I have some lovely Art Deco brass fittings for my new workplace, and because I'm a bit fussy I took the walk from my home down the hill to the low end of Vancouver to seek out the hardware store where I might get brass screws to go with my lovely things. Yes, I did confess to eating a bowl of roast dog brains and fried maggots. But when I'm not doing things like that I prefer living well amidst beauty and even, if possible, luxury. One wouldn't guess to look at me. So when I make my way across town and into the ghetto to seek out brass screws at the marine store by the docks, I don't look out of place at all.
I took a short-cut through he mud and the slush and the garbage that falls from trains of stolen shopping carts hauled around by crack-heads. As I was picking my way through a mire of residential wasteland I noticed a cop slipping down and embankment between two bridge spans, to a storm fence that seals off an impound lot for vehicles involved in crimes, to a piece of dirty plastic laying in a mudpatch, plastic covering part of a body stiffening in the drizzle.
So, let's see. A matter of blocks away is a "safe injection site" paid for by the taxed-to-death citizens of this nation. Homeless shelters chock-a-block for those so feral they cannot accept living in welfare housing. "Street nurses" prowling every dark corner of the city looking for and often finding people too incapable of shooting themselves with drugs, giving the nurses a chance to do the good deed for them, sometimes in the neck. And when I return to my home my neighbours ask me and each other what we're doing in the underground parkade, so paranoid about robberies and break ins we can hardly breathe. Men with stolen shopping carts bend over and hurl our trash onto the alleyway where it's compacted by passing cars that can't drive the barricaded streets. There are no riots here that created those barricades, they're there to slow down and stop traffic to give our area a more neighbourly feel. These few short blocks away I see the corpse in the muck.
Do we need more homeless advocates fighting for the rights of the poor? Is that what it is that caused the man in the mud to die there?
I think he had permission to die there like that. Few say it's wrong. Few argue against dying in a filthy space under a bridge. No one says a thing but that we need more money to save the poor from the capitalists who are taking from those too incapable of defending themselves against the system that they are forced to die in the rain, the mud, the garbage, under a bridge. Pay yet another incompetent woman $104.000.00 per year to run yet another worthless social agency and perhaps someone will keep alive a drug-addicted victim of society for another day if he can't find a way to get out of their clutches.
People have permission to die in the mud. They have something close to approval, being victims of society, being more authentic as people, closer to real living, more in touch with the realities of life than the ones who live indoors and who work for mere money to support themselves, their families, the poverty industry, and those who would die in mud. Oh, poor basher that I am, I know a number of such people who are victims of the poverty industry, the death hippies who scream and claw and shriek for grant money to further their fiefdoms and their vanities in the endless quest to destroy those who might otherwise save themselves from dirty death if only someone would shout at the marginal till they realise it's not acceptable to be feral, not even marginal; and then perhaps the marginal, rather than act as badly as they will, they might at least try to fake responsibility and social behaviour they might even find they can cope with it, and they might even live a while. Not now, and not here. Here and now, those who try to speak out are hunted down and threatened, intimidated, bullied, banned from common areas. But it is time to speak out in defense of the homeless and the strange. It's time to tell the death hippies the free ride is over, and that they cannot any longer make their money squeezing it from the corpses of the poor.
I got my screws and mounted my lovely brass Art Deco pieces. I looked through my lovely window. I saw a future shining and bright, a future of people working at lousy jobs for shit pay. I saw men and women walking up shabby stairways to tiny flats for quiet evenings. I saw bitter, resentful people living pinched and nasty lives. I saw people who might someday get a promotion and a raise. I saw people who had at least a hope of a future. And then my friend who lets me sleep on his couch came in to my workplace. "Hey, are those the green things you had in a box? They're really beautiful."