Tag Archives: homelessness

Not my idea of funny

© Robert Pinero and me

© Robert Pinero and me

While all humor is essentially subjective, what I’ll refer to as ‘hipster humor’ confounds me.  I recently saw a picture of an old homeless person that was accompanied by what I consider a cheap joke.  Possibly it was supposed to imply more about the kind of person who would identify with the joke’s vapid perspective than anything about the homeless, per se, but I think the actual person in said picture — someone who likely has no real lifeline in our society — at the very least deserves not to be used as esoteric commentary by someone of privilege.  Being down and out is not cute.

As a byproduct of apathy as coolness, hipster humor is bigger than people in places tailored to currency and exclusivity.  Apathy as coolness is hardly a stranger to thug culture.  But where thug culture does the most damage — in disenfranchised neighborhoods — perhaps there’s more of a sense that homelessness often has a lot to do with being unlucky.  If anything, you’re more likely to hear idiotic jokes that try to separate how far apart someone is from the conditions of homelessness, as opposed to things like caricatures.

Beyond the very important economic reasons, that kind of humor makes it easy to see why some folks who live in between the “bad” in their neighborhoods find the idea of improvement, and who it brings, so disheartening.  Some people seem to show fresh air more consideration than they would people who are struggling.



This is an excerpt from one of the most interesting posts I read in 2012, by the writer of selfcreator.wordpress.com:

“Furthermore, movies and media play a frighteningly significant role in shaping the human psyche, in a way that a painting simply cannot. People carry around ridiculous notions of romantic love and the existence of soul mates; skewed conceptions of masculinity, femininity, and sexuality; unnatural perceptions of beauty and body image; they foster unsubstantiated ideas of what it’s like to live in Paris, of how functional or dysfunctional other people’s families are, of what it takes to be a pirate or a ninja or an assassin — all from watching movies. Movies shape the way people perceive and receive the world. So what happens when all the heroes are white? When all the characters are white? When actors of color are relegated to bit roles or pigeonholed into playing out stereotypes? What happens when a multi-billion dollar industry produces film after film after film in which only white people are important, only white people are considered beautiful, only white people can be brave and go on adventures and exist in fantasy lands?

“It starts to contaminate your own imagination. Your imagination becomes as white and as limited as Moonrise Kingdom.”

Find the whole thing here.

Also of interest, Cynthia writes about a venture called “Homefulness” by POOR Magazine (out of San Francisco) :

 “Homefulness is a viable solution to the problem of homelessness, and although the current project is based in Oakland, California, I honestly believe that this model has the potential to transform communities all across the country. The thing that makes it work is that people in poverty are making decisions about what works for them, rather than having social service agencies tell them how to do things.”

The post in full here.  But wait, here’s one more excerpt from it:

 “I think it’s good to feel uncomfortable because that’s how we grow. If we constantly live in a sheltered, protective state, we don’t have the opportunity to stretch our hearts and minds. This includes looking closely at the reality that many people are barely surviving, and considering how this impacts them. Not everything is going to be wrapped up in a pretty package and presented with a glossy-sheen, but that’s a good thing.”

Not Fade Away

© Robert Pinero and me

I recently saw a homeless man hovering on a stone bench in a transit hub . . . While unfortunately something like that is not a rare occurrence, the guy looked more disoriented than one would typically expect.  With this being glaringly obvious, in fact, I had to wonder why I was the only one who looked at him for more than a split-second.

Skinny as heck, with a Styrofoam platter of food next to him, the guy was trying to stay upright but waning somewhere between dozing and restlessness.   Just going to sleep did not seem like an option for him, which is probably easily understandable.  Yeah, he might have had a drug problem.  But even if that old, so-called truism was accurate, it’s a pretty flimsy reason to discount the intrinsic nature of someone’s value.  In order to let people be what are essentially phantoms, we tend to tell ourselves they pretty much deserve it.  They’re not good.  But it’s as likely as anything that he was a bit broken, and he couldn’t pull himself together and had no place to rely on so that he could keep trying.

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t do anything for him.  I didn’t really know what to do, but be on my way.  I suppose one of the reasons people don’t see folks like that is because there are often no easy solutions, and no one really wants to dwell on circumstances like that.  There’s probably about a million apps that you could dwell on instead.  But take those away, and I’m not sure people wouldn’t just ignore letting that guy fade away then, too.

More than once I’ve heard people from scenic, lovely places talk about the coldness of people that are not acclimated to their particular surroundings.  It’s a sentiment I always find ridiculous.  One of the things people expect of scenic places is to be away from having to so closely see people hover on the edge of existence.  If it takes something extraordinary to not let one’s sense of empathy atrophy as they get older, it’s a whole lot easier to just buy into something that has a nice looking roster.

The hardest and best thing about life is probably other people (Take whatever else you enjoy about life and imagine yourself doing it on a planet devoid of everyone else, and it’ll likely lose its luster).  Generally, it’s as easy to focus on the negative as it is to take the positive for granted, but, really, navigating the world of people is, from its least privileged vantage point, very challenging.