We all face homelessness – Day 9

Everyday the ‘paper cuts’ of invisibility diminish each and everyone of us.

The other day I went into a Hospital to get an x-ray and observed that most people seeking non-emergency help were seniors. I wasn’t surprised but I did become self-conscious about by own trajectory and the fact that I am slowly entering this demographic. It struck me that everyone I saw had life experience and a lifetime of untapped wisdom that would soon be extinguished. Their lives, our lives are viewed by society much like the way one-way projectiles are  seen by the military. 

I’ve seen this before but I’ve always been able to distance myself from this inevitability by taking comfort in my mobility and my vigor. This day I did the same as I always do but I knew that I was lying to myself. I knew not only that this was my future but that the future had arrived. For the first time I felt older than I felt last year. 

Feeling older, vulnerable and invisible is sometimes a part of our lives but for every disenfranchised person it is a fact of life.

Later I drove through the lazy streets of my mid-sized town. I came across a run-down section of town that I seldom visit. It was where a new convention centre was spurring a revitalization. Now hotels and businesses were rising from ashes of abandoned buildings. Cheap land and the promise of a ‘golden’ business opportunities spurred greed and growth.

A familiar refrain that had not been sung in this part of town for what seemed like generations. Juxtaposed in this urban gold rush were the homeless.

The invisible homeless who we all see everyday. The displaced and disenfranchised homeless. Invisible because we are hardened to their plight and their ever increasing numbers. I wondered how this revitalization would affect their shelters and food depots. 

The question was personal to me. My own struggle with mortality was intertwined somehow. My youth was commercialized as my earning power increased. Now as my earning power has decreased and my age has increased I am becoming a member of the invisible class. My fellow classmates were easy to find throughout our society.

Seniors and the homeless share invisibility with all Americans who are not white, male, powerful or privileged. But even those who are white, male, powerful and privileged are also diminished by their self-imposed isolation and false security.

As I observed the men and women who made this neighbourhood their home turf, I was reminded how I was one with these fellow travellers. Despite first appearances and the sanctuary of my life I was not inured to their pain and suffering. I knew that I, too, have the ‘sword of Damocles’  hanging over my life about to cut me down to size. I knew that it is easy to become invisible through retirement and aging. 

My affinity with the homeless has since grown. I like the honesty of their lives. There is no frills, no pretence. Their basic physical needs for food, water, air, safety, shelter, warmth, health, and sex was largely satisfied by well intended organizations such as the Red Cross. But I heard despair in their voices and saw anguish in their faces and wondered if there was some way to inject meaning and purpose into their lives. I don’t mean work or social programs but rather something that removes their invisibility and that makes them proud.

Why do we continue to act like ostriches with our buried heads ignoring the inevitable decisions and actions of our brief time on earth?

On a return visit to the area I visited a homeless shelter and was left my particulars for the person in charge. I don’t know exactly what I’ll say but I do know what I want to convey. I want him or her to briefly imagine a coalition of homeless people standing up against climate change. Maybe even standing along side the children who have already found their voices. Maybe it will cause the more complacent among us to say something like if the homeless can do this than what is stopping us/me from also taking a stand. 

I know that this daydreaming is ‘pie in the sky’ stuff. I also know that we are in a rut. I realize that inaction is our default position. But we do know better. We know that plants and animals are increasingly becoming extinct and that our reliance on a healthy, biodiverse environment is increasingly becoming more and more precarious. This is no longer an argument that pits our lifestyle against science and facts. It is a reality that everyone of us will face in our lifetime. 

The Climate Change deniers are no different than those promoting the misinformation that smoking and alcohol are good for you and your image. 

The longer we deny this reality, the greater the urgency to stand united against climate change and demand change. Until now, we all been mostly silenced by the ‘we need fossil fuels for jobs and the economy’ mantras of big business. Yet we all know that big business or the industrial/military complex has always served their own interests and that of the insulated elite.

We are so often led by self interests into becoming disposable like the defenceless soldiers of Gallipoli or the homeless on your streets. Why would we ignore the signs or the reality when to do so only increases the uninhabitability of our community, our country and our ecosystem. Greed and growth at any cost would be my guess.


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