up so enraged that they would rather live poor and die young than submit.