Friday, December 31, 2010

Homelessness and shoplifting. Ask Joey, Part II

Joey Garcia
My favorite columnist, relationships-genius Joey Garcia who writes "Ask Joey" for the Sacramento News & Review, has posted a follow-up Q&A on the matter of a homeless person shoplifting, in the latest edition of the tabloid-size weekly.

In her Dec. 2 column, Joey offered advice to a person who witnessed a homeless woman shoplifting in a grocery store.  Joey's advice was spot-on right, I thought and think:  be compassionate toward the homeless woman, but also alert the store owner or manager that a theft had been attempted.  [I wrote about that earlier column a month ago.]

In Joey's column in the current, Dec. 30, edition  of the SN&R, a homeless person writes in, saying that "[i]f someone is shoplifting in front of you, it's none of your business."  This argument is justified, politically, thus: "[I]f the store is part of a corporation that rakes in money from tax breaks, who cares? They're ripping us all off."

Joey's response is this:
I care. Plus, I believe that if something happens in public, it’s my business. So if you were at a mom-and-pop shop and I observed a pickpocket stealing from you or a cashier providing incorrect change, I would speak up. It’s just my nature to treat you as a friend.

But I can’t support your eye-for-an-eye argument to justify stealing from corporations. As Gandhi pointed out, that kind of revenge makes us all blind.
Yes, yes, brilliant, Joey!!  Right on.

And yet, while I, too, cannot buy into the homeless writer's politics, I would not quite expect a homeless person to act as responsibly as others when seeing another homeless person ripping off a store.  My sentiment is not brought up in the Q&A but it is a part of the surreal problem of being homeless in Sacramento.

If a homeless person informs on another homeless person it can possibly result in an act of retaliation.  For many of us, our belongings are often open to theft and, as a result, we must be particularly careful not to antagonize our sisters and brethren in the community.

Unhappily, the homeless community, being the undercaste, has a high concentration of antisocial people and narcissists and persons for a variety of reasons who are prone toward being violent.  While by the sound of this description it may seem I am talking about highly unsavory folk, for the most part they are not unsavory.  Most homeless people, including those that are personality disordered, are charming and interesting and a great many are very bright.  Still, a homeless person has to be careful who he crosses.

The homeless-help organizations in Sacramento aren't much help at lifting the homeless community to a higher standard of association.  This has been a great disappointment to me and was something I wrote about early on when I was first rended homeless, in a piece called "Phobos and Thanatos."

Here, several core paragraphs from that long-ago blogpost, for what it's worth [with emphases added]:
"…Thanatos is Agape in flight from the higher instead of expressing the higher. It preserves the lower but refuses to negate it (and thus remains stuck in it). And as Phobos is the source of repression and dissociation, Thanatos is the source of regression and reduction, fixation and arrest. It attempts to save the lower by killing the higher."

At Loaves and Fishes there are side programs that are meant to address people's misery and unmet needs, but the facility, in the main, is a reservation where homeless culture, with its queues, dirtiness, childishness and craziness is preserved. The administration of L&F takes on a parential role where they address their wards as children they choose to protect.

L&F's Friendship Park was surely conceived as an oasis for the homeless where they might comfortably rest and socialize and 'just be' without being harrassed by police or snorted at by society. But in its operation today, the Park is more like a neglected zoo where the homeless denizens wallow in a pit of meaninglessness, their time isn't valued and there is no real expectation for them to act responsibly.

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