I have become one of the shadow people. One of those who people chose not to see, as they rush about their busy lives. Yet the reality is that as René Descartes stated:
“cogito ergo sum” I am thinking, therefore I exist.
Several months ago I read an ad for Global Television seeking an assignment manager. The ad was full of all the right buzzwords you would expect but hidden away among all those nice buzzwords was a chilling prospect. Part of the job was coordination of editorial content among various elements of the Global/Can West media empire, seeking to maximize the bottom line. Or is that to toe the party line?
I grew up in an era of newspaper competition and contrasting editorial viewpoints. It is disturbing to think about how we have lost all these differing views to media conglomeration, to consider the stifling effect that media conglomeration has on the debate and reporting of issues both large and small. While coordinating editorial content may be advantageous to the bottom line, what is the cost to the public in reporting of stories and presentation of diverse and opposing viewpoints? Where once we were presented with opposing views, ideas and thoughts on important issues we now get one (‘the company’) point of view. Important issues often are no longer examined from many angles and we are no longer exposed to all views, thoughts of considerations needed to make important choices/decisions. Making decisions may appear easier since we are given far less to think about. But, is it a good idea to be seeking or more accurately to be accepting this easy way out? Is it reasonable to be seeking easy, simple answers in an increasingly complex world? Does/has not this approach just lead/resulted in making BAD decisions?
How much does the corporate drive for bottom line results affect what appears in the paper/magazine/television news? I grew up with our ‘local’ paper being owned and published by a resident of the town. I knew the family who were members of the local community. On occasion things got a little lean when the paper took a position on important local issues that some advertisers disagreed with. As a citizen the owner/publisher took these positions and accepted the (temporary) revenue downturns because some important issues need to be addressed and someone will disagree with the papers position. Now the Herald is part of a chain, as are the Abbotsford papers, and focused on the bottom line. To avoid offending advertisers and decreasing revenue, the public ends up with sanitized, do not offend anybody stories.
Another major effect is that of the drive to reduce costs. To address a complex issue such as homelessness is going to require time for research, investigation and thought – perhaps a series of articles. This approach represents a far higher cost than just banging out simple stories. This addressing of complex events carries a significant chance of offending some vested interest, with the potential for a negative effect on the bottom-line.
Doubt this? Think back a few months to the picture of the woman in the hat with the large flower and her dog in her arms. Nice easy story about the closing of the Fraser Inn. The harder part, the most costly part would be a story about: where is she now? What effect did the closing of the Fraser Inn have on her? On other displaced residents? What has the welfare system done for – or to – her? Does she need help now? Do the other ex-residents? What actions did the city take (not take) in accepting (denying) responsibility for the effect of its actions on the innocent bystanders (the residents) of its feud with the owners of the Fraser Inn? Not very likely to be written since it could discomfort readers and advertisers, it would take time and effort and it would/could have a negative effect on bottom line maximization.
The problem with having to rely on media providing the information to make decisions on complex issues, in this current age of media conglomerates, lies in the old computer programmers’ adage:
GARBAGE IN = GARBAGE OUT
Recently I have found another little problem I had never considered before in keeping clean. That is getting your towels and such to dry. When it was warmer I could find somewhere to hang them and they would dry. On a real hot day they would be toast warm and dry. Now, even hanging them up for 24 hours does not get them dry. They range from damp to semi-wet. And in that condition tend to hold onto the cold they absorb. Hot shower, cold towel. Brrrr. Nothing to do but accept. Well, I do not thing the other option, waiting to bath until the towel is dry, is very considerate of others.
René Descartes aside, lately I have taken to looking into mirrors and other reflective surfaces to make sure I have a reflection, as a check that I actually exist. The mayor, city council and city bureaucracy deny my existence ‘Abbotsford does not have a homeless problem it needs to address’ their attitudes, words and actions proclaim. As someone in need of assistance who works hard at the struggle to find employment, the BC Liberals deny my existence ‘They are all bums who do not want to work’. So some days I need to see my reflection to assure myself that yes, I am, no matter how hard the politicians attempt to deny my existence … and the help that would get me back on my feet.
I read an article once that postulated that one reason so many think society is deteriorating is that to many people either lack or fail to use basic civility. Now citing such simple things as “Excuse Me”, “Thank You”, “Please” for some of society’s ills may sound trite, but the use of these words reflects an attitude of consideration for others. You bump into someone and say “excuse me” and the incident can end there. How often have you seen people bump and their reaction is to start screaming and things go downhill from there. The use of “please and thank you” seems to be a dying art-form.
I was/am appalled at the discourtesy some, no scratch some, most of my fellow homeless have been displaying on Saturdays. There are several Korean bible students (Jacob, Stephen et al) who have reached the point in their studies that they need to do a little practice preaching with real people. Now these brave folks could undoubtedly have found a nice safe and easy place/group for this practice, but have chosen instead to go where there is a real need. I admire their bravery and faith, but I have serious reservations about their sanity. They use the Street Hope premises for their ministry, serving a delicious and healthy meal. Then they ask for our attention for a few minutes so that they can have a chance to work with a live audience. They keep the message short and simple (as befits the audience they have) and choose appropriate (to the audiences situation) passages.
The homeless know that these brave folks just want the opportunity to share a short message and gain experience in the real (very real) world. Many homeless rush in, gobble the food and rush out before they ‘have to listen’. Worse still are those who sit around and talk or in other ways disrupt the reading and ideas they wish to share. Now I could get technical here and cite ‘implied contracts’ feed us/we listen but I won’t. What I will cite is the lack of manners and consideration this behaviour shows. They take the time to prepare and serve a meal. More importantly they take the time to choose and prepare a bible passage and their thoughts on this passage, choosing messages that we all could benefit from keeping in mind. And then many of my fellow homeless cannot find it in their hearts to do them the courtesy of listening. Yet, if these people decided to stop coming down to Street Hope, the homeless would be bitching about how inconsiderate they were to stop coming. The homeless have also have missed the positive thoughts and ideas that the last two passages and sharings have contained. Myself, I could use all the positive mental images and ideas I could get. So I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to these brave folk and their friends and spouses who help out. THANK YOU.
Of course these are not the only people that many fail to extent basic courtesy to. There are those who cannot be bothered to take their trays over to stack dishes and trays for easier washing or to put their garbage in the garbage. They leave it for the volunteers to do, these people who have done us the kindness to come down, prepare the meal, serve the meal, wash the dishes and clean up after we leave. And those slobs cannot even bother to help out to the extent of a simple task of putting ones tray and dishes in a place that makes the volunteers’ job easier. I once saw someone turn up after lunch was finished. One of the volunteers went out of her way to get him some buttered buns (all that was left) so that he would not have nothing. He screamed at her, through the buns at her and kept swearing at the top of his lungs. She had gone out of her way to help and because it was not what he wanted, when he wanted he felt free to heap abuse on her. To often many homeless forget that these people do not have to be there, that they are there out of the goodness of their hearts. Then there are those who feel hard done by because the bag lunches only contain a cheese sandwich, a peanut butter sandwich, apiece of fruit and some cookies. They also have no hesitation in complaining to the people who have provided that it should be better. They have provided the food out of their own pockets, made up the bags and brought them to the hungry. They do this every week it is needed without fail and choose to err on the side of providing us with a lunch to have as supper rather than chance us not getting anything to eat at all. And these ungrateful wretches complain, when they should be thanking their lucky stars that people with this kindness in them exist.
I have seen all too many examples of this lack of appreciation for all the hard work and effort that some caring people go to helping out the homeless and the poor. Failing to give thanks or worse giving abuse where thanks are due. They feel hard done by when they cannot even say a simple thank you. I apologize for those ignoramuses and assure you that I certainly appreciate your hard work and efforts.
I agree, probably for different reasons, but I do find the sight objectionable. I considered seeing how far into this blog I could get before I needed to reveal just what I was talking about. I thought of different ways to play back and forth between the public-at-large and my point of view without defining exactly what we were speaking of, since that is what happens so often in the area of homelessness. But as noted, I (we) get enough of that in our day-to-day existence, so what we are discussing is the homeless sleeping in public at night.
This came to mind as I was speaking to several of my fellow homeless last night. It seems that the brick producer by the welfare office has decided to clean out those homeless that were camping in the bush by their facility. At least they were semi-reasonable in the way they went about this. They trotted out a front-end loader, ran it around the edge of the bush to attract attention and issued a warning that they would return in 24 hours to level everything. The reason for saying ‘semi-reasonable’ is that they apparently could not do this without running over and destroying at least a few things. On the other hand all too often others who want to move the homeless along have given no warning, no chance to retrieve their property, just destroyed it. And at this time of year losing what little shelter and bedding is a big deal. As I said at least they were semi-reasonable.
One regularly hears of camps and campsites around the city being destroyed to move the homeless along. The question is why does any rational person think this is going to accomplish anything? As noted, I was speaking to one of the people who had retrieved his stuff (now in a cart). Now I grant you he was not going to be spending his night camping out in the bush near the brick producers – he was now going to be spending the night on the street wherever he could find cover from the rain. At least until he can find another patch of bush to pitch his tent in – until he is rousted from the new location…… and so on, and so on, and so on. He was in the company of one of those the city chose to displace in their argument with the owners of the Fraser Valley Inn. As a result of the city being happy to throw the residents onto the streets but not to stand up and accept their responsibility for helping the people relocate, he has been sleeping on the streets since that time. Now he finds some sheltered spot to try to get some sleep, until the police come along and wake him up to move. After all it is an unsightly and thus not to be allowed. So he moves to the nearest sheltered place and goes to sleep, until the police come along…… and so on, and so on, and so on. Last night he was joined by the fellow rendered camp-less.
**Shake my head** The question is where else do they go? They are homeless with no other choices. One of the other people I know from the Fraser Inn displacement has been desperately seeking shelter since then. When I talked to her yesterday she was ‘distraught’, although that does not really convey how close she is to the end of her rope. I have encouraged her – both to keep plugging away and to get her story down so I can post it. Where do you expect them to go? She was displaced from the Fraser Inn by the city months ago, displaced from a campsite in the bush by the city, currently has a shelter that I would live on the street before I used and is struggling to find a place, but in Abbotsford a $325 shelter allowance makes that a long, difficult task –if you are lucky.
Of course there is the question of what else is going on when the police have to spend their time chasing the homeless from spot to spot instead of other duties. The question of, as all the camping spots in the bush are leveled, having more and more people wandering the streets at night and sleeping where they can – until woken to move on … and so on, and so on, and so on. Of course there are laws against this, so they can be arrested and jailed if you want to pay all the costs associated with this choice. But these costs are hidden as part of something the public likes, increased police spending and more people in jail. It appears the public would rather fool itself and pay these much higher hidden costs rather than examining the question in a rational way. Only by looking at the underlying reality of the situation (as opposed to what people think the situation is) and at the actual real costs of dealing with the situation (as opposed to only seeing the plainly visible costs and ignoring the ‘hidden’ costs) can we begin to make rational choices.
Reality is that the homeless do not just cease to exist when displaced they just have to find another spot, then another … and so on, and so on, and so on. You can displace and move them along all you want, but until you begin to deal with the underlying causes and they have housing of some form they are going to be an Unsightly Sight.