Shock Therapy

Posted: July 13, 2008 in Compassion, Discrimination, Homelessness, Morality

Most of the time when my television is on, it’s tuned to one of the new channels. But, like most folks, there are certain other programs I enjoy watching. One of those programs is called Monk, which stars Tony Shaloub.

On Friday evening, there was a Monk marathon.  

In one of the episodes, Adrian Monk, Tony Shaloub’s character, had gone into hiding and was staying at some out of the way motel. The daughter of the motel owner was doing the room service and had her dog with her. The dog was wearing one of those electronic collars which are a part of an "invisible fence" system.

For those of you who have never seen an invisible fence pet system it works like this: there are small electronic transmitters buried around the perimeter of the area where you want to keep you pet contained. The collar which your pet wears contains a receiver and a small gadget that gives the pet a small electric shock – similar to what you get from static electricity – if they try to go beyond the perimeter. After a while, the pet learns that certain areas are a no-no and eventually you can remove the collar.

It’s a form of behavioral training. Nothing more.

As bizarre as this is going to sound to some, I began to wonder what would happen if human beings were fitted with something similar. And what if the device could be modified so that it would deliver its electric shock under specific conditions – like whenever they mistreated another person; or said something cruel and inhumane to someone else?

Like I said, I know it sounds bizarre. But consider for a moment…

Let’s say that it was worn like a wrist watch. Every time you said something mean spirited to someone else, or mistreated that person in any way it would deliver its charge to let you know that you weren’t behaving properly. Furthermore, the device would be able to "sense" your emotions. If you were even having hostile thoughts towards a person it would give you a small shock.

Now, think about this: when you see a homeless person, what goes through your mind? Do you feel compassion? Or do you feel contempt?

When a homeless person approaches you asking for some spare change do you reach into your pocket, and offer whatever you can afford? Or do you make some excuse? Do you say something mean? Do you angrily tell the person to get a job?

When you hear the word homeless, do you automatically envision some small wizened figure in some dark alleyway with a bottle of cheap wine or a can of beer?

When you see some pour soul; some homeless person pushing a shopping cart, do you feel moved to help? Or do you feel disgust?

When you spot a man or a woman standing on some corner holding a sign do you pass them a dollar or two if you can afford it? And, if you can’t afford it, do you at least acknowledge them as a person? Or do you avert your gaze and pretend they don’t even exist?

When you see a mother with her small children – who, just by virtue of all of the things they are carrying with them you know to be homeless – do you offer to help? Or do you just ignore them; pretending and believing that the government will take care of "such people."

When your local elected officials pass laws which penalize and criminalize the homeless; or when they pass ordinances which restrict the movements or actions, or in any other way make it more difficult for the homeless in your community, do you go before your city council and protest? Or do you sit back in your home watching so called "reality TV?"

When you’re walking down the sidewalk and you spot a homeless person coming toward you, do you make a wide berth to avoid getting too close? Do you walk past them like they were nothing more than one of the lamp posts? Of do you, at the very least nod or say "Hello" as you pass by?

When the temperature is overly hot and you see a homeless person sitting in the shade trying to stay cool, do you see about offering them a bottle of water? Or can’t you be bothered because you’re too concerned about getting yourself into an air-conditioned environment?

Let’s get down to the bottom line.

During the twenty six months I was homeless, I saw the best of what humanity has to offer. But, I also saw the very worst that humanity has to offer.

So let me ask you this: if you were fitted with a device which delivered a small electric shock, how would you fare when it comes to your treatment of the homeless?

Would you be able to get through your day without incident?

Or would you end up electrocuting yourself?

  1. Paul says:

    you are so stupid. All the homeless I see are drunk bums. Why should I wear one of those collers just so maybe I might want to be nice to some homeless person who is just too lazy to get work. Maybe you should wear one of those collars if you want you idiot

  2. AnAmerican says:

    Excellent question! I would hope to be okay with those people who are far less fortunate than myself…no problem there. Howvever, I would get some shocks whenever I witness stupidity and ignorance…OUCH, I think I just got shocked!

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