Victims of Prosperity

Posted: August 20, 2008 in Acceptance, Compassion, Discrimination, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Self Esteem

It’s been a number of days since I’ve posted anything.

To tell the truth, I needed to get away from it. I wasn’t all that happy with what I’d been posting. It was getting too "bleak and dark" – and it was starting to take its toll on me emotionally.  

The biggest problem with blogging about homelessness is that there is just no way for it come out "light and cheerful." Homelessness is nothing of the sort. It is a social condition that is terrible to live through. It’s strewn with the lives of people who, at one time, had the hopes of chasing the American Dream – but who, for whatever reason, had those dreams side tracked.

The thing about the American Dream is that it is steeped in the belief that "more is better" – particularly with regards to material possessions. As a result, most folks spend the majority of their lives trying to be successful in the eyes of those around them. They try getting the better jobs; living in the "right" neighborhoods; driving autos that denote being successful; or anything else which smacks of finery and opulence. But in the end, all of these things are transitory. And – they really do nothing to make a person successful where it really counts: as a human being.

This focus on the outward appearance is, by far, the biggest detriment which our nation’s homeless have to deal with daily.

Unlike most of us, our nation’s homeless don’t have the opportunity to always maintain the neatest of appearances. They do not always have the chance to bathe daily. They might not be able to change into a fresh set of clothing each day of the week. In fact, for many, wearing the same set of clothes several days in a row (and even for weeks at a time) is often times the norm.

The old adage, "the clothes make the man," comes to mind.

Unfortunately, that old adage is not based in reality. Moreover, it does a disservice to the human condition because it makes us a pretentious society. It causes us to place the value of any person based solely on their outward appearance. And that reeks of superficiality.

The problem is that we’ve become victims of our own sense of prosperity. Subsequently, if we happen to see someone who doesn’t appear to be successful, we tend to dismiss them without ceremony; never giving thought to what they are as a human being.

Our nation’s homeless are as diverse demographically as our nation’s non-homeless.

Just as there are those non-homeless individuals who are kind and compassionate, there are also those homeless who – excepting the lack of a residence – who are equally kind and compassionate.

Just as there are those non-homeless who are devoutly religious, there are those homeless whose faith is just as devout.

The same could be said for education; political ideals; morals; hopes; dreams.

The only difference between us and our nation’s homeless is a residence.

Sure, our nation’s homeless may not be the snappiest dressers; they may not "look" the part of being "nice and wholesome" persons. But that does not alter who they are as people, just as having all of the money in the world doesn’t make someone a "fine, upstanding" member of the community.

I’m not entirely sure why, as a society, we’ve become so focused on the superficial trappings of life. But we have.

Neither am I sure, why we continue to equate "riches and beauty" with goodness and wholesomeness – particularly since most of us don’t have an abundance of wealth in the first place. Most of us are struggling to make ends meet. And, since we do tend to use the acquisition of material possessions as the measuring stick of a person’s value, how is it that most of us don’t think of ourselves as being worthless?

Or does "worthlessness" apply only to those who have less than we do; but not to us despite that we don’t have everything that the "beautiful people" have?

Perhaps we are transferring our own sense of a lack of self-worth to the homeless. After all, they have less than we do. This makes them an easy scapegoat.

Or could it be that we have this distaste for the homeless because it is a constant reminder of just precarious our own lives are; because we know that it wouldn’t take all that much to place us in the exact same situation?

And that scares us, doesn’t it?

  1. AnAmerican says:

    “The best things in life aren’t things”

    We have become such a superficial society placing more stock in things than in substance. Our homeless might not have “things” but this is inconsequential to anything about the true character of the people who find themselves without a home.

  2. fendrri says:

    Very nice article. Thanks.
    As a note, “the American Dream” is not only causing problems in America, but in other countries as well, including third world countries like my country. This so called “dream” even has much stronger effect than religious beliefs, as people reach for honor and riches at any cost, disregarding everything in their way.

  3. Thomas says:

    “the American Dream” is not only causing problems in America and third world countries, but also in countries like my, Sweden, which is known to be a welfare state.

    After I have begun to look at blogs like Yours in America, I have become more and more aware of similarities, both in the experiences of the homeless, attitudes toward the homeless, and the different policies used/worked on to “solve the problem”. They are strikingly similar.

    Whats interesting to note, is that the debate seems to be more intense in America, more different views. Which I believe mainly have to do with a much larger population, and a more weak safety net provided by the society, which results in more bad consequences for the individual when something goes wrong.


    Plans and talking which never materialize. The endless play of the democratic elected leaders. There are money, enough for housing the homeless, but the money goes to salaries in the helping organisations.

    Just a small observation I wanted to share with you, as your this, and other, blogpost was, and is, very alerting for the human being.

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