Friday, February 17, 2012

Poor and Homeless in America - Did we create this problem?

Really, this covers people in many parts of the world. Europe, Asia, Africa, the Pacific...homeless or extremely poor people are everywhere. Here's an interesting report to view from the BBC if you've got a half hour. But it does show a political bias and seems to blame the bad things that are happening on a lack of welfare programs and employment. And while I whole heartedly agree that the imbalance of wealth is causing some real suffering, I also believe that the education and daily living skills we give our kids, that ability to make do and make the best of a situation, the desire to work for the basics, these are the foundations of a community that can weather storms be they economical or physical. Increasing resilience is important in this next generation of spoiled and coddled children who can barely hold down a 1-5 job at the grocery store because it might interfere with their 'personal life'.

Now I'm not saying that all poor people are lazy. But some families and communities definitely have an accepted idea that it's ok to not work year round or to just not work at all and live on welfare. This kind of culture is evident in many places. And it's this lack of expectation for something better that leaves people trapped in a mindset that poverty is someone else's fault. It's such a complex problem and there really are no magic pills or easy fixes. It's going to take years to educate people so that they want to move forward and so that the work and skills they'll need are there for them.

That's part of the reason that I'm so much into self-sufficiency. If communities can form around the basic idea that we all work together and we share the skills we have for the benefit of the community, then that's great. I'm not talking about communism where we are all equal; Communism does not work. I'm thinking about a community where we all do our own thing and are largely self-sufficient but where we trade and barter too. Those who work hardest and have better skills will do better but those who are less skilled. Sure they won't have all the luxuries but at least it will be a decent life and everyone can reap the fruits of their own labours. The sick are taken care of, children are taught to work and are treasured, the elderly are valued for their wisdom. We all look out for each other. Sigh. This can only happen if we are willing to accept that we are not all equal but that we have a common goal. It's how villages work, and what's the world really but a collection of villages all linked together.

If I had my way, I'd find some like minded people and buy a piece of land (I found a great piece near here that's almost a hundred acres for $45,000) for us to live and farm on. We'd legally divide it up and build our own homes and farms. I'd have some say in who my neighbours are and I wouldn't have to worry about people stealing my firewood or letting out the goats because they would understand and respect our farming philosophies. We'd all have our own homes and farms but maybe we'd trade my honey for your eggs. If this sounds interesting to you...let me know! 2 more families would be really welcome and I can send you pics of the land. :)

But since that seems unlikely to happen right now, we just focus on teaching our children the practical skills that many have forgotten. No teenager wants to be learning how to grow and cook beans when he could be out with his buddies, but we really hope that in the future it will turn out to be useful information and that by building both character and work ethic we have children who are happy and successful adults no matter what they decide to do with their lives. Maybe if some of the people featured in this video had a garden or some food stored away, they could have weathered the tough economic times better or at least bought themselves some time to figure out what to do. Maybe they would realize that food in the cupboard is more important than payments on a new car or computer. Maybe they'd remember that times have been tough before (think great depression in the 30's) and people had sayings they lived by like this one:

Fix it up, wear it out, make do or do without.

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