Give a man a fish and he’ll maybe be glad you gave him a fish dinner instead of another lecture

This is one of the shadiest, most disgusting things I’ve seen recently. It’s almost bad enough to make me give derelict traveling kids walking-around money, and I never give the circuit-riding hippie swarm their daily bread. Some other chump is offering them that abundant portion; if they weren’t getting any, they wouldn’t be out on the town squares in suspiciously hip towns doing fuck-all all the live-long day.

The approach I just described is the adult one: homeskillet looks like a willfully useless deadbeat piece of shit, and one doesn’t fancy giving money to the undeserving poor, so one doesn’t hand him that dollar. That was easy, wasn’t it? All it takes is the discernment, independence of mind, and assertiveness that comes with not being a stone idiot or the world’s easiest pushover. It doesn’t require a fucking ad campaign to tell grown-ass adults how to spend their money. Shit, that sounded pretty anti-American, but it’s true. As I’ve been told the retarded are taught in their group homes, we’re adults, so we get to make our own decisions. Surely that applies to the majority of us who are not profoundly retarded, too.

What we really have here is people who are butthurt that other competent adults are choosing to give their own money to bums they’d herd into workhouses if they ruled the world, or maybe onto killing fields, just to burn off the dead wood. They’re sore in the ass because they don’t get to dictate the terms of other people’s charity in ways that force the poor (and, in the case of our traveling friends above, the allegedly poor) into the shadows, where they may meekly inherit absolutely none of the earth. The visible existence of the poor makes them uncomfortable, and the assertiveness of the poor as alms-beggars in decent neighborhoods offends their precious sense of the proper social order.

Handouts don’t help? Where the fuck did they get a dumbass idea like that, and why the hell is it a public service announcement with a printable don’t-feed-the-critters sign? Isn’t there some faint possibility that panhandlers pass the hat for that love offering because they could use some damn money? They want some help, and they often get some help; how does that not help? As Dmitry Orlov beautifully explained the sort of Americans who are too proud to take charity, what do these dummies find so objectionable about the free money: that it’s money, or that it’s free? Panhandlers have material needs that they’re looking to meet, and money allows them to meet some of these needs. Again, if you think they’re getting enough money from this line of work (sic, but not entirely), you don’t have to personally cough yours up. (I like to assume that I don’t write for shlemazels, but with all the referred traffic I keep getting on account of Dubai Porta Potty, I probably kid myself.)

There’s a PSA campaign about this because we live in an earthly hell of omnipresent fnords. I refer mainly to Americans here, but not exclusively. (God, the fucking English. What the hell is being done to them, or what are they doing to themselves? I hardly know which question to ask.) This fnordscape is lovingly constructed and maintained by our betters for our own betterment, but really for theirs. The “service” in these public announcements is part of the ongoing campaign to serve man. There’s a book about us, guys, a cookbook, of all things. If we aren’t the servants, we’re the ones being served. The Handouts Don’t Help website does not attribute itself to any individual or organization; there’s no disclosure of who is behind the campaign, so on our own we can only guess as to the motives, but we can assume that they aren’t good. Any halfway reputable individual or organization would take credit for its public campaigns, but here we have utterly anonymous communication by a presumably influential outfit (I first saw the sign posted to the window of a Starbucks) on a subject that is not sensitive enough to warrant anonymity (big money doesn’t like bums, and you shouldn’t, either). This is nothing like whistleblowing or private citizens blowing off steam about pain-in-the-ass associates on an anonymous gossip blog. It’s much more like the creepy Values (TM) billboards badgering the public to stop being so whiny and defeatist. We’re on point to ask why the hell a billionaire recluse is funding that shit and what the real point of it is, since there’s a kind of Arbeit Macht Frei quality to it.

How’s that, again? It’s part of the “nudge theory?” That was more than just a “nudge,” Coach Hastert.

The other thing that’s going on with these signs is that professional do-gooders in social services are upset by the feeling that they’re being cut out of the ecosystem of poverty. They want nothing more than to be the dominant parties in this ecosystem, so bums who don’t reach out for help as the submissive parties really kill their vibe. They don’t like feeling irrelevant and useless to society on account of their being given nothing to do; that feels too much like panhandling. One of the explicit goals of the Handouts Don’t Help campaign is to flush charity cases out of the shadows and into the formal social services system by denying them all informal assistance from other private citizens. The campaign asserts, rather unbelievably, that panhandling revenue keeps street people from seeking the services that they need. Aside from the obvious usefulness of cash to enable individuals to purchase needed goods and services from any willing vendor within their physical reach, the assertion that street people are distracted from reputable, competent social services organizations by the easy money ignores the very real possibility that these organizations are not in fact reputable or competent. The streets know things, and it’s well known on the streets that social services come at some pretty steep costs: you know, every form of refuge having its price, but Don Henley enjoying nicer forms than your sorry white ass ever will, that kind of thing. Panhandlers take a huge amount of shit from hostile passersby, and often from bad cops, but they also get quite a bit of companionship and material assistance from other passersby who treat them as social equals, and they don’t have to jump through hoops for that.

The lack of empathy necessary not to see that this arrangement has the potential to offer more human dignity and less humiliation than submission to formal social services is powerful, but social services are infested by ostentatious do-gooders who have too strong a sense of personal superiority to feel any such empathy. They’re in it for the right reasons, after all, so why wouldn’t some desperate bum recognize this and submit accordingly? Getting pho money from Willie Brown in the course of pointing out to him that Kaitlin is a trans-Jenner sounds like better eating and better company than being condescended to by godbothering scolds behind the Salvation Army chow line who call themselves Major. It’s still a degraded lifestyle, and one is still a charity case (for that matter, you’ll never guess who’s buried in Grant’s tomb), but at least it isn’t an unrelentingly invasive bureaucratic nightmare worthy of the DMV unfolding every night in a religious panopticon. Everything about chatting about Brutlin Jenner with Willie Brown is trashy, but at least it’s consistent with full citizenship and the rights and liberties thereto appertaining. You might even read about it afterwards in the San Francisco Chronicle, a newspaper by and for freemen (although you’d be better off reading C. W. Nevius instead, which might result in something closer to self-government than ad hoc bread and circuses). The Salvation Army? That ain’t freedom they’re offering you, kid. The Arabs have a word for what they’re really after in you: islam.

Let’s give street people some credit: they generally know when they’re around people who are out to prey on the vulnerable. They have to be street-smart to survive. Even the floridly psychotic among them tend to have a horse sense about who’s looking to do them harm and who’s looking to do them genuine good, a horse sense that only the most extreme, most acute, most violent psychosis can overwhelm. If your don’t think they’re mistreated in mental hospitals, I’ve got a room in Sonoma that you might like to sublet. Sure, there are a lot of people out on the streets who are in the grip of clinical paranoia that embellishes and distorts their observations into delusions having no readily identifiable bearing on reality, but many of these delusions contain a very real kernel of truth. It isn’t just a persecution complex if one is actually being persecuted, and the vulnerable (e.g., the homeless and the mentally ill) are irresistible targets for persecution. They have weaknesses that predators cannot miss.

Social services do a poor job of screening out predators, and slumlords that take social services vouchers for the indigent often actively recruit predators into their management. Similarly, Psychotarp was not off-base when he wrote that the Housing Authority had revoked Joe Dirtbag’s rental authority, just confused about the details: he was almost certainly referring to the code inspection that I had requested on account of Pot-o-Shit Friend and company. Psychotarp correctly noticed that things were amiss and untoward around the farm, and he’s absolutely fucking batshit, the craziest person I’ve ever known. The poor in general are exposed to bad conditions and mistreatment that the affluent would either buy their way out of or, in the rare situations where they couldn’t, sue into full abatement. The lifelong affluent have trouble believing some of these stories because they’re so outrageous and grotesque, but they’re true.

For many street people, staying on the streets means not being lectured and surveilled by grandiose, paranoid scolds who attach a mesh of strings to every bit of their charity they dole out and assume that everyone they serve (that word again) has a substance abuse problem. This is one of the flaws in social services that housing first programs cut out by not giving petty tyrants with authoritarian personalities opportunities to act as gatekeepers. The charity provided by many rescue missions, sober living houses, and the like isn’t nearly as charitable as a direct handout to a panhandler. Charity as leverage to force full behavioral compliance for the sake of moral regimentation is not charity; it’s bullying, and like all bullies, those offering it target the weakest, most vulnerable people they can find. Giving a bum money with no assurances of how he’ll spend it is true charity. Giving someone food and drink unconditionally is true charity. When I say “unconditionally,” of course, I mean that it doesn’t require attendance at a religious service, baroque intake procedures, or any other gatekeeping bullshit. Give a man a meal, and he’ll probably eat it, although if it’s repulsive, he might not. A decent charity cookout at the park will be received more gratefully than a shitty pile of canned slop in a mess hall after a three-hour intake wait. Denny’s will have better eating, too, and definitely better hours. Begrudging a bum his Crazy Spicy Skillet is, for lack of a better term, crazy salty. No, that’s Panda Express. If this is all about incentives, what the hell is wrong with incentives for people to do honest labor providing wholesome, tasty food at a clean restaurant open to the public instead of virtue-signaling how much they care about the poor by ritually feeding them crap with strings attached in a soup kitchen?

Sure, there are more efficient ways to feed the poor, at least in theory. Food banks work, but mainly for people who have kitchens at home, and as with soup kitchens, they tend to be huge time sinks. This totally isn’t a problem for anyone who isn’t personally poor, vulnerable, and forced to hurry up and wait for some do-gooder to actually do good. The armed forces pay their personnel to put up with this kind of shit; rescue missions don’t pay their clients, so maybe they shouldn’t put up with it. This is exactly why we have media of exchange, i.e., money: to avoid timewasting clusterfucks. If some assholes at the Oregon Country Fair want to barter an old VW bus for a barrel of pickles, that’s their business for throwing the pearls of their own affluence into the swine pit; being affluent, that probably isn’t their full pearl supply. Demanding that the poor live in a similar fashion as a way of showing their gratitude is evil.

It turns out that Handouts Don’t Help is a local campaign in Redding. That’s even more reason to be leery of it. Redding is the home of Bethel Church, a powerfully insane congregation that should never be given authority over charity distribution. As it happens, Bethel is all about handouts for its own operations, and its congregants are always begging for alms for frivolous travel expenses on mission trips, usually to nice neighborhoods in nice towns. This is a city whose dominant religious congregation, which is not the only one of its worldview, is exceptionally nutty and profligate. Any charitable contributions that get into the hands of an outfit like that might as well be used for a good asswiping and flushed. We’re talking about a city swarming with charismatic kooks with axes to grind who are constantly networking with wealthy benefactor (for money) and vulnerable pushovers (for narcissistic supply, which they self-charitably call ministry). Handouts Don’t Help offers absolutely no description of how it disburses the contributions that it collects, a red flag for any charity but an especially bright one for an umbrella organization operating in a city in the sway of extremely well connected religious nutcases with an appallingly superficial, emotionally unhinged sense of spirituality that includes “coffee with Jesus.” If I don’t know for a fact that charitable contributions solicited by a bum-shaming campaign are not going to any programs under the auspices of a church that was too extreme for the Assemblies of God and now encourages its spinsters to set a place at the table for the Lord, I’d give a decent loafaday bum a bit of Denny’s/bottle shop/whoring money instead, because at least that way there isn’t a chance for asshole middlemen to get in the way and divert it to total dipshits before it’s even been spent.

That’s the other glaring category error in Handouts Don’t Help: it assumes that anyone giving money to panhandlers does not give money to food banks, shelters, or any other organized charitable programs. This is fucking nuts. Individuals’ personal finances are finite, and compassion fatigue sets in at some point, but there’s nothing stopping someone from giving both direct alms and indirect support for the poor to charities. I’ve given money to my disabled vet sign-flying buddy from the rest stops for his migrations to Stand Downs in Washington State, and I’ve given money to food banks. How in hell are these donations mutually exclusive? The food bank that I’ve usually supported puts out coupons at the local grocery store that customers can rip off and hand to the cashier. It’s easy as shit if I’m not feeling miserly, and I’m confident that the money goes to a reputable organization that actually feeds the hungry, not to no telling who may be hanging out behind closed doors with a Chamber of Commerce front group that wants me to give money to formal charities as a way of chastising the poor.

I know, it’s our hard-earned money and shit, so do I work for a living? I took my ass into BottleDrop this morning, so I did last night. If I were a psychopath, I might not find this as enjoyable as making the indigent sing for their supper, but like any sensible bum, I welcome the money and the cash.

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