Confusing "Mean" With "Tough"

The question often comes up, why are people so mean to the homeless?   Of course not everyone is mean towards homeless people.  There is still some compassion left in the world.   But when it comes to the subject of homelessness, some people’s meanness has no boundaries.  To them, even murder is justified.   They believe homeless people deserve the mistreatment they receive at the hands of others.  Some actually believe that such mistreatment will motivate the homeless to not be homeless.   Nothing could be further from the truth, but that doesn’t stop the meanness, the hate, that homeless people are subjected to on a daily basis.

So, why does this happen?   This is what I think:  Our society places a premium on “winning.”  Of course, nothing is wrong with winning, in and of itself, but when winning is placed above other more important aspects of life, it becomes a problem.   It is not easy to win, competition is everywhere, and beating the competition if often difficult.  To meet the difficulties that come along in life, a person must be able to withstand the forces working against them.   This requires people to develop a certain resiliency, a  level of toughness.    This leads to the next obvious question,  how much toughness is enough?  Answering this question is where some people start to get into trouble.

Our American society is dominated by Capitalism and the competition that Capitalism inspires.   Although Capitalism is only a financial economy method, its methods have permeated every aspect of American life.  Today, we are hard pressed to find any area of American life that isn’t infected with competition, even parenting.   So, we find it necessary to teach ourselves, and our children, how to survive in this world of constant competition.  And thus we lose our ability to exercise other fundamental aspects of our humanity, such as compassion.   We tell ourselves that winning is the best thing we can do.   Because of this we tell ourselves that competition and it’s methods are good things, conversely we tell ourselves that non-competitive aspects of humanity are bad, or wrong.   Our humanity suffers for this.

“Sweep the leg, Johnny” – Remember that movie quote?
The War Prayer” by Mark Twain, would be something to familiarize ourselves with as well. (The desire to “win” is inextricably tied to a desire for everyone else to lose.)

For some people, striking a balance in achieving success and being compassionate towards others, is achievable.  But for others, it is not.  Winning becomes their only goal in life.  When that happens, any action that leads toward a “win” is deemed acceptable.    The worst of this mindset comes out when these people raise their children.  Instead of instructing their kids how to be resilient and persevere, they actually teach their children how to be mean spirited.  Often, instead of striving for the “win”, their kids will focus more on making others lose.   These kids are also, in the process of learning how to “win”, are given the idea that weakness, or any expression of it bad, wrong, and deserving of punishment – as they were punished by their parents when exhibited signs of weakness, or frailty.

When these kids become aware of homelessness, they perceive the homeless as weak.  And, in wanting to correct a wrong, they believe that what homeless people need and deserve is to be punished for being homeless.


About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless
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