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Overheard a conversation today. The homelessness in my area is increasing. The story I overheard was talking about people living in their cars at the local parking garage. People stepping over poop found on the ground nearby.  I listened to them talk about feeling for those people, but at the same time feeling for the other “normal” people who are just trying to work in that area.

I offered the comment that until we change our mentality about “how we help”, that the situation will remain.

Here is my position.

The reality is that we are always going to have people in our society who are either:

#1 Down on their luck / Going through a hard time to where they are unable to make things meet enough to keep  a roof over their head.

#2 Mentally impaired… again to where they are unable to keep things stable for themselves.

These people are always going to exist. If you don’t prepare your community to have situations where they can find help, or be helped, then you will continue to have people “with no place to go” present.  You can outlaw them, making their “being” criminal.. but when you do that, what positive thing are you actually doing?

You aren’t resolving the issue, you are just making it easier for people in better situations to not have to look at, or be as painfully aware that those less fortunate exist. You allow those more fortunate to stay blind to the fact that our societal dealings are not as well rounded and all inclusive as we like to think. That in reality there are whole groups of people whose sufferings, and in some cases, entire lives are being ignored. Devalued, because “they should try” to do better. We seem so free with our the “ought” judgments, but less able to handle admitting the root of real problems.

If you are not adamant at dealing with the reality of what is the root of a problem is, no matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable, then in my view your complaint has lost its credibility.

If your response is “they should just get a job”, or “they should be more responsible” then that to me means you have not investigated this issue enough. For some of these people, even those answers are either temporarily or permanently  beyond their capacity, and we can’t just pretend that people who are afflicted with with those issue don’t ever exist.

The reality is that the fact that they are collecting in public places trying to survive, simply means that it is an issue we have to dig deeper into as a society.

I beg the question. Who does homelessness really reflect badly on? Is it the people who are experiencing a current opportunity loss in taking care of themselves, or the society that allows it to happen, and encourages it to remain “out of sight?”

Symptoms of issues are just signs calling you to action. If you choose to ignore their pleas, you shouldn’t expect change or improvement.

The reality is, that if we valued systems that allowed for more self-sufficient and stable “hand up” situations that could help people needing assistance in rebuilding their lives we all would be better off. Things that would be more beneficial in resolving homelessness than by just passing laws saying they can’t sleep or be in a public area or by demonizing them and simply chalking it up to them being a “sub-par” human.

If we cared about public health care availability, to the point where there were places for sick and unstable to go regardless of how much money we could make off of them, then and only then is when we’d see valuable change.

Until we can divorce the meaning of value from being – how can I exploit this situation for my own benefit, to actually mean what healthy and lasting difference can I encourage in this situation.. then we won’t see improvement.

Sometimes issues are harder on us BECAUSE of the simpler ways of thinking we employ.

Two sides of loneliness

loneliness

All in all, I think for the most part, the majority of us are lonely, and most of that loneliness is often self inflicted. Loneliness is ever present, for multiple reasons.

On one end, it has to do with pride and how we see ourselves. After all, the villian in one story is often the hero in another.

Some people seem to find it very difficult to open their minds. Not because they are entirely “awful” or inherently “evil” people, but rather because people are prideful. Self value is such a struggled for and misunderstood aspect. For most people, it’s really a fragile virtue that many look outwardly for justifications to convince themselves that they are a decent human in the first place.

The easiest way for us to do that, is to simply rely on the thought that you are “good” because of the personal beliefs you subscribe to.

This practice is actually pretty unfortunate when you think about it. It leaves us in a bad place. One where the act of having the belief is allowed to have more personal influence on how we see ourselves, than that of our actions or what attitudes we ourselves promote towards others. (both on purpose and inadvertently)

Deciding that “beliefs” makes us good or not, and deciding to vehemently adhere and defend what our current belief system is, actually serves to discourage learning, growth and acceptance. It’s because of our tendency for dichotomic thinking, the ease associated with that contrast, that it seems far too often that anything “different” or beyond what we understand is automatically “bad” or “wrong”. It can be very hard hard for many to let go of that safety net. There is this sense of “nobility” and “pride” to be taken in staunchly sticking up for what you have always believed, but unfortunately that knee-jerk reaction is adverse and contrary to ever learning more, or exploring different understandings of things and growing.

Giving more merit to the initial “belief” then to any exploration of the nuances of a topic is a prideful action.

Because their pride is at stake in their eyes, it becomes a personal attack. It is an attack on their value as a person to for them to think that you would think, that what they believe is not entirely correct, because to them it is part of the definition of their character.

They take it as a head on attack against them personally rather than as what it should be, just questions regarding the topic itself, and they will often do what any animal backed into a corner tends to do… either lash out at the attacker, or try to stop the conversation. Fight or Flight. If your feelings are hurt over someone having the audacity to disagree with you on a topic, that should be a giant red flag that some personal reflection is needed.

Your stance on the topic isn’t YOU.

It isn’t healthy to continue that way. This makes it very difficult to have any kind of meaningful conversations. It limits your ability to relate to others. Progress is stifled and grows stagnant as egos take precedence. It builds walls between you and others rather than bridges towards any type of growth or maturity in how we deal with each other.

On the flip side, the lack of being able to have any sort of real meaningful conversations is extremely sad and insanely lonesome. Very often, you find that others don’t understand you and they aren’t willing to delve as deep into the problem solving exploration that you feel is required to “make things actually better” seems to separate you from the herd.

The world is massive with such diversity, and while one may be fine to explore it, the lack of people capable to reflect upon it with, without it degrading into an “Us” vs “Them” mentality seems maddeningly small. As they become more and more aware of this, they can become disillusioned. For these people, pride is not the issue, the issue and how it affects others is the focus issue. Its not being about always “being right” or “laying blame”, or personal egos at all, its about the resolution. Its about being open to understanding different points of view… about having a willingness to understand and consider the pain points of others.

Even understanding that people aren’t necessarily “bad” and just suffer from the pain of pridefulness, isn’t much of a consolation, because you are still left rather alone with no interlocutors.

In earnest it is pretty rare to encounter conversations where people are objective and aware of their own biases and accepting of the limitations of their own experience. Where people are willing to give weight to someone else’s issues with a subject. Where they are willing to plain listen and learn, or just consider alternate paths and courses of action that haven’t already been used, or even to just consider adjustment.

In this instance you feel extremely alone in your own willingness to be more creative.

Agreement vs. Respect

Agreement doesn’t equal Respect… and Respect doesn’t equal Agreement.

Anything that increases the amount of view points, with which you can understand in any given situation with should be welcomed. If it frustrates you to have your beliefs NOT viewed as being “the only way” things “should be” it signifies a limitation in your own understanding. It really is not required for us all to agree.

Do not be confused. It is not disrespectful to disagree with someone. It is however, disrespectful to not take into considerations how the things you promote hurt others. To ignore the struggles of those around us. If your feelings are hurt because someone brings up a point you didn’t consider, that is your pride being hurt, not you being attacked. A real conversation on a topic is not personal unless you’ve tied “respect” to mean that you should not ever be questioned.

Don’t tie yourself to what you believe you know, but rather to how you can increase your overall understanding, and to how you can grow to understand things from multiple points of view, than use your ethics and morals to direct you in what you hold tightly to.

If we wish to continue with community living, then we can’t so narrowly judge things. We can’t agree to be so simple in judging entire groups. Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness needs to be a wish for all.. not just for those we are closest to.

So I just read this article in the New York Times about a Texas woman who got 8 years in prison and intended future deportation over “Illegal Voting.” While some may feel that it is fine, because if you are “voting illegally” you deserve to be punished, it becomes so much of a “grayer” type situation once you actually know details on the story (which I’ll link here).

The woman was Rosa Maria Ortega, a 37 year old permanent resident who she herself was brought to this country as an infant. Plain and simple, she didn’t know that she could not vote. She is here legally. She has a green card, she is able to pay taxes, own property, legally get a job and serve in our military, but she is not allowed to vote, and she plain didn’t know she couldn’t. She merely wanted to participate, and she had been allowed to register. She grew up here and went to our school systems so I’m not at all surprised she isn’t aware of the “finer details” on this subject.  To be plainly honest, I myself didn’t have a good understanding until I as an adult and researched it myself over a year ago.

The mother of 4 is in trouble for voting in 2012 & 2014 elections. Texas officials were prepared to offer a deal with her and dismiss the charges if she would testify before the Texas Legislature, but Tarrant County criminal district attorney Sharen Wilson put a stop to that plan, because taking her to trial would showcase her office’s effort to crack down on election fraud.

SO…. now to the point that I wanted to make…

I think we make this all more difficult that it needs to be.  I think that voting should always be allowed to ANY permanent resident in an area. If you’ve lived in an area for 3 + years, you should be able to vote on anything that affects that area period.

To register to vote, you should be able to go in, provide 3 things that would show you’ve actually resided in that area for three years, and you should be given a “registration number” or issued a formal “registration card” that you would then have to provide that ID on a removable section of your voting card.

If we were worried about having a number that would “identify you” somehow in conjunction with your vote, maybe we could have the cross-referencing occur outside of the ballot box. The people handling the voting would have to match the number of those allowed in, with the number of votes cast at the end of the day.

~ OR that you’d have to provide on the external secrecy envelope containing your ballot — if your area does mail in ballots.

That ID number would be cross-referenced against a list of numbers, and if it didn’t match, then it would not be counted and that person would be then detained to investigate where they got the card and ID number from.

Three years is enough of a chunk of someone’s life spent to have a vote in their specific area to warranted a right to care about the goings on there.

Ideally, above and beyond that, we could entirely remove from the registration process the point of being  “Republican” or “Democrat” or “Label X” from the registration process.  That way you’d remove the ease at which the higher ups could then find an excuse to disallow some group’s vote.

The point is there are so many different ways we could be doing this, and people are frustratingly avoidant of change, yet content to keep things as inefficient as they currently are… almost just so they can have an excuse to discriminate and complain and cause issues for others “not like them”.

We can’t get a good chunk of people to vote in the first place. Why should we diminish a permanent resident’s ability to vote on issues that affect the area they permanently live in…. its all ego related nonsense.

 

 

Supporting vs Enabling

Understand that loving or supporting someone is not the same as enabling them. People who are worth being with will challenge your idiosyncrasies and make you reflect upon your own actions. They will care enough to disagree and encourage you to think outside of yourself. If you are kind, you will do the same for them.

Happiness is found within, but its not found only adhering to yourself, and its not found in placing expectations upon others that you aren’t willing to comply with yourself.

We are rather blind in situations involving us. Be aware of that reality.

labels

Your cousin from across the country calls you for a visit and tells you that they have a “Blue Bike” in their garage.

You congratulate them, and then but then realize that while you know what a Bike typically is, and while you know what the color “Blue” is… The statement “I have a blue bike” really doesn’t end up telling you much despite the use of a “descriptive label.” Without context, it is almost impossible to for sure really understand.

Is the “bike” of which they are speaking literally a bicycle for transportation? … Or is it something like a scooter that has a very similar function, so the speaker just lumps it together in their own mind and calls it a “bike” — more to describe its function rather than what it actually is? Maybe its much like how people often refer to motorcycles as “bikes” even though they really aren’t the same thing.

Maybe it shares the form of a “bike”, but not the function… like its actually just an an exercise “blue bike.” Maybe its figuratively a “blue bike”.. maybe its a remote control toy… or a pillow… or a poster, or a birthday cake?  Maybe it is a Clown’s balloon creation…

bluebikeballoon

Maybe its only figuratively called a “bike” because of how it looks to us?

It is even plausible that they are actually referring to a poster depicting the image of a “blue bike” that they have mounted on their wall….. and they point at it to show their friends saying… “See my blue bike?”

Maybe “Blue Bike” is a movie … or a song…. or a brand name?

Maybe it is metaphorical?

And then there is the word “Blue” itself…

Blue… is it light, dark, or medium blue? Could it actually be teal and the person just considers it “blue”? Perhaps they weren’t referring to the color at all.. maybe its a feeling or an situation they are trying to convey?

Maybe its a picture of a bike with a sad face on it. Was the bike…. “feeling blue”?, Maybe they meant the poor condition of the bike…maybe they are inferring that it is a sad sight.

sadbike

 

sadbike

Sheesh my head is spinning….

The reality is that bikes come in all sorts of sizes and shapes and kinds. There are literal “bikes” and figurative “bikes” and we often aren’t always very concise or specific about what we are actually trying to convey. A whole broad spectrum of things are very lumped together under one label for our own ease.

How are you supposed to know for sure what was meant when we use our words to describe both the literal, and figurative versions of something… metaphorical versions even?

At some point you have to start questioning how helpful and relevent labels are when we use them so wildly. You almost  have to already know the overall context in order to truly understand what you are being told.

And now we get to the serious part of my post. I told you all of that, just to help make the following make a little more sense. This is a thought on how we use labels on the very people around us.

Very often in this life, we find that words of description are forged into labels that are given meanings that don’t actually belong to them. It its interesting about how often, if you strip them all away, it ends up leaving you with the pure and simple facts of a situation when it comes to the dealings of people. The mere fact that a inclusion of a “label” rather than an action itself, has power to affect wither you see something as “right” or “wrong” is to me… quite troubling. Does it bother you at all?

This personal justification of “as long as its someone like me its ok.” is not a solid stance. That is not thinking ethically, or morally regardless of what you tell yourself. Our lazy ignorance of others is not valid enough upon which to decide something about “some group” of people you don’t know and haven’t bothered to (you yourself) reach out to. Research is more than just reading some article somewhere once, and even instances where you’ve been made aware of one of ‘s view, it doesn’t ever for certain mean that the next you meet will totally agree.

Absolute cloning is not yet a thing.. so don’t allow your mind to believe that it is. Challenge yourself whenever you see yourself taking the easy way out of thinking about any situation. Don’t let the labels distract you from the situation. Truth is always nuanced.. If life isn’t simple enough to for certain know what someone means when they merely say “I have a blue bike”… then that very much means that life isn’t simple enough to label someone, judge them and just walk away.

marionbolognesi-watercolor

Art borrowed from Marion Bolognesi

 

Kind of a dear diary moment of self-reflection (almost to the level of being a pun).

It’s interesting. What our society deems as beautiful seems to be very limited. While I don’t tend to buy into things that seem so material, opting instead to focus more on the ethics part of value theory philosophy rather than on aesthetics, yet… when I’m honest – for some reason I’ve always been overly self-conscious, never really ever able to feel “pretty” ever. Its been kind of a personal bucket list joke to myself that I’d like at some point to have at least one photo that I wasn’t self-conscious over of before I go.

For the most part I tend to put those thoughts aside, and try to just not think about it much. As a coping strategy I always tend to offer to “take” pictures at events as it generally assures that my place won’t be in them. It embarrasses me to admit it, but when I do allow myself to think about it, I personally feel so awkward and gross, and I’ve literally held back actual tears when I’ve seen a picture someone has snapped of me… and that reaction is so adverse to the way I feel I should ever be. It’s so ridiculous and is too much reaction over something that doesn’t matter when it comes to determining the true value of a person. Its just the container.. the book cover, its dumb to worry about, so I try and limit thinking about it as much as possible. I scoff at it and then put it back in its proverbial box in the deepest corner hidden under the imaginary bed in my psyche, yet every once in awhile it escapes and makes me question myself for a little bit — until I fold it back up and put it back away again.

Why is it I can sincerely and easily not care about aesthetics in others, and even pity those who make it the meat of their being, and truly believe that those who use it as any measure of value, or give it importance are themselves lacking in basic understanding of reality.

Yet hypocritically – here I am fully knowing that it shouldn’t be allowed to bother anyone – I still do have those occasional moments when my logic lets down its guard and it will bother me and even affect my current well-being and my value of myself. It never bleeds over to how I think of others, but somehow is able to occasionally blemish how I think of myself. Thankfully its not that often, but when it does comes up, I’m disgusted at myself physically, and then also disgusted at myself for caring at all and letting it get to me when I do actually know better.

I bring it up only really because in the past week, I’ve actually realized something that I plan to remind myself of if-or-when it comes up again and starts bothering me..

Truth is that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side.

I have a co-worker who is the normal standard of “pretty”. She is super nice, super sweet, and is no fool. On more than one occasion, we’ve had customers come in and tell her how beautiful she is. While they likely mean well, it always just becomes awkward for everyone in the office and she’ll joke and shrug it off infront of the customer. She’ll admit later how awkward it is for her, and all the front office employees will just note who it was and try and spare her the next time of having to deal with that customer.

In addition, there is this tendency (especially in men) to plain devalue what they expect that she’ll understand seemingly because of it. One customer came in while I was at lunch last week, and talked to her about a barely technical part of a service we provide, and told her that it “was probably too sophisticated” for her to understand what he had done, and that he’d come back in later. Granted, she’s not a technician, but still, that was a bit presumptuous, and honestly she let him leave with that because she at that point didn’t want to talk to him anyway.

Yesterday that customer came back in and asked the same questions, only to me. Now I’m not the most technical person here, but I do understand the realities of what his question posed and how that service actually works, and within a few minutes I answered his questions the best I could, and he admitted that he isn’t actually that technical and doesn’t really “understand it much” himself. I told him that was fine, we’d try to help him best we could (customer relations and all), but internally I was shaking my head at this ego trip of his.

What garbage.. If the reality is that he doesn’t know much about it either, why was it necessary to tell my co-worker and friend that it was “too sophisticated” for her? Its couldn’t be assumed that by desk location was why he treated her like that as I sit in the front office as well and also not with the regular technicians, so what was the difference other than I’m probably more “standard issue” looking and she’s not.

Seriously I believe this ended up being a matter of that he just wanted to plain “display his feathers” in front of her so to speak rather than just get his question answered? What a complete waste of time.

That is an attitude that would be so annoying to have to deal with on a more regular basis, and I’m thankful actually that I don’t have to. I hate wasting my time, and grandiose antics do primarily that. If things aren’t really sincere, if they aren’t to the point, and if they aren’t with the intention of resolving some issue, I find it difficult to care and difficult to listen because I feel like the focus should always be on the resolution of things, not the dumb dramatics that slow the progress of the desired end result.

While it seems like it would be more desirable to have visible “beauty”, it seems that when you get down to it, maybe life is actually more often closer to reality (when it comes to having to deal with other people) when you are just simply “standard” looking.

I don’t typically have to question the intention behind smiles I get as being anything but what they are…. and in the end… you know what… I’ll try and remember to take it as the blessing it apparently is, because I honestly wouldn’t have the patience to deal with the other side of things.