Whenever I see a post on facebook or a sign out the front of a church that says ‘pray for the homeless’… or some drive like ‘buy a sleeping bag for the homeless’ or’ donate socks’ I feel frustrated. Having been a homeless teenager myself, I can tell you that prayers or some un- nutritious whitebread and baked beans with no can-opener really do nothing to alleviate the horror and misery of being homeless. The fear that a man will come and rape you, the fatigue of not sleeping at night, the shame you feel with no privacy and people judging you without knowing your story. The injustice of unaffordable housing and a welfare system/health system that is being stripped by corporate greed and the agendas of the rich will not be overcome by donating socks or tampons. We are placing a band-aid on something we have come to tolerate – something we should not tolerate. We need to start caring about what the roots of poverty and injustice are, caring about objective media, how our countries are run and who we vote for. If we don’t, every advancement that has been made in the last 100 years will be stripped away.
When I was growing up in Sydney in the 1980s there were practically no beggars. Good union monitored jobs paid a wage that meant many women could stay home with their kids and a house could be paid off in 20 years or even less. It was only when I came to developing countries that I saw people begging and people working in jobs that did not pay them a liveable wage. Now successive right wing governments and cuts to funding to mental health facilities and other services for people at risk mean that I see beggars in my own city. Lose your job and have no savings – in a few weeks you will end up homeless too, because the dole is $250 per week and rent is $350-$500.
Now people of my generation will struggle for 30 years and be lucky to afford a one bedroom apartment their parents or grandparents would have bought with ease. People feel insecure about the job market. A house is $1million Aud because the housing market is unrealistically flooded with Mainland Chinese buyers using the Australian housing market to protect their millions. There are 3 million homeless people in America, and 100,000 in Australia, and yet there are so many empty homes that banks have foreclosed on.
Instead of uniting and creating alternates to the crumbling capitalist system, people are more self absorbed, more isolated and fearful and working longer hours in increasingly soul destroying jobs that pay a less and less liveable wage as their jobs are taken offshore or done by machines.
It is clear that infinite growth is not sustaineable, for the planet, or for humanity. A system with more careful control, checks on banks, the proper taxing of corporations and millionaires (1% of the world now have as much money as the poorer half of the population), and economic attention based on the real economy and the fair distribution of resources is needed. Its clear that pure communism with absolutely no individual freedom or chance for innovation is not palatable either based on the fall of so many communist countries and the human rights abuses carried out by totalitarian regimes.
But are we really so distracted by Master Chef and facebook that we have no interest in fighting as our socialist democracy is stripped away and the super rich make decisions and use legal and political systems to make life for the rest of us increasingly uncertain and stressful. Certainly the current problems of the world are complex and have many causes- but allowing foreign Billionaires to invest in your housing market whilst shutting down domestic violence centres, saying there is no money for welfare but paying retired politicians hundreds of thousands is clearly hypocritical.. Putting the focus of the news on ‘those terrorists’ (who we arm) and ‘those dole bludgers’ (who’se jobs we outsourced)when in actual fact your government is making decisons that harm the working class majority as they quietly reduce environmental protections, cut funding to public hospitals, public schools and even threaten public broadcasting studios for actually informing the public of some of the real and truly important news… Removing caps on the price of university degrees so that only the upper class can access a university education and white collar jobs… Alll this has been going on whilst we have been watching Kim Kardashian and wondering about the best way to lose 5kg or redecorate our backyard.
All the blessings we have – minumum wage, clean water, affordable health care, transparent governing, the right to vote, pensions, clean air, safe birthing, childcare, womens rights, civil rights, freedom of speech and the end of child labour are things people fought and died for.
Increased homelessness, job uncertainty and unaffordable housing are just the tip of the iceberg. If we want a better world we have to care about whats going on and be vigilant to protect the things our forebears died to protect.
HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
– Educate yourself on the causes of poverty
– Make your politicians address issues you care about
– Consider renting out rooms in your home at affordable rates
– Communal gardens
– Lobby the government
– Search for genuine news sources
– Unite with other people to create off grid communities
– Lobby local councils to allow multiple occupancy plots and small home communities for the homeless
– Support charities for homeless people or consider sponsoring a child in a developing country
– Look at creating sustaineable businesses with fair wages
– Get active, educate, agitate organise!
Www.bodhicitta-vihara.com Compassionate action for a better world.