Sunday, July 3, 2016

One Million On The Street

Destitute peapickers in California; a 32 year old mother of seven children [mother and two children on either side of her, children's backs to camera]

- Last year we talked about that Beverly Hills mother* gone crazy and living on the street. Her rich family, her parents and grown children and ex-husband leave her to be arrested over and over, jailed, locked in mental hospitals "for observation", released. Her family say they are "tired of her". They've become indifferent. How common is this?
- Very. A million live on the street in this country. A hundred thousand in L.A alone. You see it everywhere. For example, when my wife and I left Europe to join up in L.A. we stayed in a small residential hotel. A woman living there was often in the breakfast and laundry rooms, on the telephone arguing with her family. I now bike past her every night, she's sleeping in a wheelchair wrapped up like a mummy in front of the Century City Shopping Center.
- But family. How does it happen they become indifferent? They had to have had some feeling for each other living together year after year.
- They forget.
- Why? How? You've spent a lot of time with these people. Explain.
- It's not hard to understand. Watch what happens when they go into a corporate owned cafe and ask for a cup of water. The cafe worker's usual false politeness completely vanishes. Often there'll be complete silence.
- But they give the water?
- Yes. Go into a real cafe day after day, month after month, and the people working there will come to know you. Do the same in the corporate cafe, when you stop being a paying customer that's an end to the politeness your handing over money had been paying for. After a while, after repeated requests for free service, the cafe gets tired and starts looking for a way to get rid of you.
- How?
- In Westwood if they catch you with eyes shut for more than half a second they knock their fists on your table and order you to leave. If you don't they call the police to drag you out.
- And families do the same? From real feeling, they become role players merely polite by convention, until a line gets crossed, they "get tired of you", and you're out sleeping on the street. Have you actually heard this from them?
- Many times. Some contact may remain. Friends and family might visit, enter into the spirit of your new life, try to identify with you in your new role as if you were a character in a book or movie, walk with you down the street suggesting good doorways to sleep in.
- No! That's cold.
- They're indifferent, neither warm nor cold.
- But how does that happen?
- We've gone over it. People don't have feelings for those defined as living in different worlds, for those who have a role their role has no regular relation with.
- What about role of family member?
- Roles change, the play ends, another begins.** Even if as roles change we're immediately ready to stop caring, as long as we regain a regular role relation to other people we do care about them, at least a little, even if it's mostly false like the politeness at the corporate owned cafe. But the people on the street have had their role changed to one that plays no role with any other role. What makes it so terrible is their having no property. People with property can do without false feelings and live with others' indifference, can even benefit from it by learning to go their own way. Without property, with no role to play with others they are allowed no place to rest, to care for themselves. Constantly being on other people's property they are threatened with constant violence.

Further Reading:
Indifference Revisited
The First Loser
Westwood Stories
Eve In The Garden Of Eden
* Beverly Hills Jews
** See: A Big Mistake