Except for the poverty, uncleanliness, hopelessness, depression, lack of intelligent discourse, subjugation of free will, surrender of personal independence, the forced acceptance of being ‘unworthy’, the smirk of the ‘worthy’ self-righteous, homelessness is not so bad.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me;
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
It was two o’clock in the morning and Jim ‘Father’ Pope, a fine guitarist and a somewhat hyperactive man, had been conversing with Admiral Nano in the warehouse. Around them at this early morning hour were two hundred homeless men sleeping either on aluminum cots or in metal bunk beds. They were conversing at a folding school table, sitting on the little round seats as far removed from the sleeping men as possible. ‘Da Vinci‘ Jack Jones, a very bright and well educated person had joined them a few minutes ago. And now out of curiosity Standing Bear had come over to see what all was going on. He went by the nickname of ‘Chief’ and was a half blooded Native American Sioux. He was also a paid staff member of the church oriented, charity supported, Aurora Emergency Shelter. A stranger group you would not likely see anywhere, but somehow it made sense in the microcosm of humanity at the Aurora IL shelter.
“Chief” ask Father, “Is there homelessness amongst the Native Americans, I mean, in the old days.”
“Me no can tell pale face” said Chief smiling widely. “Me thinkum homelessness came from white man, like scalping, small pox and reservations.”
After some subdued laughing to keep from wakening the sleepers of the dirty, sooty, poorly heated warehouse that was substituting for the main shelter these days during it’s extremely overdue and poorly time renovations, the foursome returned to the subject.
“Seriously Chief, I have an opinion, but I want to hear yours about Indians.” Father brought the question back into focus.
“Opinions are like white men, everybody is stuck with them.” Then Chief dropped his favorite form of humor. “Lucky for you, I happen to know something about Injuns. No, there was no homelessness amongst the Natives, not in my tribe or any other I’ve heard about.”
“Why was that?” said Da Vinci.
“It had to do with how we lived and thought. A cultural thing” explained Chief.
“It was hard to be homeless. Indians lived in groups and they depended on each other for strength and survival. Now days, people cast out those that they don’t want or ignore those that end up here, like you white men. Indians didn’t do that. Even if you were some sort of outcast from a tribe, you weren’t homeless. There was nothing to keep you from making your own lodge or tepee, hunting your own game, marrying, or doing about anything you wanted to do. Native American’s had no house payments, no taxes, no bureaucracy, needed no banks or even permissions to do what they wanted to do. They lived in simpler times with a less complex culture. They didn’t have an economy like the one these days. They all believed in the Great Spirit, not like today where some people are Christians or Catholics or agnostics or atheists. To keep someone homeless made no sense to tribes and was a waste of a human spirit and being. We value our brothers, sisters, women folk, families. Our old are revered. The helpless were taken care of. We helped as best we could those hurt or lame and considered those insane blessed by the Great Spirit. We treasured our diversity of spirit since the Great Spirit created us all. We were uniformly believers in destiny, honor and sacrifice for the tribe and each other.”
“That is what I thought” said Father. “It’s a cultural thing. Now suppose that Americans had never come to this land and that Native Americans had experienced an Industrial Revolution. If they had of developed a modern society on their own do you think Native Americans would have homelessness?”
“I don’t think so, because all the values that were a part of our culture still come forward. We’d just be more modern and that would produce new stresses, but we’d still be praying to the great spirit with a culture tens of thousands of years old. We’d still value freedom and our independence, our own forms of governing, our cultural history and taking pride in it. We’d have to undergo a total mental change to let homelessness happen. Then we would have lost our old culture and replaced it with something else. We no longer be the same kind of people. The question of our culture and why it didn’t have homelessness would be irrelevant.”
“I agree” said Da Vinci. “Native Americans are not alone in having never had homelessness. For most of history, mankind had no homelessness, or very little of it.” They turned to listen to Da Vinci now.
“For instance, Eskimos had no homelessness. Neither do Amazon tribes. Aborigines, Bushmen, Africans, ancient Egyptians, Romans and Chinese dynasties experience little or no homelessness. Their cultures or leader or government were such that it wasn’t possible or feasible. Dictators and emperors, kings and tyrants have always used people like resources to build and carry out their edicts. An unused peasant, slave or even a freeman was a wasted resource if he wasn’t being used or had no job. Whereas today we are kept from starving by our government or sometimes social charity, in times past, you’d usually starve to death or die of disease. Homelessness in that way was a self-solving problem. Aside from morality, such loss of population in times where people didn’t live so long was an impractical situation. Experience is even more valuable when people live shorter lives and have less time to gain it. It was not good for your kingdom to have unproductive people who were still supported. Such folks either died or they were put to work for the benefit of a nation or ruler.
“I think that must be right” said Chief. “Native Americans value the wisdom of the old ones and the experiences they have learned from. That experience helps a tribe to make better decisions, keep people well. But sometimes when people were old and feeble and times were hard, the old ones would leave the tribe to die alone. In this way they wouldn’t be taking resources like food in wintertime from those who needed it more. They contributed to tribal survival by making for the Happy Hunting Grounds, to join their ancestors and met the Great Spirit. It was considered an honorable thing to do. No one ordered them to go. The individual made that decision for themself.”
“So, Nano” said Chief, politely bringing the man into the conversation, “if the theory is right that the values of a culture are what determines the existence of homelessness, because here in the present world there are still societies that have little or no homeless people, what will it take for homelessness to disappear mostly from all of the human race? You say you’re a historian from outer space. What do you say?”
Nano without hesitancy said, “Assuming mankind doesn’t eliminate itself first then eventually mankind will have no homelessness” said Nano. “And while that may be a long time to some people’s way of thinking, it won’t be compared to all of human history because things on Earth are changing at a more rapid pace all the time. There is a good chance that by the end of this century mankind might have no homelessness, But even if it does,it will be greatly diminished and disappearing.”
“Why” said Father, getting back into his own conversation.
“Because of the direction humankind is headed in general. Many attitudes that humans are using now have created inefficient systems which are under tremendous stress to the point of nearly breaking. Such attitudes and the systems they created have not evolved adequately. They no longer can support your demand for lifestyle and culture. They will break very soon. That will result in many years of chaos. People who survive this long period of chaos will reexamine the past and learn from the mistakes. They will come to have different attitudes. That will create better, more flexible, more efficient systems. One of those attitudes and systems will be how to deal with homelessness.
Secondly will be the effect of greater technology on the lesser and remaining population of Earth. Technology is on a path to make fundamental changes to your culture. If just nanotechnology alone matured it would change the way humans experience life in ways you can hardly imagine now. But such trends of development do not happen apart from one another. One field now drives several others. The combining of several mature fields of science into one goes far beyond what mankind has previously known. It’s an exponential outcome. The time is very near when several very important technologies are about to mature and combine. In the new world they produce people will no longer live the same as people do now. Almost everything will be done differently. In this new environment of humanity, homelessness will not be possible in the classic example.”
“So you believe homelessness will end sometime soon?” said Da Vinci.
“Yes” answered Admiral Nano. “Mankind does learn, though sometimes he has to pay a great price for it.”
“That is very true” said Chief. “Native American’s might not have had homelessness, but neither did our ancient traditions and culture have flexibility and so when white men came, our culture started dying. We had no way to incorporate change fast or a willingness to do so. We died mostly as a culture because we couldn’t learn fast enough or adapt to demands. Our systems failed. Our culture is now mostly gone.”
Soon the foursome broke up and went back to bed. Back at his staff table, Chief stared for awhile at his hands and shook his head. They were hands that his great grandfather would have used to hunt buffalo and live on The Great Plains. Then Standing Bear returned to work typing with his hands on the computer.