Have We All Abandoned Them?

When you walk or bike or drive the streets of Seattle it’s impossible not to notice the people with signs. Many of them are common enough in any city. “Anything Helps,” is a popular one. So is, “Disabled Vet.” Some of them look like veterans, some of them are just kids that have found themselves on the street. Some of them might think it’s cool. Might feel like they aren’t part of the system. But the truth is, most homeless people in Seattle don’t want to be homeless. It’s not a glamorous lifestyle, no matter how you look at it. I mean, there are tents along major roads that are peoples’ permanent residents. The cops don’t bother them. They don’t move. There are tent cities under the overpasses. The other day I cycled by a minivan that was obviously someones home. It turns out, in 2015, the homeless population in Seattle rose by 20.8% (head count of 3,123 in 2014, head count of 3,772 in 2015), and this doesn’t even count the 6,000 people who are lucky enough to have a bed at the homeless shelters in the city. That’s a huge rise, especially for a single year. You might think some of the people are just lazy and don’t want to get a job–but that’s not true. Go down to one of these tent cities I’m talking about around 7am, and you’ll see many people climb from their tents in nice clothing, on their way to work. It’s not that they are lazy, that they don’t have ambition, but it is because they don’t have enough money. A single bedroom apt in Seattle goes for at least $1,000 per month. A room in a house will be at least half of that. Many people who are homeless just don’t make enough money for rent. They can buy food, but limited hours due to automation at low paying jobs such as grocery stores, and such, have made a homeless population boom in the city. While some of them are incapable of getting a job due to disabilities, mental illness, and addiction, our current system doesn’t have enough resources to get these people functioning again. Before you name a resource you know of, think about what that resource demands of someone. Then ask yourself: Can someone who is mentally ill or strung out navigate that system?. While there are some resources that the disabled and mentally ill can utilize, many of them are in no position to navigate the bureaucracy that comes along with it. A mentally ill person who can’t make appointments can’t become rehabilitated. Someone who can’t drive may not have the means to get to the places he or she may need to be.

What I’m trying to say is this: some people cannot help themselves, and so it should be up to our society to help those you can’t. I mean, what kind of world do we want to live in, really?

Homelessness is a self perpetuated cycle. If you have no home, you can’t get a job. If you have no job, you can’t get a home. If you’re not mentally stable it’s likely you can’t understand what help there is out there, and if your disabled you can’t always jump through all the hoops to get the help you need. All of these combined make a very difficult situation to deal with. Homelessness increases crime, crime increases incarceration, incarceration is a massively expensive endeavor, and many of these people are not necessarily bad people. They are just people who fell through the cracks of what we call society. Who are we, to let this happen to our own people? Have we all abandoned them?

Basic: A Solution To A Job Dwindling World

So, the question is: What do we do with a large population that doesn’t have a job? Do we, as a society, as a culture, simply watch people go hungry? Starve? Die? Or do we find a better way to do things.

This is a difficult concept for some people. They don’t believe the owners and rich of the world would allow this to happen, but I’m going to give you a run down of the one way I can see this working without the masses acting like the French and taking some heads.

Here it is.

The rich are rich because the consumer class–people like you and me–buy the product they’ve either made, or invested in. Those products give them a return either way. But what happens when the majority of people can’t afford to pay for the goods the rich have made or invested in? They won’t make any money. In fact, the poor will get pretty angry, which will spawn crime, because they want the things the rich people have/make. By doing nothing, by labeling the poor as takers and freeloaders, the rich alienate themselves from the people they rely on to buy their products and boost their stocks. If everyone boycotted just one Apple product at it’s release for a week, Apple stock would plummet. Which, in turn, would cause other stocks to plummet. It would be a crisis. Think about that.

So how do the rich appease the poor enough to stay rich? They provide social services to enough people, and give people enough so that they can be happy, content and don’t start taking heads, stealing, and other forms crime takes.

Look, this isn’t going to happen next year–and probably won’t happen at all–but it’s in the corporations and rich peoples interest to give everyone enough money to have ENOUGH. This not only creates a educated society, it creates a safer one. If people have enough that they don’t feel desperate they are less likely to commit a crime. That’s good business. Instead of stealing, they buy what they want.

Basic wouldn’t be for everyone. Nor should it be particularly beneficial to those who use it. But if we believe that people, even those who have seen their jobs disappear due to automation, have the right to live prosperous lives, we need to get them off the streets, off of drugs, and into the homes I know exist but sit empty. Those on Basic wouldn’t become zombies like so many people think (some might) but instead they would start a Renaissance of people unburdened from the monotony of the workforce. Instead they would be free to pursue their passions. People will do their best work when they can do the thing they love. Shouldn’t we, as a society, encourage that? I hope so. But I don’t know if Basic will ever arrive.

More People, Less Jobs

So I don’t have an issue making coffee for a living. I also write content for a broker, which is awesome–I mean, I’m a freelance writer who works at a coffee shop also. How Seattle is that? But what I do mind is people thinking those who don’t have jobs are lazy. See there’s a real problem in our society that equates work to productivity and your contribution to society. But making coffee for people doesn’t make the world a better place. It just feeds people’s caffeine addiction. Writing copy for corporations–and I’ve written for companies you’ve definitely heard of, doesn’t make the world better, it just tells people they should buy more things they don’t need.

Now I’m really lucky because with the advent of the internet I was given a job. Freelance writing from home is a great privilege and it’s a job I would not have had even 3 years ago. Or even 2 years ago. However, for every job the internet creates many are destroyed. I mean Amazon has made bookstores basically obsolete. Right now we have Uber and Lyft that provide jobs and autonomy to people, but what happens when Google’s driverless cars are everywhere. We won’t need human drivers to take us places. So technology is getting better and better and jobs are fewer and fewer. When do we, as a culture, a society realize, oh, there are way more people in the world than there are jobs. So the people who don’t have jobs aren’t lazy, there just isn’t paying job in existence for them. Do we let these people starve? Why would I need a janitor if we have a robot who can mop?

Look, I know it feels like homeless or jobless people are lazy sometimes. And some of them are. But many have skills that are simply not used anymore in the work place. A man who used to manufacture cars is no longer needed. Robots do his job and there’s another robot that fixes those robots. Just one guy is employed to fix that one robot, and that’s only part time. So what happens when work ends? I don’t know. But we need to come to an understanding that the end of work, isn’t as far away as we think.