Re: NCH and the Amarican Homeless Society

Anitra Again (anitra@speakeasy.org)
Tue, 23 Dec 1997 18:25:07 -0800 (PST)


Wandering Bear, I understand your anger at people who patronize and
explore the poor.  I've felt that frustration myself, from the
daycenter volunteer who was so gushingly, cooingly "proud" of me over
the publication of my first poem that I sincerely craved to bite her
nose, to the staff of the Low Income Housing Institute who regard it
as silly and obstructive of SHARE to insist on equal decision-making
power in a project we are "paper partners" in.

But does this mean that as soon as anyone is accused of being "poverty
pimps" you get angry at them?

It is almost impossible to prove a negative.  I'm over here in Seattle
Washington -- go ahead and ask me to *prove* I don't patronize or take
advantage of any of my colleagues.  If you are determined to believe
that I do, there isn't a damn thing I can do to change your mind.

It takes money to do just about anything.  It takes what seems to me
to be an outlandish amount of money to fix a broken copying machine or
to buy toner.  If you were to set up a bare-bones organizing effort in
a low-rent district with donated office equipment and recycled paper,
you would probably spend $30,000 in the first year -- if your
volunteers all worked for the going rate of love and air.  But is it
really economic justice to work our volunteers like slave labor?  so
you start giving the people who work 60 hours a week for you a livable
wage of $18,000 a year -- and you now have a $100,000 a year
operation, and people are yelling at you about how many people you
could feed with $100,000 and where is all that money going and 
you must be getting rich off the poor people you poverty pimp.

If you really want to sit down with NCH's accounting books and analyze
them, go do it.  Have a headache.  But in the meantime there are gross
and obvious signs of people who are brazenly abusing the poor, all
around you.  The big-business/Department of Justice coalition passing
anti-poor-people laws all over the country.  Organizations like LIHI
that have grassroots "partners" for funding purposes but give them no
real decision-making voice.  The INS treating immigrants to this
country with no human dignity or human rights, while our government
trumpets its indignation at foreign countries for violating human
rights. Policemen raping prisoners with bathroom plungers.  Women
hounded in their own home by legal authorities, because a relative
said they were "acting strange".

If you have the courage to challenge the exploiters of the poor, then
go after the people who are doing it.  The big, powerful, dangerous
people who have demonstrated that they do take physical action against
those who criticize them.  Confront them directly, in their offices
and at public meetings -- as SHARE and NCH and all of the other people
taht Sharon screams against do.  While I have never heard Sharon utter
a peep against anyone really dangerous, or seen her sit down to a real
dialogue with anyone she disagrees with.

It takes no courage at all to lob accusations at someone through
email.  It takes courage to sit down at the table with someone you
disagree with and take the risk that they might change your mind on
something.  it takes courage to sit down at the table with someone
powerful and take the risk that you might not be able to prove your
case, that your facts may prove wanting, that your rhetoric may not
carry the day.

The day that technology develops a way to travel the electron tunnels
carrying an aluminum baseball bat, I'll give points for courage to
people who make flaming insults by email.  At the current state of
technology, it is a false and flashy courage.

It is less flashy to go carry trash and mend the walls of a shelter.
It is less flashy to quietly bring food for a group and share it with
them, without making a big deal about where it came from.  It is less
flashy to spend half an hour talking with a lonely woman.  But these
are the things that are going to build something.  Something new, and
independent of all exploiters.

Go build something.

_________
WRITE ON!
~~ Anitra
http://www.speakeasy.org/~anitra/projects.html for a full list of websites
and webrings because if I list them all here, you will be SO mad at me ...