The large building had multiple floors and housed multitudes of San Diego’s homeless. With so many homeless people all in one place, we lost our individuality and became numbers for their population statistics. They stopped focusing on individual families and instead focused on the population as a whole; which translated to them caring about all of us, but they didn’t care about any one of us.
Living at St. De Paul’s over the next month had its ups and down. My mom had to pay a high percentage of the low wages she made from her new security job to the shelter every paycheck. They said it would help us save up to move out. They said upon completion of the six-month program they give all the money back. The keywords were “upon completion,” meaning if we didn’t complete it, we did not get the money back. Giving up most of her paycheck left us with little money to do anything else besides wash clothes and put a few minutes on the family cell phone; which wasn’t new. We had gone without buying them before so it wasn’t an immediate problem.
This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.
Nonetheless, their ambivalence about recognizing privilege suggests a deep tension at the heart of the idea of American dream. While pursuing wealth is unequivocally desirable, having wealth is not simple and straightforward. Our ideas about egalitarianism make even the beneficiaries of inequality uncomfortable with it. And it is hard to know what they, as individuals, can do to change things.
In response to these tensions, silence allows for a kind of “see no evil, hear no evil” stance. By not mentioning money, my interviewees follow a seemingly neutral social norm that frowns on such talk. But this norm is one of the ways in which privileged people can obscure both their advantages and their conflicts about these advantages.
Nobody who has ever experienced the reality of poverty could say “it’s not the money, it’s the message”. When your flat has been broken into, and you cannot afford a locksmith, it is the money. When you are two pence short of a tin of baked beans, and your child is hungry, it is the money. When you find yourself contemplating shoplifting to get nappies, it is the money. If Mr Cameron’s only practical advice to women living in poverty, the sole carers of their children, is “get married, and we’ll give you £150”, he reveals himself to be completely ignorant of their true situation.
JAMES MONROE FIRST INAUGURAL ADDRESS TUESDAY, MARCH 4, 1817
“The Executive is charged officially in the Departments under it with the disbursement of the public money, and is responsible for the faithful application of it to the purposes for which it is raised. The Legislature is thewatchful guardian over the public purse. It is its duty to see that the disbursement has been honestly made. To meet the requisite responsibility every facility should be afforded to the Executive to enable it to bring the public agents intrusted with the public money strictly and promptly to account. Nothing should be presumed against them; but if, with the requisite facilities, the public money is suffered to lie long and uselessly in their hands, they will not be the only defaulters, nor will the demoralizing effect be confined to them. It will evince a relaxation and want of tone in the Administration which will be felt by the whole community.“
“Today’s corporate culture and CEOs increasingly encourage nearly any behavior that produces short-term results, supposedly satisfying shareholders and boosting the stock price in the process. This short-termism is the very root of the problem, causing the end of ethics as we know it. It is a mania and a mantra. Leaders focus on results now, without regards to the consequences and any lingering ethical qualms. CEOs ignore “how they got here” and, instead, focus on short-term performance and reward, concentrating solely on this quarter, not the next ten.”
–The End of Ethics and A Way Back: How To Fix A Fundamentally Broken Global Financial System by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, Jordan D. Mamorsky
GEORGE WASHINGTON, FIRST INAUGURAL ADDRESS IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK THURSDAY, APRIL 30, 1789
“When I was first honored with a call into the service of my country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From this resolution I have in no instance departed; and being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself any share in the personal emoluments which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the executive department, and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the station in which I am placed may during my continuance in it be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.”
“We don’t give into our worries, cara,” she said. “That is for grand ladies, who can fancy themselves ill when their lover hasn’t written or the new dress is commonplace. We aren’t like that, self-indulgent. We do some job, like this, we do it well, we make the worries leave us alone.”
“I thought of my mother’s words on the worries of grand ladies. I was glad of the poverty I’d grown up in, glad of having to earn every dime I’d ever spent. You pay a high price for money, too high a price.”
How about representing the middle class and working families, for a change, rather than the wealthiest people. That is what democracy is about.
“The top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. That is not the foundation of a democratic society. That is the foundation for an oligarchic society. The rich get richer. The middle-class shrinks. Poverty increases. Apparently, good is not good enough yet for some of the richest people.”
“That is not apparently enough for our friends at the top who have a religious ferocity in terms of greed. They need more, more. It is similar to an addiction. Fifty million is not enough. They need $100 million. One hundred million is not enough; they need $1 billion. One billion is not enough. I am not quite sure how much they need. When will it stop?“
–The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class by Bernie Sanders