Recently Dan and I both ran into books and movies that made us grit our teeth, because in all of them, there was what I call ” magic wand” solutions.
One that the rest of the books were really good, and I actually read those but this one I couldn’t read dealt with the problem of homelessness.
I can’t tell you if this woman never actually bothered to google any homeless issues up on line, or if she never met a homeless person, or ever heard discussions between homeless people, (I did. I used to live downtown and walk across a park where they gathered), or has no friends in the professions — city planners, social workers, medical workers — who work with the homeless. Or if she’s one of these people who only read and believe what fits her narrative. What I do know is that the book — very successful, btw — was so silly it wasn’t even in the real world.
Her setup was something like this: you lose your job as an executive, and your wife divorces you, and the next week you’re living in a homeless camp, unless of course you get a good samaritan who gives you a job, and then you immediately become middle class again.
Head>desk. You know what step she missed? METH. Or some equally destructive illness or addiction. Why? Because when you lose your job, you don’t lose all your abilities.
I have a friend who was laid off from his high paying job on his sixtieth birthday. As Steve has alluded to in the comments here, this is increasingly more common. Partly because the companies can’t afford (okay, some can but are assholes, but don’t judge until you know what profit they have to make to keep solvent. And remember that a lot of the investors are pension funds and people’s retirement money) to pay the increasingly higher old-age health care (and ironically — ? — the ACA by mandating a lot of crazy things that the clients can neither use nor want — for instance, our family with me who am post-menopausal and had an ovarectomy and hysterectomy and three males are all BY LAW covered for abortions. Because, you know, the aliens could impregnate one of us. It also mandated a never-end of paperwork so doctors had to hire scribes to do it. Older son worked as an ED scribe for over a year.Minimum wage, mostly would-be medical students getting help with their resume, but seriously, another expense.) Weirdly, my friend didn’t roll over and become homeless. He’s had his low points. He’s had his high points. But his skills and abilities didn’t vanish with his job. So, he’s writing, teaching and working on computers… as a contractor.
He doesn’t need a poliannish savior to give him a hand when he’ll automagically become respectable again, because he never stopped being respectable.
But over and over again, we see people writing characters that lose everything because of ‘greedy corporations’ and become entirely dependent on government services, until some sweet good samaritan believes in them, and then they’re fine.
Real social problems, be they homelessness or illegal immigration, be they child mortality, or the increasing of the dependent class, aren’t like that.
There is a strong component of real people who behave in the ways they want to. And thinking they will be solved by just someone “being compassionate” either with government money or their own.
There have always been people who don’t thrive. The poor not only will always be with us, they have always been with us. And even if our homeless are better off than the hard working middle class of the sixteenth or seventeenth century, yeah, they’re living directionless and pointless lives of self destruction, and destroying others on the way.
Part of this is because people aren’t all alike, and they don’t all prioritize the same things. This seems to be something the social engineers can’t make themselves believe. In a way they’re the ultimate narcissists. Their imagine of the world is an immense mirror. Since they don’t want to live in a certain way, no one does. Since they try to be productive, everyone does. Etc.
But there are people who are perfectly happy living at the bottom of the ladder, and enjoy their addictions and their illusions. Even in the strictest dictatorships, humans can always choose to self-destroy, to not behave as they want, etc.
Is this the only reason people fall? Well, no. One of the real contributors is the economy. Now this is often caused by social engineers of one kind or another, the other being things like free trade that’s… um… not free on the other side.
Then there’s what I’ll call technological forces. Whether we want to or not, the first world is going to hurt in the next fifty years, no matter what we do.
Why? the ability to work from a distance, and travel ability is going to equalize the world’s economics a lot. If you can live in the middle of nowhere and make NYC money, why wouldn’t you. But at the same time you don’t need NYC money, and someone who lives there will undercut you. They just will. Now go international on that.
Living standards and cost will equalize to some extent (the extent limited by being able to be secure, etc) which means the first world will hurt. Has to. It’s just what’s coming down the pike.
Plus tech isn’t done with us. It will change. It will improve. It will do things we can’t antecipate.
Will there be victims of this? there always is.
A lot of the people like my friend, who get fired because they’re 60, get despondent and broken and just sit around, living from social security and getting bitter.
And a lot of people will do that. A lot of young people will do that, before ever working. They’ll just sink under the waves.
What’s the difference? The picture in the head. Is there hope for the future?
I get accused of being overoptimistic. I’m not. Some of my ideas of the future are horrible, and they could happen. They might even be the more likely.
And there’s things I can’t do no matter how much I try. I’m not a world power. Yeah, I know, I’m stompy, but not that stompy. I’m just one person. Each of you is just one person (all apologies to any hive beings reading this, but individuals are more likely.)
Also, we truly suck at organizing. Because the individualists failed to organize. And the collectivists will get some wins in. You can’t stop it. You just can’t.
It’s all the individual. You can choose to fall. You can choose to rise. You can choose to go down fighting. Not even the greatest dictatorships of humanity managed to stop that. In your head, you can always be free. You can go down fighting.
You can create rather than destroy (even just self-destroy.) You can build rather than wreck. You can pay your own way and that of your people, rather than become a dependent on the public purse or on charity.
It’s harder. Of course it’s harder. You can coast and indulge your pessimism and your inclinations.
Or you can choose to fight. Fight for the non-dystopia future. Fight with words and deeds (however small deeds.) You can remain free.
This is not a story. A happy ending is not guaranteed. But neither is the bad ending.
You can’t control it, but you can make a difference. Square your shoulders. CHOOSE to not surrender.
Sure, it’s harder. But in the long run it’s the only thing that will save civilization and humanity.
There is a time when you are so tired, so out of it, that stopping breathing is easier. Going under for the third time is easier. You just let go and you die: in person or as a civilization, or as a nation. It’s easy.
It’s also death. It’s the end.
Some people will choose it. I won’t. The waters are turbulent ahead, but I intend to keep above them, even if it’s “just” by floating in the grand piano.
I’ll take the hard way, thank you. I’ll choose to continue fighting.