I find myself at a distance from my work here. I am helping with supportive housing as my internship, and I love it, but it’s not a solution to the problem. We help people get back on their feet, and help them stay there. Most of these people have no one left to help them, and all of them came from the streets. Some of them will never be free of a system like ours because they cannot help themselves.
I love the work, I love the connections I am making, and the good that I am doing, but the problem still exists. It takes a day to become homeless, and it can take months or years to break free of it. More people need help than we can get to, and it would take more than money to fix this. We need people to help, to do the work that few people want to do. It’s beyond compassion, to care for people who have forgotten how to care for themselves, or who never really learned.
The rhetoric of homelessness is a story of laziness, addiction, or insanity, but the truth is always more. These people have learned to survive and forgotten how to live. They do things that seem insane to someone who has a place to go. What would we become if we spent every moment looking for a warm place to rest?
Recently I’ve been thinking about the problem, and I know there is no simple solution. There will have to be a change in mindset, in the value of a human only as what they can produce or the things they possess. Some people will always need help, long after machines can build anything we need some people will still not fit into the system. Human support is the one job that will not leave as long as there are people. I don’t understand how that is a bad thing, how that should be looked down on.
The machine that supports our society is constantly becoming more efficient, requiring less people to do the work. Now we need programmers, engineers, and scientists, but most people are still trapped in a labor mentality. There will always be people who choose to work with their hands, artists and builders, but the bulk work is less necessary every day.
The questions that concern me are how we treat our teachers, healthcare workers, and the rest of the people who exist to take care of other people. Why should a job that requires a person to deal with so much stress and frustration, that so few people want to deal with, be placed in lower class than the people who simply move money from one bank to another?
The US has already become a service industry country, with most of our manufacturing going to other countries and with so few people entering math and science. I wonder if a future where all we do is take care of one another while machines produce our food and goods would be a bad thing. Would people still look down on social workers? Would they still see the people who need help as anything other than lazy? When all the world is support, an economy based on compassion, what would we do with our pride and hate?
I know this is a simple view, and that the real world is infinitely more complicated, but I find the thought experiment interesting. The world is changing, and I just wonder how many of us will be left behind. People complain about socialism, but what good is capitalism when everything you need is all but free, but there is no work to be done? Do we let the masses starve, or make up projects to create a labor market like in years past?
A pipe dream, I’m sure, if only because the old ways of thinking never die easily. Our pride holds us to what worked in the past long after it has started to kill us. I hope for a world that can be so much more, scientists who can work knowing their theories may not be properly tested for a generation. Artists who simply create without having to make a living, wasting their talent washing dishes. People who specialize in creating connections, simply making sure that others aren’t abandoned because they have no place to go and no blood to take care of them.
Every movie and book about the future now is miserable, stories of collapse and failure, and it’s possible that is what will happen. Sometimes I am amazed we made it as far as we have. One thing I have found to be true is that if you change a person you change the world, but as the world changes you also change the people. My last question is, which is more important?