How to Not Kill the Poor

You don’t have to be a mad fascist like Duterte in the Philippines, who is encouraging police and others to murder drug users or dealers. He said he’s happy to slaughter them, “like Hitler.” You just have to be an empathy-challenged city councilor in a rich city, who is distressed by the poor.

If you want to cleanse your society from undesirables, just enact laws outlawing assistance to the poor. Then they will starve and die out of sight of you, your friends, your children and tourists. And if you happen to be the mayor of Denver, you actually have to TELL your police to stop taking blankets from homeless people, after political pressure and the threat of a federal lawsuit [which may have far less teeth after January 20, 2017].

Click this picture to see the rest of the poignant images in this problem, sadly not confined to Fort Lauderdale.
Click this picture to see the rest of the poignant images in this problem, sadly not confined to Fort Lauderdale.

A couple years ago Fort Lauderdale was among dozens of US cities [including other mean cities like Houston, Orlando and Columbia, SC] that made it illegal to feed homeless people: “Drop that plate right now,” as if the criminals feeding the poor were carrying a suicide vest. That party town has been trying for at least 15 years to outlaw feeding the homeless.

People aren’t poor, homeless and hungry because they want to annoy rich people or tourists. There is something about class warfare, the nature of capitalism and lack of effective human social services that contribute to the state of homelessness. Except for in, say, Utah, which eradicated 91% of their homelessness by, shhhh, giving them homes, then trying to help whatever other issues they needed help with.

Obama blinked when military veterans showed up at Standing Rock to be human shields against officials. The DAPL pipeline is on hold. Perhaps we need to encourage veterans to continue showing up on the social justice front lines. Unarmed. But with body armor. Because who would hurt or kill veterans standing up for the rights of social justice activists? [That may cease to be a rhetorical question on January 20, 2017.]

Another way to outlaw poverty is to criminalize homeless people who accept food, as the UK’s haven of hatred, South Tyneside has done. Luckily 95% of those voting on this news website think their mean city council is flat wrong. Poor-bashing laws against begging and panhandling are pretty blunt. That’s why cities are trying to get more subtle about outlawing the existence of the poor, instead of working to eradicate the causes of poverty.

My Canada, my world, includes one that does not so willfully embrace ignorance by pretending poverty just happens and the poor are bad and need to be punished.

One band-aid solution is food banks, which in Canada, have now been around for almost two generations. So long that people are starting to talk about the food bank industrial complex of a system where government is content to let food banks exist forever so they have less economic or moral incentive to address the causes of poverty, and food bank institutions see themselves as providing jobs for life.

And in BC, while people correctly talk about giving money to food banks instead of bulky and less effective canned goods, what we really need to do is double welfare rates and the minimum wage to the living wage so that we don’t need food banks anymore. And with the expansion of US$15 minimum wage laws in large cities all over the USA, we see that this isn’t a job- or business-killer like the trickle-down right wing wants us to believe. Facts matter, spin doesn’t.

In fact, one of my heroes, Jean Swanson, who literally wrote the book on Poor-Bashing, shared a housing outreach worker’s stance that Vancouver’s approach to homelessness is whack-a-mole. The city keeps evicting homeless encampments. For a city wanting to be the world’s greenest city, it sure doesn’t care much for homeless. Perhaps if homeless people were as important as toxic dumps, they’d get the city’s attention? At least we’re not Denver. But we may be worse.

It’s not hard to use the internet to scour the world looking for best practices and solutions for homelessness and poverty. Willful ignorance, lies, spin, bribes and political “donations” from the 1%, developers and capitalists keep the problem murky.

It’s not.

And as we pivot to a world with more justice, don’t let yourself sleep at night if you let politicians convince you it’s a problem they can’t solve.

About stephen elliott~buckley 113 Articles
Husband, father. Post-partisan eco-socialist. Political scientist, researcher, consultant, speaker, facilitator, editorialist. #PostCarbonEnergyInfrastructure, #ClimateHope, #Feminism.

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