The Evolution of Homelessness

‘When he is best, he is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast.’

Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice

‘Da Vinci’ Jack Jones, ‘Lord Aurelius’ Marcus Strong, and Admiral Nano sat in a Mexican restaurant eating tacos, fried rice and frijoles. Nano had invited them at his expense. The twosome had it’s perks. Not all homeless folk were of average or less education or capable of sustaining only trivial conversations of shallow nature. Some had quick minds and their life experiences were adding up to wisdom. That didn’t mean homeless like Da Vinci and Aurelius were immune to suffering problems that lead to homelessness, but that despite personal dilemmas some facets of introspective nature periodically were philosophically considered. In other words, Aurelius while being a drunk, could when sober very adequately converse about ideas beyond most other people, even ‘normals’. Da Vinci could easily consider carefully most any subject and give relevant and thoughtful insight and had no drug or addiction to alcohol. Da Vinci was homeless thanks to divorce.

“These are good beans” said Da Vinci. “I’m going to stuff myself silly here.”

“Frijoles” corrected Aurelius. “Do you think we can take a plate with us when we leave” he half joked.

Da Vinci continued, “This beats the sloppy-joes, small handful of messy potato chips and water we’d be having back in the warehouse.” Nano nodded emphatically while biting into another beef taco with hot sauce.

Nano swallowed, looked at his acquaintances and ask bluntly without introduction, “Have you two ever considered the evolution of homelessness?”

“Well, that didn’t take long” smiled Da Vinci. “I knew you wouldn’t make it past the first taco before making us pay for this meal, if not with money.” He smiled at Nano.

“Is it too late for me to have a plate prepared and leave before this conversation starts?” inquired Aurelius. Then he turned serious, the intrigue of the question stabbing his mind with curiosity. The two paused before Aurelius turned to Nano and defined the conversation more to be sure he was focused well on the subject.

“Are we talking evolution in the normal Darwinian sense or more psychological like mental evolution?” Aurelius was trying to wrap his mind around the topic.

Nano clarified the initial question. “Mental evolution as it pertains to concepts which advance a species’ social order. Or in this case, the evolution of homelessness over the history of mankind and how it affects human advancement toward a better society.”

Da Vinci started the subject off, most willing to participate in an interesting debate. “Nano, the first thing some might say is that evolution is a physical thing, not a mental thing. That is incorrect of course. Apes evolved into humans we believe, both physically and mentally over time. They evolved larger, more complicated brains which could support more knowledge and higher order thinking. In fact, the physical evolution probably wouldn’t have happened if the mental evolution wasn’t requiring it.”

“Right”, agreed Aurelius. “There is definitely mental evolution required in order to become more physically advanced. Mental evolution would also be required to develop more sophisticated societies and technologies. You can’t keep your thoughts the same over long periods of time and expect your culture to advance to a higher state. So, now the question is does something specific like homelessness evolve.”

Da Vinci thoughtfully spoke, “It would seem perhaps at first thought it wouldn’t, being not a physical thing. But we ought to make sure we are all on the same page when it comes to what homelessness is. My simple definition of homelessness would be a person without a place to live. I mean, today we’d say a person living in a cave is homeless, because they don’t own a normal home. But then some people still live in caves and have electricity and all the modern amenities in them. So, there are exceptions.”

“Lack of income could be a definition of homelessness, but it’s not a very good one because lots of people have no income but have a home to live in. Children for instance make no income but aren’t homeless living with their parents. People who live in wooden cabins in the woods might not live in a house with electricity from a pole or have a TV, but aren’t homeless. Poverty is a part of homelessness, but not everyone who is poor is homeless. So, probably is best if we kept it to just those people who have no shelter of their own.” Nano nodded at Aurelius in agreement.

Da Vince paused to see what Nano might say, but he remained quiet. Nano had posed the question to Da Vinci and Aurelius to see what they came to, plus in these types of conversations, he tended to be silent to think about what was being said.

Da Vinci, “Okay, then homelessness is defined, mental evolution is agreed upon. So, now we can think about whether homelessness is subject to mental evolution during the history of mankind.” Da Vinci paused to think about it as did Aurelius. After a minute he continued slowly.

“If there has been no evolution of homelessness during human history, then what we think of it is the same now as it always has been. I’m actually wondering right now if mankind has always had homelessness.”

“Good thought”, said Aurelius. “I think there has always been homelessness, because there has always been poverty and people who had no place to live. No wait! We decided poverty wasn’t a good basis for homelessness. A factor of course, but not the definition.”

“Well, maybe not ‘people who had no place to live’ either”, said Da Vinci. When we were all cavemen, there were a lot of caves to choose from. What Neanderthal wouldn’t be able to find a cave to live in? Neanderthal weren’t homeless. In medieval times if you wanted a home, all you had to do is build one. A peasant would know how to build a hut and just had to get the materials from nature, maybe couple tools.”

Aurelius, “Yeah, but then in medieval times you often had to live wherever your liege lord told you to and do whatever he told you to do. But your basically right, it wasn’t like peasants weren’t housed. The huts might have been very nasty, but it wasn’t hard to have one. Lords had to have peasants to work the land and peasants had to live in something, so lords provided materials or at least some tools I think for peasants to build their huts and villages.”

“So”, Da Vinci followed up Aurelius comment with, “there was little homelessness during the hundreds of medieval years. And certain cultures have never been homeless that I’ve ever heard of. You don’t hear about homeless Eskimos, Arab tribes, Native Americans before Columbus, Amazon tribes, most of Japanese culture and lots of others. Aborigines and Bushman and many other people were not homeless. That tells me that homelessness is a matter of the kind of society a group is living in. It seems to me that homelessness probably wasn’t much of a problem till the Industrial Revolution and people started moving into cities in mass in industrialized countries. Then there were more people than houses, so homeless people.”

Aurelius smiled, “Yeah, that sounds right. But we still haven’t addressed whether or not homelessness evolves over time in human history.” They paused again to consider the next logical part of it all.

“Well, if the way we think of homelessness doesn’t evolve, won’t we be stuck with it for as long as mankind is around? And if that is the case, how far can mankind be expected to evolve himself and his mind?” Da Vinci drew back as the thought of what he’d just said sank in.

All of a sudden the evolution of homelessness became much more clear in Da Vinci and Aurelius’ minds. They looked over at Nano, suspecting now what he had been trying to contemplate for himself. Nano straightened up a frown as he nodded.

Nano appeared solemn now. “That is the same point I’ve come to. If mankind doesn’t evolve his notions of homelessness, his attitudes related to dealing with it, the tacit acceptance of treating each other according to their prosperity or property, the class versus class struggle along the lines of self-centered greed, then this will stall human society. Given other cumulative, major problems, the burden of apathy and unwillingness to change could potentially result in the extinction of mankind, because mentally they quit evolving new cultural ways to deal with their problems.”

Aurelius said sincerely, “Well, we’re homeless and I’d like to see attitudes about homeless people change. It’s hard to believe not changing them might bring an end to modern society though.” Aurelius wasn’t quite prepared to accept that possibility as a potential extinction point.

Da Vinci got in the last point. “It’s already agreed on Aurelius it could happen.”

“How so”, ask Aurelius.

“Because we already agreed in our debate that if there isn’t mental evolution, there is no species’ evolution. If there is no species or cultural evolution then extinction is only a matter of time. No part of our minds can fail to evolve without eventually being such a problem as to threaten existence. If that were not so, then dinosaurs and dodo birds would still be around, not to mention Neanderthals.”

Nano said, “Then let’s hope that this homeless attitude society has changes soon.”

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About Admiral Nano

A man exploring homelessness in Aurora.
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