Sunday, June 18, 2023

Pour encourager les autres

Below are extracts from an article published online in CounterPunch, May 26, by Eve Ottenberg. The piece examines the fatal consequences that may result from being homeless in the USA. The author, whilst not approaching this from a completely Socialist perspective, has, nevertheless, some trenchant comments to make about capitalism and its deathly options for many.

You can measure the depth of a civilization by how it treats its poor, very young, elderly and mentally ill. By any such metric, ours here in the Exceptional Empire is barbaric. Take New York City mayor Eric Adams and his pronouncements on the homeless destitute. Since lotsa (sic) homeless are erratic – they either started that way, which was partly how they lost shelter, or living rough eroded their good manners – they are the target population for being locked up.”

Once upon a time, we had governments concerned about the root causes of poverty and leaders who sought to ameliorate it with good ideas like public housing. Well, after decades of hysterical, lousy press, public housing has received little new funding and the number of poor people it serves shrank pitiably from its heyday in the mid to late twentieth century. This means more people sleeping on side walks.”

It’s unclear whether the author believes that ‘better leaders’ or a more ‘caring’ government is the solution to the problem of homelessness. Governments are there for the minority asset owning elite class and it is the latter's interest which will always come first. Reminder that in the 1980s the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, instigated the Right to Buy policy of selling of council owned housing stock initially into the hands of tenants.

Look at New York City’s housing voucher program to counter homelessness. For some inexplicable bureaucratic reason, it’s ditching renters. The vouchers cover a big percentage of a person’s rent, in a city notorious for astronomical housing costs…. So a city agency’s dysfunction, leading to kicking people out of the voucher program, is a disaster. Many of these luckless souls wind up dwelling in homeless shelters or on the streets. And that’s often lethal.” 

Over 815 homeless people have died in public places in New York since 2022...”

There is no source quoted for this figure.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports May 22 that unhoused seniors flood shelters that can’t accommodate their needs. “Nearly a quarter of a million people 55 or older are estimated by the government to have been homeless in the United States during at least part of 2019,” the Post reported, and this year, the number of elderly homeless spiked.

Indeed, seniors constitute the fastest growing cohort of the undomiciled. Quite a way to spend your sunset years, snoozing on the side walk, alongside the utterly helpless psychotic.”

(New York City Mayor) Adams wants to remove those who “appear mentally ill” from public. The purpose is not to treat them or salve their psychological wounds, in which case such removal would be acceptable, even laudable. But no, Adams’ purpose is to incarcerate them, so their shabby selves won’t offend the sensibilities of the well-to-do and mega-rich who regard city centers as their playgrounds.”

The truly malignant aspect of this is the one that treats poverty as proof of dangerous and savage psychosis. Economic failure in this brutal late capitalist jungle becomes medical and criminal. A deadly combo. And if the homeless destitute manage to evade the cops who want to lock them up in tiny cages, they still face existential threats on the streets, most notably death from exposure or from violent criminals.”

The death toll for the homeless destitute, reports the New York Times May 13 “in San Diego County had increased nearly 10 times in the last decade.” That’s the same in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Austin, Denver and Seattle. It turns out not having a roof over your head is fatal. There’s the cold in winter, extreme, climate-change-aggravated heat in summer and the inherent danger of living in public, now enhanced by vigilante fury, stoked by ambitious pols like mayor Adams.”

Lucklessly for these very poor people, we live in the Age of the Demagogue. Most politicians will stoop to it whenever it brings them votes. But those who merit the title full-time are the worst hazard. They don’t want to solve problems and make powerless constituents’ lives better. They want to scream about them, whip up a public convulsion of hatred and ride that spasm of widespread rage to higher office. Not surprisingly, few seem to hold them to account. On the contrary, press outlets nod approval for vigilante justice against the crime of poverty.”

... Quite an economic system we got here. It strips millions of people of the means of survival, then blames and punishes them for their dispossession. If you call that civilization, you need to rethink your definition of the term.”

Well the ‘economic system’ we got is Capitalism. The ‘means of survival’ for the vast majority under this system is dependent upon the ability to sell their physical/menalt labour power to the asset owning minority elite class who maintain that position through the exploitation of the former. Ms Ottenberg rightly castigates politicians for their actions, or non actions in the resolution of this problem but expecting those who elect politicians with the expectation to ameliorate the problems directly caused by capitalism is a fools errand.

The only solution is the abolition of capitalism and its replacement with socialism. When that is achieved, by the collective efforts of a global working class majority, homelessness, and many other slights on a civilised society will cease to be a blot on humankind.

No comments: