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Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Zombies of Seattle

Posted by on August 27 at 14:24 PM

In the movie Taxi Driver, the anti-hero says, as he’s driving through New York City,”The animals come out at night.” While walking to work early this morning, from the CD to Capitol Hill, that line came to mind because there seemed to be an extraordinary number of permanently damaged human beings stumbling up and down streets, or being held up by store walls, or completely collapsed on front yards and sidewalks. For them, there’s not a drop of hope; from crust to core, they have been fried by the heat of the most ruthless capitalist system in the advanced world. And so many of them in the CD, in First HIll, in Capitol Hill, in such a rich city. Each smelly, each practically dead, each hardly a human any more, and because they cant even fend for themselves, hardly an animal. In New York City, “the freaks come out at night,” according to an oldskool song by Whodini; in Seattle, the freaks come out in the morning.

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"Hardly a human..."
Calling a group of people sub-human is one of the important early steps to extermination.

hertzmann, these people have already been exterminated by this society. they are as good as dead. in all honesty, what is the value of being human if it has no dignity?

It's pretty damned disingenuous and, well, wrong to blame the despair and downfall of every American on capitalism, unless you're writing lyrics for your highschool punk band.

wells, capitalism is the means by which i and everyone else here "makes a living." it is the ground of this society--not christiainty (for if that were the case these people would be better treated), but capitalism. and it's there from the very beginning. the founding fathers had bonds that were richly rewarded by the passing of that sacred document, the constitution. sir, i take my marxism like i take my makers mark--straight.

Well Charles, you're a real Raskolnikov aren't you? They're still breathing. Yet, they have no dignity. Maybe there's something you can do for them?

Google goggle. Google goggle. One of us! One of us! Google goggle. Googel Goggle. One of us. One of us!

Well, let's take a look at some of the non-capitalist countries around the world...

China (admittedly capitalist in all but name)? North Korea? Sudan? Rwanda? Afghanistan (before the US occupation)? Iraq? Feudal England?

We wouldn't find any lost souls there, now would we?

Seems to me most people have a much better chance under capitalism than any of the other options.

If you are talking about regulated Capitalism (like we have here in the US) then I'll agree with you Monkey. Greed is a human instinct that needs an outlet, but it also needs a check to make it productive. And churches don't cut it in that function.

Seems to me that Charles has it backwards.

They're not here because capitalism reduced them to this inhuman level.

They're here because America is the only place where they wouldn't be exterminated, drafted, interned, exiled or imprisoned. Just about anywhere else, society would recognize them for the waste of potential that they are, and make some concerted effort to utilize that potential, orneutralize the waste.

As brilliant as this discussion on capitalism may be, I agree with Wells that it's a bit beside the point in this circumstance. Yes, capitalism is the means by which we all make a living. We can achieve some level of self-sufficiency while those people cannot.

That said, I think the issue relates far more to immediate government policy than it does to the fundamental structure of the economy. Specifically: what social programs are available to these people? Are these programs enough? (Obviously not.) What needs to be changed? Once these questions are resolved the problem will begin to get better.

This country does not use capitalism in its pure form - no government does. It is a welfare state and therefore ensuring a basic quality of life for all citizens is part of the government's mandate.

Capitalism and compassion do not have to be mutually exclusive.

A good chunk of homelessness is not a resource problem, but a mental illness problem. I have heard estimates as high as ¾ of homeless people are mentally ill. Social services are available and many non-mentally ill recover from homelessness. However the mentally ill often refuse service, medication, confinement, whatever. Under current laws it is very difficult to force treatment on someone. So they wind up/remain homeless.

Now there are good arguments on both sides of the involuntary confinement issue, but to say homelessness is purely economic is wrong.

3/4 of homeless people are not mentally ill - that's a myth. The number is closer to 1/3.

Does drug addiction count as mental illness? A huge number of homeless are addicts.
The saddest thing I've ever seen was a junkie unable to walk straight try to hook his girlfriend so he could get a fix at like 5 am on Broadway. He may not technically have been mentally ill, but he definitely wasn't mentally well.

Why don't Western European countries have the homeless problem we do? Do German's lock up their drunks?

Strangely enough, we find large numbers of drug addicted and lost souls in every society, regardless of the political or economic system. Capitalist, socialist, communist, free, dictatorship, republic, democracy, and every other flavor you can find. Charles, are you ignorant of this or do you simply ignore it because it fits your wordlview to simply blame it on capitalism?

Charles: capitalism may be ruthless and immoral, but you seal the deal by flattening others' lives to fit your condescending slumming fantasies.

Charles, I'm guessing from your posts of the last week that you are in dire need of a vacation, Prozac, or therapy. Or maybe you just need to get laid. But, Jesus. Do yourself (and everyone else) a favor and lighten up a little bit.

The vast majority of homeless people are mentally ill. That's what all the studies tell us. And the vast majority of people with untreated mental illness develop coping mechanisms - often self-medication, otherwise known as substance abuse.

As far as services for the mentally ill - there are hardly any.

I worked in social services for 7 years, for people who have developmental disabilities, and I can tell you there's a huge disparity between state-funded services for the DD community and programs for those who suffer from mental illnesses.

People with genetically detectible disorders, or disorders that our scientists have declared intrinsic to the body - like downs syndrome, and other developmental disabilities - are subsidized. All of the clients I worked with received some combination of direct support staffing, SSI and SSA payments, Section 8 housing subsidies, work training, and other subsidies and services. Several of the clients I worked with recieved state-support packages that could be valued above $100,000 a year.

For the poor who are mentally ill? There's Seattle Mental Health, and - the same services that exist for the non-mentally ill poor - almost squat nil.

The capitalist system - including the one we've dolled up as the "American Dream" - tends to separate the poor into two camps: those that are poor through no fault of their own, and those that are poor because they are lazy. Unfortunately, we still classify the mentally ill in the later category.

Before it was commonplace for women to work outside the home, single mothers – who were judged to have been abandoned by their men - regularly received payments from the state. As soon as the "American Dream" started requiring a second income to achieve, and women went off to work, (and here I'd really like to dodge a difficult feminist critique, seeing as I'm only making an economic argument) we redefined welfare to take poor single mothers – now referred to as “welfare queens” – away from their children.

As our culture changes, different people are put into the "lazy" category. As soon as we see a group as lazy, we take away their money.

Street people are smelly and gross. They are subhuman animals that crawl out of the gutters at night. In Seattle anyone who's willing to work can easily make $75,000 a year. These disgusting shells of human beings pollute our city.

Why is everyone so worked up about? The trolls of course will be trolls, but everybody else seems to be worked up over nothing.

This post was merely a Marxist reflection on the failures of market based societies to its most vulnerable; it wasn’t an attack of those left behind. But does the market owe anything to its most vulnerable?

Where Charles (and Marx) are wrong is in their belief that the lumpenproletariat are so destroyed by society that they are already dead and lack class consciousness. Marx argued that they were unproductive and regressive, bu if you look at most revolutionary movements throughout the world; the bravest of the brave have always been the lumpenproletariats who were indeed engaged in class struggle.

mark. that is not fair. you know my heroes are dickens, marx, and mike davis. in tone and substance, my recent posts are not coming out of the blue. i've always said these things in this way. as for getting laid, that is certainly not one of my problems.

Another dreamy and poetic post. I don't know Marx, but I now see that street people are empty shells of human beings without class consciousness. Thanks for showing me a new way to look at Seattle's street people.

Sean~~After spending 4 years in germany, they certainly do not lock up drunks unless they are unruly. Also, they have plenty of homeless people, drug-addicts, etc. The main difference is that they can get loads of health care for free....wait a minute, they can do that here! I am refering of course to many hospitals that waive fees for poor people without insurance, but of course me who makes too much money and has "insurance" still has to pay a 'co-pay' and then all the fees after the maximum amount of money that my "insurance" covers.

So yeah, don't act like America is the only place with homeless junkies. there are plenty in every country. Have you been to the slums of Berlin? Of Paris? Of Prague? You would see, if you wandererd into the poor areas.
Fuck Marx.

"Gross Street People" was your comment from an essay you had to write for your 4th grade class?
Man how pathetic!
Yes there are Street people many of them are mentally ill. If you add drug dealers to the equation then you have a problem that will not go away by looking at street people as "gross".
The mentally ill used to be banished to the hinterland which used to be outside the walls of city limits now it is on the streets within cities. We see a homeless person and pass judgment because they make us feel unsafe on our streets because we consider the street our space in our city and they should not be there but it is their city too. It happens everywhere. I live in Vancouver Canada and if you want to see street people then come to the lower East Side of this city. It is the worst in North America It is a problem that no politician has an answer too but every politician uses as a platform for getting elected or leaving a legacy by jumping on popular platforms for change that never get funded. This hinterland existence does not change because in reality it operates by itself, it is self sufficient as long as minimal social services are there to try and counter the drugs being supplied. You might see a homeless person but you still get to where you are going and mostly will forget about it within a block of the experience. In this case the experience has been extended by a posting on a blog. But saying they are "gross" is a typical view by many regarding something that is outside the pleasant experience most people would rather have in a city. It also reflects ignorance and fear of something that there is no easy solution to. Basically no city has the facilities to deal with the homeless and the homeless, whether mentally ill or addicted to drugs or both, will always be there in front of the new "Baby Gap" or restaurant we want to go to. But it interesting how billions can be spent on a war in Iraq but only a fraction gets spent on education or facilities to deal with disaster within our cities.
Oh right I forgot. A homeless person just needs to stop being homeless and go get a $75,000 a year job. Just stop being like that you gross homeless person.
Thanks for the posting "Gross Street People".

It's not that hard to get a $75,000 a year job in Seattle. Homeless people choose to live that way. Feeling sorry for the homeless is for suckers.

I love eating at Seattle's fine restaurants, especially eggplant sandwhiches and spicy calamari. The homeless stench ruins my meal, and seeing these insects ruins my view.

@Don: I'm sure seeing you eat a sumptuous meal while they are hungry ruins their view, too.

Who are these people that keep saying finding a $75k job is easy? Uh, right.

@Monique: the services lacking for the poor aren't for treating headwounds from earning $20 in a bum fighting video (ie, service you'd pay for). Rather, it's the lack of sustained mental health and drug care that these people need. You can gripe about the bums, and you can gripe about paying for their treatment, but unless you're willing to commit genocide, you have to either pay to help them out, or hold your breath as you step over them. They obviously can't help themselves.

Don, homeless people do not choose to live the way they do. If you are mentally ill you have no comprehension of what you are doing or saying.
I am telling you this because your mental illness shows this well since it made you say some discussing things.

It strikes me many people think homelessness could never happen to them. Who, me? In my middle class house, eating my calamari and eggplant? Never!

Imagine yourself having an accident and ending up with a brain injury - something that allowed you to function but left you with the faculties of a three year old. Lucky you if you have a family than can support you...if not you're a hell of a lot closer to the street. It's not as far off as some like to believe.

HIM~~ I am not saying that I am mad about paying for poor people's health care, I am simply stating that they are not denied treatment because of their poverty level, and I don't think they should be (for the record). Do I think that we could provide more and have a better allocation of funds for the DSHS and other social programs, absolutely. I just hate that many people that have never lived outside the country think that poverty is just an American problem that Europe has solved. They are doing better at it than we are (I would say "slightly"), but at the same time they have much higher unemployment rates, higher taxes, etc. I am tired of hearing how Europe has no poor people and we are just awful capitalists. Every system generates poor people, and yes, we definately need to find a better way to help them all. We also need to find a better way to help the poor in the 3rd world. We are all global citizens.

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