From Empathy to Revolution!
Contrary to what we may think, this country does not have a homeless problem. In fact, in East Harlem, NY many buildings are purposefully kept empty by their landlords. Foreclosed upon homes coast to coast are vacant and boarded up, now owned by banks.
Therefore we don’t have a “homeless” problem. There are plenty of homes—more than can be filled. The problem lies with the violation of our human right to have a home. The real problem consists of unequal distribution, theft and greed. Ironically, the rhetoric used to attack us, the working poor:, that of “irresponsible spending, entitlement, and corruption” has always been more applicable to the politicians Americans continue to elect into office; an increasing number of us are realizing it.
Like most people, I was taught that hard work equaled success, wealth and most importantly—safety—from evictions, lack of food, unstable income, etc. So I never understood why my mother, the hardest working person I knew, struggled to provide all that and more.
I moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of a college degree and more promising future. It seemingly worked; I graduated with my A.A. and transferred to Columbia University. That’s the story on the surface; the headline people point to and say, “If she can succeed, you can too!”
However, this is not an example of success but one of failure. The story underneath the surface is proof that the capitalist system by default oppresses the poor.
The full story involves bureaucracy, student debt, the inability to afford school fees, rent and living expenses despite working, couch surfing, car dwelling — and the depression and anxiety produced by all of these stressors. I was only one of a growing number of students surviving this way.
The popular notion that “hard work” is your only meal ticket out of poverty has proven to be a fallacy, and countless people throughout the country are now echoing these sentiments. From conservative classmates, to co-workers to online forums, I have witnessed their objections to these conditions!
However, this rise in empathy and deeper understanding is tied to our material conditions—we know that we’re far less removed from the harsh consequences arising. More and more of us are recognizing the need for a new economic system, one that doesn’t celebrate the perceived triumphs of a few but creates a new standard of living that will allow all of us to reach new potentials. Accepting there is a problem is always the first step, but empathy alone is not a solution, we must demand what is rightfully ours! Housing is our human right!