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Human Compassion

Posted by CainEnabled , 05 June 2010 · 586 views

compassion CainEnabled charity
I've just posted a video on my YouTube account about compassion and helping others. It's part of a discussion, and I thought I'd share it with you guys.

RIP Joe Bloe
Jun 10 2010 02:43 PM
A very thought provoking video. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Forty years ago I was one of those who said "Stuff 'em. Let 'em die," but I've knocked around the country a bit since then, and my attitude has completely changed.

In the first place, I think it is one of those "where do you draw the line" situations: No matter where the line is drawn, there will always be a few people on either side of it who should be shifted to the other side (so to speak). There will always be some who get more than they deserve while others get less than they deserve - but there is no easy way to identify exactly who deserves what.

At one end of the scale, of course, there will be "regular" people who are down on their luck and a gift of a few hundred dollars might be all they need to get back on their feet and thereafter lead a productive life, and at the other end of the scale there are the con-men who will take everything they can, and then ask for more. Both types are fairly easy to identify and they can be treated as they deserve, but I want to talk about those who lie between the extremes. I'm thinking of the people who live on skid row. I'm on speaking terms with many of these people who live in Adelaide, so I understand their situation very well.

In Australia we have a very good social security system and people on benefits (unemployed, disabled/oldage pension, etc) can usually live fairly comfortably with no additional assistance, but then there are the people on skidrow...

Payday is party day. They get their money and immediately squander the whole lot on a combination of booze, gambling, and drugs. Sometimes they are flat broke in less than 24 hours and immediately get back into the familiar routine - free breakfast from the Daughters of Charity, free lunch at the Day Centre, free dinner at the Soup Van, and a free bed at the Night Shelter. And the diehards have been living like this; some of them for decades! Do they deserve all of this assistance? Should we help them, or should they made to get up off their collective bums and do a bit of work for a change?

First we must remember that everyone (without exception) deserves food, clothing, shelter and health care. No matter how stupidly they spend their money, we cannot expect them to live on fresh air for ten or twelve days until the next payment arrives. Their basic needs must be met whether they deserve help or not.

In Australia those who are mentally handicapped often have their benefits paid directly to the State Trustee who organises the payment of rent, food and clothing etcetera, but the people on skid row are not diagnosed as mentally handicapped and are not eligible for that sort of help - and probably wouldn't accept it anyway.

I live only a few hundred metres from the local Night Shelter and the same old faces are there night after night, standing patiently at the gate waiting to be let inside. People driving past on their way home from work will often lean out the window and yell the standard line: "Get a job you lazy bums..." but it's not that easy. A meal and a bed is all they get, and back out on the street at 7am the next morning, rain or shine - so what is driving them to live this way? Every case is different, but one thing is certain: They are not rorting the system. If they are asking for a bed for the night, they need a bed for the night - they wouldn't be there if they didn't. Sure, yesterday they blew all their money in the casino, but tonight they really DO need a bed.

Spending all of their money in a few hours or a few days is not the real problem. There is almost always some underlying (undiagnosed) problem that drives them to behave so recklessly. Now I wouldn't have a clue what that problem that might be, but there is one strange thing I have learned from my conversations with them:

They worry about their money problems: Shall I pay for a room and buy some food? But if I do that I won't have enough cash left for tobacco, or booze? Maybe I'll just pay for a room, eat at the Soup Kitchen, and that will leave me enough for a bottle of wine each day? Decisions, decisions, decisions. It's more than they can handle, so they totally give up; drink or drug themselves into oblivion and eventually wake up, flat broke and homeless.

And suddenly they are at peace!

All of their problems have disappeared! They no longer have to make difficult decisions about how to spend their money, because they don't have any money left. Life is so much easier without it.

It's an irrational way to live, but as I have been suggesting, there is something else (some hidden mental problem) that has got them into this lifestyle and most of them will probably never recover. I often think it's a bit like the obsessive compulsive who washes his hands 100 times a day, or spends hours each day checking that all the lights are switched off. They know they are being irrational and they would love not to perform those rituals, but their brain has gone into a behavioural loop from which there is no escape. My acquaintances on skid row seem to be in a similar situation.

So I guess I'm saying that we (society in general) should give people whatever they need whenever they need it. Yes, there will always be the scamsters who take advantage of the situation and receive heaps more than they need or deserve - but those people are already with us; taking advantage of our good nature and living the high life at our expense. We can't stop them from operating, but we cannot use them as an excuse not to help those who really need help. The people on skidrow may look like idle spenthrifts (and many are), but many of them are tormented by inner demons that would frighten the life out of the rest of us. They really do need our help - and no questions asked. First give everyone a good meal - we'll go looking for the con men later...

I tend to ramble. Sorry.

June 2019

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