The following is a recent newspaper article about homelessness in Budapest that my friend Kristof translated. I highly recommend reading it, as it will shine some light on societal challenges in general. Thanks Kristof!
“For the simple and natural question that “Out of two problems which one is bigger?” two simple and natural answer exist. 1. The bigger is bigger. 2. Mine is bigger. The former one is the answer of evident (or implicit) solidarity, the latter one is the answer of evident selfishness. Both of them are life-like and realistic, but one of them leads to a different quality of life.
Let’s take a simple example. It is obvious that tolerating the presence of homeless people if easier than tolerating homelessness itself. There is nobody who likes to walk in – neither clean nor fragrant – underpasses, but it is also impossible to find someone who would rather sleep among homeless than pass by homeless. Nobody will be gladsome by seeing lowlife or depraved, dissipated-looking wrecks but there is definitely nobody who would accept such advice as be depraved, be dissipated-looking; once you get depraved you won’t see the difference and the scenery won’t be embarrassing.
So every non-homeless knows that his problem is not the bigger one, but still vast majority of them believes that his demand with a higher priority goes without saying. His demand against the organs of the government, state institutions, officials and authority is to give way of his misery and make the homeless and their appurtenances disappear or go somewhere. Go to shelter, frost or hell – minor importance.
Everybody has a good reason to call for fellow-feeling when he vindicates public sanitation, because the clean, tidy and civilian circumstance that he produced, got used to and would like to use becomes estranged. Becomes estranged because it is inundated with filth and squalor.
But something is wrong with those who call for this fellow-feeling. Those who call for a solidarity of this kind refuse help and solidarity itself with total insensitivity from those who would really need it. From those who are chained to misery from all those self-sacrificing activists, social workers or publicist accepting unpopularity. These people who call for this evil fellow-feeling sometimes turn against the benevolent, to whom the tragic state of the mass is more important than the discomfort of some consolidated bourgeois.
The government whose orders to make public benches insuitable for lying on them shares this opinion and identifies public welfare with the followings: Those have the right to the bench of common who have a bench at home. Who has no bed to bow his head on it, should not lower there as well.
We published this last week: from the HEV station at Margaret Bridge the police upon request of the citizens turned all the homeless people adrift. They took away their blankets and their sleeping bags that those miserable people previously received from the Baptist Charity Organization. As a result a woman, who otherwise would have a couple more days left on the ice-cold ground, had frozen to death. There were several other attempts from the police to deport homeless under the sky, but these attempts in winter-time it were almost as hopeless as inhuman.
It is not the question whether the comfort-feeling of the aforementioned bourgeois should be a view-point and a subject of consideration or not. The question is whether it should be primary or secondary to the view-point of those who live in much more dramatic circumstances. As per the people who say it is secondary they notice that the awkward personal underground-experience will undergo some change only if the surrounding situation changes, to that extent as the surrounding situation changes which means there will be a change only if the main issue, the homelessness changes; These people form the better group out of two bad. These people at least ask and care about what could be done, what could they do, what could the elected officeholders and support-seeking civil organizations do to prevent, cure or aid homeless life. For instance to make homeless shelters a bit more attractive / comfortable / bearable at least for those who are not yet ingrained immovably into the forest- or streetlife.
On the contrary the other bad group of the consolidated plebians – who would choose evident selfishness rather than evident solidarity – can only tone in their self-interest with their self-esteem if they look at the homeless society as something inferior. Because what else could justify that not the bigger problem shall be the bigger? Undeniably the mosquito’s problem is bigger if I slam it than mine if it bites me, however I can certainly kill a mosquito, because I consider myself an out and away valuable creature. For a person like a piece of homeless something is equal to a mosquito. A person like this refuses to accept knowledge of reality that people living on the streets enjoyed life with equal security and welfare and was as sure as rates that he can at no time get in such a miserably situation.
And the story goes on. People who expect to restore universal peace and order in the topic of homelessness by denying and concealing it, the same expectations and manners will apply in all other topics concerning a country or the globe. In the eye of these people not only homeless will be mosquitoes but every poor, starving and diseased, too.