Archive for October, 2009

28
Oct
09

An Ode to American Gods of Yore

As time goes on and families descend, it seems that the character of our ancestors is gradually diluted with every successive generation. It’s as if some great power is continually being weakened with each scattering of spawn that humanity produces. One need only look at our grandmothers and grandfathers to see the remnants of the powerful creatures that preceded us and their vanishing way of life.

Ignorance aside, our ancestors were greater than we. As the lifeblood of America, they possessed characteristics that made this country great and strong. Such traits included strong social skills, discipline, responsibility, honor, integrity and a hunger for success, things which are withdrawing from the forefront of society. But, of course, this is understandable …

The environment had been ripe for the propagation of such a divine people. The nature of the times and the goals of people drew the best out of them. And even if that best were misguided and negative, it was better than the likes of today’s society could produce. Tough economic, political, and social obstacles plagued our nation but we were guided through by heroic figures in government and on the streets. The world was much crueler then. Evil people were more potent because of a lack of government oversight and enforcement while the threat of destitution was much greater because of a lack of social supports. The world was a rough play-pen to be in.

But, as is generally understood, tough times produce tough people. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not any more or less deluded than the rest of my generation about the horrific prejudices and great violence that was present back then. There were most definitely bad, evil, terrible people who were much worse than any we could hope to produce today. However, heroes of equal proportion were produced, in both the movies and in real life, who were giants in terms of todays brand. Their idols were truly magnificent beings of integrity as pure as nature itself and an indomitable will. Today, the stars of the screen are weak and senseless, reflective of the direction of common era youth.

In the end, it is overall strength that is lacking as America shoulders on. What can one expect of people when there is no longer a need for the strong-willed gods of our past? It’s very cushy in today’s world and we have enough time to linger and stare at our hands and feet. But, perhaps, this is best for the world. With a population that’s degenerating and becoming duller, perhaps we’ll finally find ourselves in a state of world peace because of a lack of strength and effort to do much of anything.

15
Oct
09

Let’s Think About Voting


            A year ago last October, before the presidential election, I was among the many victims of crusaders trying to capture unregistered voters and motivate the younger voting bracket. They’d set up booths around campus and prey on pedestrians who have the courtesy to give them their attention after being shouted at. Most of these pre-enlightened souls hadn’t even made the effort to understand the significance of voting aside from what they’ve been told and readily accepted.

 

            I stopped one day to chat with someone who asked me whether I was registered to vote. I responded with my own question, “Don’t you think you should be asking me whether I’m sufficiently knowledgeable to vote instead?” He showed me a stack of sheets with the basic positions and aims of each candidate as well as a short biography. An informative flyer. Awesome.

 

This was a good step in the right direction. At least these crusaders understand the importance of being an informed voter. But, still, not enough, because most people don’t even understand how the candidates plan to accomplish their aims or even the integrity of their statements, which can judged by viewing their past accomplishments and stances. How can someone represent themselves and their desires appropriately through their vote if they don’t even understand what they’re voting for? How can they judge the candidate’s proposals without even an understanding of the issues at hand (i.e. economics, politics, history, etc.)?

 

I was lucky enough to have a constructive conversation with an intelligent acquaintance of mine on the value of voting. We found that the only way to have sufficiently informed voters would be to have a highly educated population. Highly improbable for many reasons.

 

So, we concluded that the vote, as a representation of the individual, should be treated as such. People should vote to the extent of their knowledge (or their ignorance, for that matter), because it best represents them. And if people were to relinquish this right, then they would be doing themselves and others like them an injustice for not adding weight to a common cause. If their uniformed vote ends up getting someone like George W. Bush elected, then, so be it. At least America is being represented. Besides, mistakes such as that may end up becoming the impetus people need to make more of an effort to become a more informed voter in years to come.

07
Oct
09

The Ying and Yang of Homelessness

It seems appropriate for my first topic to be about homelessness, an issue I’ve been thinking on recently for the past month or two. The homeless, and other people who fall into the extreme lower brackets of society, present moral, economical, and social questions that seem to be forever relevant.  After years of searching for appropriate ways of dealing with such matters, the amount of people who are homeless in the United States is still quite high.  The annual 2009 Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that “some 1.6 million Americans stayed at homeless shelters from October 2007 to September 2008.” Though the standard of living and the opportunities to people in or close to this state of poverty have increased over time, its apparent the right solution has yet to be applied.

It’s been a number of sources who have continued to inspire me to roll such thoughts around in my skull during my long drives to and from work.  Most recently my friend told me about a community of the homeless who had been living in Lowell along the river. The now defunct “tent city” was broken up on November 20th of 2008 by a force of police officers who were reportedly disrespectful and used gratuitous force during the dissemination. The displaced homeless were pushed out of the area without being made aware of any other alternatives to sleeping on the street or an overcrowded and under-prepared homeless shelter.

This one instance inspires so many typical questions surrounding this issue; Was the city right in breaking up the camp? Was the use of force appropriate in this matter? What options did the homeless have? What should the city do to solve this problem?

Before any of these questions or any of the other long held questions related to this issue can be answered, the most appropriate thing to do is to back track to the question that is the root of the matter: How should we think about the people who occupy the lowest brackets of society?

The appropriate answer to most social problems lies at some happy medium between morality and objective practicality. As a whole, American society will never consist of a population of people who are equal in all respects. At least, not any time soon. Leaders always emerge in every community and not always with completely altruistic motives in mind. Thus, inequality is born out of man’s greed and natural inequality. In a heirarchal society, there will always be people at the bottom just as there will always be some at the top. Even if a city such as Lowell could make the homeless and those who leech off the system simply disappear, there would still be a lower rung. However, would there be a re-emergence of a poor and/or homeless population?

Yes, there absolutely would. The homeless aren’t born homeless (for the most part), they become homeless. They transition into this state of destitution as a result of a multitude of factors, most of which the majority of Americans do not experience to the extent they have. Such factors include

1. Mental/physical disability (coupled with lack of health care)

2. Job loss or lack of work opportunities (coupled with a lack modes of transportation to increase access to jobs). Someone may have been breaking even with a full time minimum wage job but was pushed into homelessness with the loss of that meager income.

3. Lack of support (to what extent has your family helped you out financially?)

4. Drug addiction (never leads to any good)

5. Dependents (it’s hard keeping one’s own head above the poverty line, let alone being responsible for others)

The homeless population is made up of people who transitioned into it from other socioeconomic groups. If we were to eliminate the groups that contribute the most to the homeless and impoverished, economic operations would be harmed as certain necessary functions would cease. Eventually, there would be a re-emergence of those groups because of operational demand would need workers to fill those empty spaces. This goes along with Emile Durkheim’s Functionalist Theory, which states that every part of a society serves a function and that it emerged to serve that function. In a heirarchal structure, the bottom dwellers will always be living in undesirable conditions relative to the rest of society.

The best any society or government can do is provide the necessary supports to make living in those conditions more bearable as sort of a “thank you” for serving a necessary societal function. At the same time, provide them greater opportunities to climb the social ladder seeing as opportunity is stacked heavily against them. Though the specifics of how to do this are wholly another topic altogether, I’m sure the answer consists of a combination of culture and financial ability. 

For another time …