Hatred is still scary

2012-04-08 20:43

So, our friend Rah did something pretty awesome. She made cheap, portable, housing. The summary of the thesis is particularly endearing.

This is a pretty cool idea. And the thing is… homelessness does suck, and it really is very hard to get from homeless to not-homeless, for all the reasons she points out.

So, of course, Oregon being a bleeding heart liberal area, most people are supportive.

Let us see what modern ‘‘compassionate conservatives’‘ have to say about the idea of giving people who want to improve their lives the tools they need to do so.

yankeeshogun: Thank you, Miss Cloutier. Please have the vagrants park their poverty traps outside your parents’ house.

(post deleted by newspaper): If I saw one of these, I would be compelled to torch it.

ltjd: I’m wondering if Sarah’s enthusiasm will wain when her second trailer is sold, traded or bartered away for drugs, alcohol and/or cigarettes?

glockisback: Just more feelgood liberal idiocy coming from some lefty out of portland. Such a joke. Really sad yo libs take this crap seriously. But then you all voted for 0bami, adams, kitz, and merkely.

SteeleWall: As long as they restrict them to downtown Portland little harm can come of this idea. Downtown Portland has been slowly turning into the classic city core dump since the 1990s anyway. Why not finish the job? Portland is blessed with a number of pleasant neighborhoods that offer all the consumer and entertainment amenities of the downtown area and more. Without the street dwelling element. Sellwood Woodstock Hawthorne-Sunnyside Belmont Nob Hill Multnomah Village. With more coming online each year. There is no more need for shoppers partiers and families to patronize the downtown core than there is for its denizens to migrate outward.
Portland is following the lead of city centers like Detroit San Francisco Los Angeles Chicago Philadelphia and Boston. Maybe the little vagrant wagon concept will fit right in. Like $250,000 public toilets for street drug users and service centers for illegal aliens. If Portland has to have them, keep them where the clientèle hangs out and where you want them to stay.

RailwayMan: And then there are those people who have suffered all those problems during their lives and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to make a better life anyway.
How do you explain their successes without all the “free assistance” being suggested.
Perhaps some people are just stronger individuals than others?
Does it mean society has an obligation to always offer a hand to the weaker at the expense to all?
Isn’t that a “socialist society?”
Is that what is being advocated here; our society become a socialist one?

hobowatcher: Stop treating homeless like they don’t want to be there.
They want to be able to continue their “lifestyle” ie drugs, alcohol, freebies but will tell you all the negatives about their lives in order to get more from you while continuing their destructive habits.
They play you and the system.
If you don’t believe me, ask the next homeless you meet if they would rather come with you to learn a trade and get out of their lives they “find themselves” or $100 right now.

The victim-blaming mentality really has gotten insane. You can tell that “hobowatcher” never tried this, for instance. Other posts (some now deleted) expressed similar thoughts.

EDIT: It’s been pointed out that this piece appears to ascribe bad motives to all opposition to the project. This is not my intent; there are plenty of people who have considered or reasonable concerns about the project. These people were picked out, not because their comments were representative of all concerns or doubts about Rah’s project, but because they were representative of a particular kind of contempt for other people.

I know a fair number of people who were, at one point or another, homeless. I know a lot more who would have been if it hadn’t been for timely interventions by friends. Some of them are people who had 20-year careers and then ended up with a sustained period of unemployment starting sometime in 2008.

By and large, people would rather be supporting themselves, if they could. It is totally possible that there are exceptions, sure. But there are a lot of people for whom a small amount of really helping, not just half-helping, would result in them ending up back in the workforce. In fact, many will end up on their feet again given even a little bit of help, as long as the help is actually giving them what they need, rather than spending an immense amount of effort trying to prevent them from “cheating”.

A friend of mine ended up homeless once, some years back. There came to pass a situation in which a landlord delivered a deadline and an eviction notice. The state chose to suggest that they would offer a small portion of the money that would be needed to prevent the eviction, because they can’t just let people get their rent paid. Result? They saved $400 or so. They also accepted the costs of having two people homeless, thus unable to hold jobs, thus consuming food stamps and other assistance, for several months. That means no income, no taxes, no property taxes paid directly or indirectly, no sales tax, and hundreds of dollars of benefits used up. “Saving” that $400 easily cost the state and local governments a couple thousand.

Idiocy.

But the thing is, it’s not fueled by idiocy. It’s fueled by hatred and contempt. It’s vitally important that these people believe that they are morally superior to the people who end up destitute, not just luckier. Otherwise, they might feel guilty.

The argument that the homeless are weak and the people who succeeded without help are strong is mystifying. First, it’s mostly not true; luck plays a much larger role in events than people like to admit (see Kahneman’s [i]Thinking, Fast and Slow[/i], for some discussion of just how bad people are at recognizing chance events). But even if it were true, what’s the proposed solution? Kill all the weak people to make the race stronger? Godwin’s Law territory. Point and laugh at weaker people? I like to think most of us outgrew that by third grade.

My personal favorite, though, remains:

nutty4hoops: I have a better idea. Why don’t you looney liberals let all the homeless people live with you? Oh…you don’t actually want to help people? You just want us Republicans to be productive and earn big money then give our money to unproductive lazy liberals?

The amount of projection and dishonesty is amazing; after all, Rah is the one who has actually done something. But the beauty of it is, our hero is suggesting that an art student ought to be supporting homeless people. Apparently unaware that there is a platinum-iridium art student in a vault in Paris, serving as the metric unit for “poor”.

The thing is, nowhere in the story is it said that Rah, or the advocates of this plan, do not take in homeless people. I know that many people I know have supported one or two other people at one time or another, because that’s what decent humans do. The writer of this comment, though, is probably not one of them. See, you have to ask: Why does this writer take it for granted that Rah, and her family and friends, don’t actually let the homeless come live with them? Because the writer wouldn’t, that’s why. Most people I know would, and we would never dream of assuming that someone else would be unwilling to, because that would be a ridiculously uncharitable assumption to make. But then, most of us don’t derive our entire sense of personal worth from being luckier than other people, which we ascribe to our personal virtues.

This may not work. It may prove impractical, it may run into legal problems, it could run into any number of barriers. But I am really proud of Rah, who has tried to solve a systemic and structural problem, rather than sitting around wringing her hands.

Way to go, Rah.

Peter Seebach

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