Posted: November 15, 2007 in Civil Rights, Discrimination, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Morality

One definition of "indifference" is:

"Having no particular interest in or concern for; apathetic"

"Apathetic" itself is defined as:

"Feeling or showing a lack of interest or concern; indifferent."

Yesterday afternoon, while talking with some folks about the many struggles that many of the homeless go through, especially in regard to the way they are treated by the rest of society, I was looking for just the right words to describe the situation.

I had mentioned that there are a fair number of people who view the homeless with scorn and disdain. These folks think that if they can drive the homeless "out of town" that will solve the homeless "problem." If you ask them where the homeless should go, they have no clear answer, but that the homeless should go somewhere else – anywhere else, so long as they "just leave."

I then mentioned that there were those who genuinely have a compassionate attitude toward the homeless. They believe that we should be trying to find ways to help the homeless help themselves. On the other hand, when you ask them what they believe the solution is, they themselves aren’t certain but that nonetheless "something needs to be done to help."

Finally I mentioned the third "group" of people. In describing this third "group" I had wanted to use the phrase "socially and morally anesthetized" but in order to avoid having to define the phrase (which I usually have to do) I used the word "indifferent" instead.

That word stuck in my brain the rest of the day and it became clearer to me that that is, by far, the biggest roadblock that this nation’s homeless face when it comes to receiving the help they need to rise up out of homelessness: indifference.

The problem is that our indifference not only prevents the homeless from being able to raise their standard of living, but since it’s become habitual, we probably don’t even recognize that we are indeed being indifferent. BUT, the rest of the world sure notices!

Among a large number of countries world wide, the United States is seen as materialistic, superficial and hypocritical. We go about with our national chest all puffed out, chiding other countries for their lack of providing for their poor and poverty stricken. We point our fingers at them and shake our collective heads at them because they aren’t doing something to promote equality and civil rights among their citizenry. We then make ourselves feel superior to them by sending them obscenely large sums of financial aid.

Yet, how can we expect to have credibility among our global neighbors when we are just as guilty as they are when it comes to ignoring the civil rights of our citizenry based on their residential status? How can we expect not to be seen as hypocritical when there are millions of our fellow citizens who are living at below poverty level – some of whom have only to eat what they find discarded in other peoples trash cans? How dare we have the arrogance to "scold" other nations for their lack of protecting their citizenry’s human rights when we ourselves aren’t practicing what we preach?

To quote Charles Dickens:

"Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door."

We should be diligent to clean our own "house" before we tell others how to make "home improvements" to theirs…

… And that begins with sweeping away the dust of indifference from the corridors our own hearts.


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