Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Compassion My Ass

Ok, right now there's some issue with Second Life and I cannot log in. So, I'll take a moment here to post.

I've gotten a couple of emails from people that expose a certain type of person that I'd like to talk about.

You know, people like to talk. We've really turned it into an art form. For many people, words are their life, and they make a living with them.

It's amazing what all you can do with words. You can solve problems with them, from the smallest, to the biggest. That is, if you use them wisely.

But, you can also do a lot of harm with your words. You can actually kill people with words. Just think about that poor girl who committed suicide because someone on myspace said some terrible things about her.

And, we can control and manipulate people with words. We can have people believing things that are not true. We can convince people to do things they would not normally do, all just with words.

So, it is very important how we use words. And we can only hope that people will be honest and ethical, and moral, in the use of them.

Ah, but we know that people, actually most people, are not inclined to use words for the benefit of others. There's no reason to go into the why's and wherefore's - we know it happens. A person can make a lot of selfish gains in this world, just with words.

And, that is because, for some reason, although we know better, we know that people are not always honest - there is something in us that makes us tend to think that people are being honest when they talk. It may be because we so much want to avoid conflict. We someone starts talking in a way that we know to be Bull Shit, we are unlikely to say, "you're talking Bull Shit." Some people just like to here good things, whether they are true or not.

Well, there are people in the world that really know how to talk the talk, how to say all the right things. To say all the good things. Yet all the while, they don't actually believe their own words.

On occasion a person will write to me, and they will say all the right things. They will talk about how they have compassion, and how much they care about all things. Yet, when it comes to homeless people, they find that they cannot have compassion for the homeless. I'm sorry, but I just don't buy that. As a matter of fact, I believe these people are talking Bull Shit. And the proof comes when I call them on the Bull Shit. They will quickly take offense at my accusations and declare that because I called them a Bull Shitter, that they have no choice but to have no compassion for ALL homeless people. Isn't that something? That they would judge all homeless people on the actions of one. That's no different than saying all black people are criminals because a few are. Or that the Jews have taken over Hollywood and the media because there are a few working in Hollywood and the media. It's straight up prejudice. And it's evil. Truly compassionate people have compassion for all things, they don't pick and choose what and who they have compassion for.

Take for instance the following email I received. It starts out with the kindest words and sentiments. But then watch how she begins to reveal her true self. And her true feelings about homeless people. And how she tries to justify those feelings.

Dear Mr. Barbieux,

I'm very grateful for the perspective you share on your blog. I really believe that all people need to listen to each other and be sensitive to each other, but some of us need a little more help than others. This is sometimes a hard thing to do.

Right now my community is battling the city because they want to put an RV park for the chronically homeless in our neighborhood. We're a poor community and we are way on the edge of town. When the city decided to build this park without talking to the people who live out here, I felt that they were doing to our community exactly what they always do to the homeless people: treat them like they don't matter. The city never bother to tell us they wanted to do this. Do you think they'd treat the people in big downtown condos that way? I worked really hard to buy my little house and take care of it. Right now I don't live there, and I am renting it out. I love my neighborhood because I'm a woman who lives alone and I felt completely safe there because I knew all of my neighbors and their kids and they knew me and my comings and goings. For a while, about a dozen homeless people were invited by a guy who doesn't live in our community to camp out in the woods by our homes. It was very unsettling because all of a sudden, instead of kids playing in the streets there were people in a lot of psychic pain hanging out on our lawns or on the curb and sneaking water when they thought we were not home. I don't know why anyone would tell people to camp way out where our houses are - we have hard enough time getting the things we need in our cars! The nearest grocery is 2 miles away! Ifeel like they just want to hide the homeless, make them go away and they don't want to do the things that might really help people. Personally I think the trick is to prevent homelessness - to help people before they fall, but I feel that our society is too judgmental to do that. We like to see complete and total abject suffering before we hold out a helping hand.

I worry that putting homeless people far from services that will help them is a bad thing. It looks to me that the homeless live downtown a lot because downtown is in the center of things, where the things people need are within walking distance. What's the sense of putting people way out in the boonies away from the the support they need? I don't get it. Our neighborhood is barely holding on, I don't think we're strong enough to carry a new community that needs lots of help and support of the kind you talk about. How do I get the city to see this and do something that Really supports the chronically homeless and not just sweep them under the rug? Any criticisms, insights or advice appreciated. Thank you for listening.

Cauleen Smith

Also, note that last few lines there. She wrote, "Any criticisms, insights or advice appreciated." So, this is how I replied:

The services follow the homeless - the homeless do not follow the services - so where the services are is meaningless. I think the saddest commentary is that the homeless have to sneak water from you. Work with the homeless and you will find them to be good neighbors. Fight against them, and they will not care anything for your desires.

What I wrote there was straight up truth, and advice on how she could best proceed. That whole business about sneaking water reminded me of Jesus' teachings about not refusing a person a cup of cold water.

But, there was indeed something else behind her writing that email. And it came out even more obviously in her next reply. Obviously, she was only looking for an excuse to discount the homeless.

"Work with the homeless and you will find them to be good neighbors. Fight against them, and they will not care anything for your desires."

Maybe you didn't mean that, but this is very self-righteous and threatening language. It's exactly why people don't want the homeless living next to them.

I can see now, that trying to dialog with you was a waste of time. But just so you know - My neighbors and I cannot afford to pay for gallons of water extra a day-- which is what was happening to the people who, at first, were happy to share their water and pay for it for the homeless who wanted it. But when word of mouth gets around and everyone is obliged to amplify their water bill to support a tent city it seems unfair. You think no one is helping you. Well, guess what, no one is helping us either. Everything we have, everything we own, we make happen for ourselves. We sometimes struggle to hold things together, but because we are building a life for ourselves. we get up every day and try. You can call us selfish. You can threaten us, and you cantell us that trying to find ways to put the homeless in contact with services is "irrelevant." That's actually helpful to hear from the self-appointed "homeless guy": Nothing we say is anything you can hear.

I can tell from your tone, that you have no sympathy or care for anyone but yourself, especially not people who work hard every day to build something they love for them selves and their community.

I am going to share your response with my neighbors so that they can be condfident that we are doing the right thing, by making sure this homeless park never happens. Yeah - of course serivces are irrelevant when yo can steal water in the middle of the night, or knock on peoples doors asking for spare change all day. Who needs services when you can just get what you want from people who barely have enough for themselves and their families? Right?

We were not trying to fight against anyone. We were actually truly concerned that people get the help they need. We are not service providers, just a small working class neighborhood, so there's no reason for the homeless to "follow" us anywhere. We don't have anything that is "relevant" to you.

In reply to this we had a spat of emails back in forth where I had to privilege to tell her that she was conniving and a hypocrite, etc. And she had the nerve to say that I was the one avoiding real dialog. Geez.


  1. Heh, I find it interesting that she keeps quoting "irrelevant" back at you when (it seems like) you never actually said "irrelevant"...

    It always really throws me when I'm genuinely trying to explain something to people - even if it's something they don't like - and they start accusing you of all kinds of weird stuff that seems way off.
    Does that bother you a lot? From your posts, it always seems like you're pretty composed and not thrown by that kind of stuff... Maybe annoyed, but not, I dunno, really confused and frustrated about the illogicality of it all and the communication block that's going on...
    Maybe I'm just too naive in feeling like if I have a good point, I ought to be able to get it across
    Or maybe writing about it is your way of making sense of that?

    Anyways, regardless of manipulative people trying to hear what they want to hear from you, what do you think about RV parks for the homeless? do they work well?

  2. YES! They do work! Of course, the neighborhoods around them hold those parks to near impossible standards of perfection. And if any little thing goes awry the surrounding neighborhoods will use that as an excuse to call for it's closing.

    Funny, though, that if some person who owns a house in the same neighborhood were to do something awry, no one would call for their removal.

    Yes, ignorance really irks me.

  3. Not that getting into this is any of my business, but just so you know, even at a young age, my classmates and I raised money, supplies, and awareness for several shelters in Columbia. The Oliver Gospel Mission was able to house more people and repaint the building, Sistercare recieved LOTS of food & money, and some of us volunteered there. My teacher encouraged us to find out as much as we could about homelessness, and I came across your 2 blogs. I read your "battle" with that lady, and frankly I sort of take BOTH sides. Her neighborhood shouldn't have to support more people, if they are barely getting along by them selves. But, she sounds like she is faking caring about the homeless what with her talk about them needing the city services; when I believe she just wanted the park for homeless out of her way. Maybe you telling her to help the homeless irked her because she felt it wasn't her problem? When, of course technically it's not just hers but most of the nation's problem. i think we should help establish more parks like the one she's talking about, but if people feel they don't need to help than they ARE hypocrites (umm, I don't know what conniving means so I can't agree to that about her) I just wanted to let you know maybe she doesn't have to help. I mean if she can't afford to support them, then she will be homeless too! Along with her children....
    ~ 12 years old in SC

  4. I think she makes some very good points and deserves the same compassion that you are seeking. The problem of homelessness is too great for this small poor community to shoulder alone. The responsibility should be shared by all citizens. The needs of the homeless can be overwhelming. But they deserve more dignity than to be transplanted into an area that can't support them.

  5. Anyone who can live in one property,and rent out the other, isn't poor. I think that this lady's description is disingenuous at best, and very suspect. I know of many well off people who constantly talk about how "poor" they are. I don't buy this lady's excuses in the least.