Eternity must pass
As a shortcut
On the road to madness.
--Sam O. Rolhds, dated Nov. 26th, 2017
Madness. Or passion?
What really constitutes the flow of reality? And what makes this statement’s abstractness less than annoying?
After receiving that letter from Sam O. Rolhds, what with its rambling non-warnings and contradicting instructions on eating from the box of American Happiness, I became a little more aware of madness as it stands in relation to pleasure overall. But, not necessarily pleasure exclusively, but likewise in relation to all knowledge whatsoever.
Let me start this thesis with a proposition (which I outlined in a previous post—Prophesies 7 and 8: the Single/Dual Mouths): All reason is passionate reason—or limited reason. This is to say the means through which we rationalize the world—the sense of the body, the fovea of the eye, the sensory interpretation centers of the brain—limit the amount of information we take in. Moreover, the brain’s prioritization of that limited set of stimuli taken in limits us even further to the information we are conscious of. Rationality as a capability of the brain is limited on two fronts: 1) our proximity to material and; 2) our values of that material (of which we are proximate).
To imply reason, or a reasonable existent, we must take into consideration a whole of reality—after all, it would be irresponsible to say we can reason what doesn’t exist—the only to reason (insofar as the human brain is concerned and its particular brand of consciousness) is to have access to all of reality, the whole of what exists. The vocabulary in the line “Eternity” can be substituted for reality—for reality, the flux thereof, is something that is paradoxical in nature (ln. 1). The only ‘everlasting’ or ‘eternal’ is the flux of reality, the paradox of truth. Referring back to the Climate Change/PizzaGate argument (i.e., that all truths are fictions with some degree of benefit/harm for some section of the social whole), the whole of reality must also include beliefs in objects or events which have no external (to the brain) existence but only mental existence. With numbers come a truth—belief in a fiction is still reasonable (since those beliefs are the products of material brains; they are material) and must, therefore, be considered in the whole of reality—a truth (as hard as that is to swallow). Truth, after all, is the sum of what is true and the fact that that truth may one day become something totally its opposite. Truth, in this sense, is a functioning contradiction—a paradox. To suggest otherwise, one must bear the burden of proving a superior or ultimate truth, one that is more true than any other.
How useful is this discovery in the paradox of truth? I’d say quite since it does away with any poisonous notion that there is some truth more ultimate, more primeval than others. It does away with the vengeful idea that “bad” ideas need to be bred out of cultural consideration or outright destroyed.
So, then, why is “hell” (ln. 2) a “shortcut” (ln. 3) to “madness” (ln. 4) and why does Eternity need to take this shortcut? If there is a “shortcut” for Eternity, then there is a contrasting long way to “madness.” It seems as though, in this poem, the road which Eternity follows—if there is such a road—leads to madness, no matter what direction, short cut or long way, it follows. The situation seems determined and dire for Eternity no matter what. This situation is similar to the choices we must make on any given day and, more importantly, the justifications we give for making those decisions. Honestly, if you think hard enough about why one does anything, the answer always seems to fall back on that old nihilist saw: it doesn’t matter what you do, death awaits. In a logical sense, yes, all things will end—this is an unhelpful truism too casually thrown around by a generation of fashionable postmodernist as a way to justify hedonic behavior and cynical activity (i.e., knowing what one hates, doing it anyway, and hating themselves for it). Cynicism is true madness.
But, the madness this poem talks about is not this insanity wrought by cynical action—the insignificance of choice bound on both sides by an increasingly authoritarian economic model—rather, this madness is the recognition and eventual embrace of the meaninglessness of existence. Coming to this conclusion (i.e., meaninglessness and content) is like going through hell—it’s awful, it’s painful, it’s ephemeral—which is why The Unbearable Lightness of Being is such a wonderful book. We want our lives to have preordained significance, we want to have our roles in which we can play—having that security in the smallness of our world, a predictable territory of knownness. But, this is not Eternity. This is imprisonment of the highest order. Following those roles will lead a person to the same meaningless conclusion as abandoning them altogether. Likewise, seeking truth in any earnest way will always lead someone to the messiness and relativity of life—in short madness.
Our current capitalist system imposes its own set of rationality—a fiction which enables it to survive complete with a system of roles which people must lay and complete in order to gain its purported benefits. Even the people who lose in capitalism create an artificial lack of jobs and roles to keep them valuable. This is why capitalism is falsely universal—it purports to be for everyone; the only qualifying element is that someone must work hard enough. And that lie extends infinitely outward, especially for the Millennial generation. Hard work places the responsibility on those vying for the artificial lack of jobs and places in the capitalist sun—and not on the system with a finite amount of roles to be played. It is madness, falsity, to say that we can all benefit from capitalism, that we can all become comfortable with its devices when lack is baked into the system. WE WILL ALWAYS NEED LOSERS. FOLLOWING CAPITALISM WILL LEAD US TO THE SAME INSANITY AS ABANDONING IT ALTOGETHER. All our own, we come to see the secularized, profit-driven actions of industry as the sole vampire of significance—the sheer abundance of shit makes them meaningless, yet we are still sold on what capitalism can give us, whether through consumption or through wage-cuckoldry. Being outside of capitalism makes us liable to die or to be imprisoned. Ask the homeless—they are the losers of capitalism and their very being is incriminated.
Purpose and the Humanizing Solution:
In any attempt to look at the homeless ‘problem’ the transformation of hundreds of thousands of people into data could not be easier or quicker, the spectacle only shines more in its invisibility. Plus, the pesky capitalist problem cannot get touched upon until we’ve realized what dehumanizing combine-teeth capitalism runs the homeless through. Do we seriously have to re¬-humanize people in the face of capitalism? to remind ourselves that money is not equitable to a person’s potential worth? that people can’t be quantified or qualified in moneyed terms?
The unfortunate answer, it seems, is yes. This is why I’ve structured my piece to act as a primer for breathing human life back into the homeless since as an economy/society we’ve somehow forgotten that. But, going deeper, we must rediscover that there is breath in the first place and recognize its potential, its beauty, and its relevance to people in more comfortable housing situations. And, for me, the arts have been the best possible way of coping with homelessness since my departure. Arts have been crucial in rebuilding a sense of stability and self-assurance; particularly writing. From a personal standpoint, some form of art has always been the prime form of articulating my own thoughts to myself as well as contextualizing the situations I wrote about at the time. There’s a lot to be discovered about my situation, particularly my internal one. My form was writing. Plenty of stories and poems have been written in the time I’ve been homeless. They may not feed or shelter me, but, then again, I’m not an automaton: I desire all the benefits of sentimentality and whatever stereotypes we give to art. It honestly helps. And why? Is it just that I am able to write about and, essentially vent? Not really; I would attribute it more to the act of making something that no one can take away from me: and that is my ability to think, to create. Even if thinking and creating are outside the norm, they are still expressions of one’s self, and that constant reminder (or: the reminder that I can write) has given an incredible amount of courage. One would think, writing is merely an escape, a shuttle into some fantasy where all my darkest fictions can play out and perfection can be found.
Yet, it’s not only about me and how I feel. It’s how others can feel upon seeing my work—just as how we are all affected by the works we ingest, we know that a slew of words comes from a thinking person, someone who plans, some’s irreverence. And that realization, that poetics occurs in any subjective, transits courage and beauty into the receiving end. Even the homeless; their subjectivities matter, too, if not more so.
Thus, the ultimate purpose of this essay is to merely show to the world the subjectivities of the homeless whom I have met and chatted with personally. My complementary purpose is to show how humans are more than just their money and why we as the moneyed society keep making that argument.
I was inspired to write this work from a similar piece of scholarship by Teresa Gowan. In her work, Gowan attempts to document moments of subjectivity through a series of critically-analyzed interviews with homeless peoples. Homelessness, according to some homeless in this text, is a problem that transcends racial issues and, really, encourages solidarity amongst those who have no representation. What traumatic decentering a homeless person feels, likewise, gets manifested in material conditions: i.e. the place(s) that the homeless ‘live.’ Homelessness puts people in a position between human and animal: on one hand, there is the need to help a ‘pitiful’ person, but, on the other, they are to be feared. Thus, learned victimization can instill complacency on the streets: people won’t see the homeless as human, anyway, so what is the point? Once tainted, always tainted. This work tries to get at the subjectivities of the homeless, thus showing that there exists within the homeless self-awareness and humanity, problematizing the popularized notion of the homeless. Thus, homelessness becomes a performance, victimization becomes something that needs to be done in order for the homeless to live where they do, in order to find stability that Americans enjoy.
I want to give ample focus to those bodies which society alienates. The reason being that if the homeless aren’t viewed as drifters, they are viewed as cases for pity, if not that, invisible. Not one of these options seems to me very dignified or personable. This project attempts to offer a different way to make the homeless visible as well as flaunt what humanity may drift away.
I don’t, on the flip side, want this project to be for my benefit, not in good conscience, anyway. Instead, I want an action, for an anthology would only fall back upon the assumption that a homeless voice is something pitiable, something special, something altogether different, something to be saved. This is the kind of language that stems from the easy solution of victim-blaming. As we’ll see in the afterword, the solutions to homelessness rely solely on the money or property the state is able to provide. As far as getting someone under a roof, these measures are effective and should be aggressively sought, equally instituted. Ultimately, I seek to remove the body of the homeless from its embodiment of financial lack and reacting to the all-too-common affinity of humanity and capitalist production. This may help us in redefining or reconceptualizing the issue of homelessness while creating a public desire to upend homelessness and create lasting, effectual reform to how one makes money, how much one makes, the prices of living. To my mind, this requires that we very viscerally feel the emotional reality within someone of different circumstances, their pain, rather than hide behind the green veil of cash.
Semantics and Embodiment
I will start us with a question that seems only pertinent to the theatre: what is subtext?
From my encounters with subtext, I’ve noticed that people only understand ‘subtext’ in the sense that they only marginally get the joke—and I would think, that’s the point to the subtext: a nod and a wink, a suggestion. However, subtext is not just for innuendo, nor is it something semantical. I’ve noticed, too, that the character in any context plays a particular function to the story. This function is only as effective as the audience’s given knowledge of that character in that moment. Thus, any particular audience member only has an ongoing sketch of a character giving all their aspects some significance, such as their professed beliefs, the actors’ characterization, logic, appearance, and so forth. If there is a pattern to the character that the audience knows, or is written to known, and any deviation from that pattern would likely raise eyebrows. If the subtextual sentiment is performed, the audience will notice the bodily movement, if it is spoken, they will hear some indication as to where the narrative is headed.
Yet, someone may not notice, you say, miss the subtext, miss the joke, miss the irony, whatever. This is true, and it is true in the sense that, even if the intention of the play was not displayed or received, the impression an audience member has at a given moment is still there, still suggesting how the play is to go. There is no way to know otherwise, at least until the play itself has resolved. So, we can say there’s a break inbetween reception and display, as well as between other people. What we ‘see’ directly, is what we perceive and make sense of in a semantical way, but the physical features (or nonphysical features) we see are not whole, if not in highly specified zones of cognition, the size of a thumbnail, Dan Dennett once said. What we don’t ‘see’ is relegated to best ‘guesses’ according to Dr. Lars Muckli, from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology. More technically, our “attention[s] [are] allocated to certain locations in the occluded region where participants expect to find object features.” The ‘break’ occurs because two parties, or any number of parties, really, as the observing individual focusing on the regions in their sight that did not actively register in their minds, thus filling it in with whatever experiences that person has had up to that point in their lives. Whatever or whomever fits inside of this zone of guesswork is, likewise, guesswork themselves.
But, this can’t be: any observed person or object does not transform in substance simply by a gaze. Yet, what we confront can only be what has been formed through suggestion—through the subtext of the person as a homeless or poor person. What is beneath the surface of living in poverty or homelessness is something reminiscent of Darwinian values. With how we see homelessness represented in the world, the subtext is generally a negative, helpless, weak, or profligate one. To speak in Deleuzo-Guatarrian terms, this subtext becomes a ‘code,’ however that code is manifested is another matter. I will stick to the idea that the ‘look’ or the representation of the homeless is in the zone of guesswork, but not in individual people—rather, it is a shared, societal cognitive condition.
This cognition is not merely within the mind—it is a practice of expelling those who cannot participate in a capitalist society. What we could call ‘hard times’ are a very real, material condition that represses the representative (who do they represent? homelessness, poverty, anything negative). Right away, the person is discouraged from speaking or ‘getting out’ of their situation because the codes for their lot in life are relegated to the ‘poor,’ the ‘helpless,’ the ‘lazy.’ Yet, I want to hesitate to use the word ‘discourage’ since that suggests a level of choice in the matter of being homeless. I cross no lines in saying that poverty is by no means a choice since, particularly considering the volume of wealth is finite, and, with theories of economic divergence and convergence in mind, much of that finite wealth is concentrating in the upper classes. With savings rates at “8%...and GDP growth of 2%, wealth should rise to 400% of annual output” we find in economic examples “…while a drop in long-run growth to 1% would push up expected wealth to 800% of GDP.” We see GDP growth dipping more towards that 1% in our economy today leaving more and more people with less.
Growth of the economy, in a society of lessened inequality, should be spread out amongst all those who work, all the producers. Yet, as this evidence suggests, the concentrations of wealth, even as a nation’s GDP grows, fall into the hands of a small clutch of people, generally, nonproducers. Thomas Piketty, in his monumental work Capital in the 21st Century, explains why this is true:
top managers by and large have the power to set their own remuneration, in some cases without limit and in many cases without any clear relation to their individual productivity…This phenomenon is seen mainly in the United States and to a lesser degree in Britain, and it may be possible to explain it in terms of the history of social and fiscal norms in those two countries over the past century. (My emphases)
The return on capital for these top executives, or r, is greater than the growth rate of a nation’s economy, q, “for an extended period of time (which is more likely when the growth rate is low, though not automatic), then the risk of divergence in the distribution of wealth is very high.”
People are confined to their economic status, since our social and fiscal norms have been set by those who gain much on returns.
A grand thematic example is a house.
And how appropriate to think a house defines what it means to be an American, to be a citizen, and to be, above all, ‘in’ society. Yet, like the gloomy picture of the current economic trajectory theorized by Piketty and Saez, housing is becoming less and less a reliable fallback. Anywhere between 1991 and 2013,
the percentage of renter households in America dedicating under 30 percent of their income to housing costs fell from 54 percent to 43 percent. During that same time, the percentage of renter households paying at least half of their income to housing costs rose from 21 percent to 30 percent.
We see these divisions run deeply along racial lines:
African American and Hispanic American families, the majority of whom rent their housing, were disproportionately affected by these trends. In 2013, 23 percent of black renting families and 25 percent of Hispanic renting families spent at least half of their income on housing.
As a direct answer to this problem of residential and financial instability, Americans look to the individuals and individual conditions. We seek “to lower the incidence of eviction” as the chief solution to homelessness (my emphasis). Increasing one’s wealth (and/or decreasing housing prices) would doubtlessly lower the incidence of eviction. However effective and positive reform of this kind would be, it results from a slippery slope originating in the individual. Someone’s condition is a result of their lack of income, obviating the system of capitalism, the market of housing prices, the perverse housing practices from any responsibility.
It would be absurd to conclude that the actual house only weighs down the American person. Shelter is a necessary possession to live and thrive. The individual has to shoulder the responsibility of paying for rent, thus for their much-needed shelter. In order to afford the rent, one must have the necessary wages, otherwise they risk facing penalties of an official and unofficial character alike. Lacking the necessary wages mandates perpetual capitalist reproduction to gain access to a home. The home, in turn, gives access to certain politically protected human rights. The discomfort of penalty (like prejudice or damaged credit) would likely urge us toward a mainstream of wage labor. Yet, it goes deeper than this. People do indebt themselves further by the necessity of their own desires for comfort and shelter. This desire is economic in character, but also personal. In short, we need homes, but as homes become more expensive, the position of being sheltered becomes more tenuous and contingent—making shelter more a privilege than a right. As we will see below, the ability to represent oneself is through one’s economic status made manifest by what one can buy. We have to pay for a home in order to have recognized humanity rather than it being a distinct part of us. I will discuss this more indepth in the next section.
In keeping with the focus on one’s subjective character, humanity, as I’ve done in the first half of this project, I will also focus more on the subjective consequences of representing oneself economically. I will be ignoring the hard mathematical side and focus more on what we as a society actively believe that not only forms prejudices about homelessness, but that what beliefs we hold about capitalism lead us towards the tenuous position of poverty.
Who we are as participating individuals in a society is very much determined by what we can actively perceive around us. When we point to particular markers of difference (like house, or car, or access to clean water), suddenly those words translate over onto the person. Poverty and homelessness in a capitalist society let us know quite well who and what they are simply by appearance. In visualizing people as prejudices, we as a society actively repress and silence by denying homes by extreme housing prices as well as poor access to shelters and remedial resources. Thus, we interpolate: how did a person get to look like a poor person unless they are/act/dress/exude poor? The person becomes the placeholder for the abstraction of poor and all of its trappings. I contend that homelessness is an absolute embodiment of capital-money lack with an affect all its own, a life all its own. Poverty is the tipping point of capital-money lack.
Yet, this is an oversimplified conclusion.
One can conflate one’s lived experience in a capitalist society with the income they can generate, effectively reducing a person to their capacity to produce as human capital. In doing so, one cannot assume that the homeless do not or cannot make money, but that they lack the economic representation with which they can prove themselves as active members of a capitalist economy.
Now, what do I mean by ‘economic representation?’ Are not individuals representing themselves by their unique markers of class and wealth? Typically, yes; we in America tend to think that our material possessions and way of life are largely under our control, dependent on how much money is being brought in by household members. Who, then, makes the money; who buys whatever knick-knacks we leave around the house; who arranges them; who buys the car; who landscapes property? Of course the property owner. The person we want other people to see us as is up to us to make and project. Yet, I argue, it is the objects themselves that allow us to project this image—or rather, material objects are the only way we want to project such an image.
This is true, at least for Robert Frank in his book Falling Behind (UC Press: 2007). The central focus of Frank’s study is, among other related premises, about the growing and worsening number of issues associated with positional goods. Positional goods, in Frank’s use, are products to be consumed in order to raise one’s relative status in a given social locality (think: a job, your neighborhood, rival school districts, etc., etc., etc.). As far as our code of social conduct is laid out for us currently, we are always willing and ready to buy more expensive looking products so as to raise our status amongst those people immediately around us—even at the risk of debt. So, having more of something, some property, we wear our social statuses on our sleeves to prove ourselves better. A financial lack is, likewise, witnessed in oneself—one is somehow incomplete, both personally and in the wider society, without sufficient monies. Getting out of debt or homelessness, too, sadly displays one’s lack.
However, I don’t think this is necessarily conscious—in fact, it seems to me an almost intuitive, if not normal way of going through life. If we have the opportunity to let our kids go to the best school in the area, wouldn’t we? If we had the opportunity to get the best college education to find the best career we could and be good providers, wouldn’t we? The answers to these statements are a resounding, yes—no one would wish what the lower classes had. The stigma of poverty runs right through, in fact props up the goals we as American middle class have—always, there is a dummy of the poverty, a sooty aversion to being on the other side, of not having wealth to provide. The idea of capital-money (real, after tax wages, that is) being a translation for well-being, again, seems like an intuitive conclusion that, for the outset, excludes those who don’t have as much as the higher classes. However, if we look at the consequence of such a translation, that those who don’t have enough to provide, can’t provide, and implicitly aren’t trying hard enough to provide. Yet the lunacy of this claim astounds me: purchasing power has objectively decreased for middle-class workers. As far as economic representation is concerned, the real ability to provide diminishes not only in wages but in what people can do with those wages.
You can only do what you have.
Self-expression delimits by the resources available. Discouragement seems an inevitability in our current system as people who have less and less. If this assumption is true, that we can only be as much as our incomes allow, then the real forces of the economy circulating us day-to-day dictate just where we fall on the economic pecking-order. Our representations are crafted for us by our positions in society which causes a divergence of a homogeneous society, and less idealistically, from a fair one. So, why is this becoming a norm? The codes I mentioned before color social and fiscal norms as well as real, material phenomena. Idolizing the wealth which certain people have, or being norm-ified into idolizing them, puts us into a rat-race of trying to get ‘there,’ in the American Dream. While placing that financial lack in disparity we create totems of both the high and the low classes.
Thus, in any one given instance, the interactions between communicating bodies produce a lack in confluence, relying solely on the pole by which they ‘originated.’ It can be understood, in this way, of active miscommunication happening between two parties—in which event, only the more ‘capable’ or ‘professional’ person is really relied on and confronted. For our interests, this means that our prejudices concerning money effectively embody and construct a person on the streets. Though this is not literally true (as the person there exists, confronting one’s senses), our actions are affected by our beliefs, materializing those class prejudices into action. We require some form of paternalism in order to exact change. We can find this tendency, on mass ideological levels, through the current phenomenon of affect partisan polarization. According to Iyengar and Westwood (2014),
affective polarization [is] the tendency of people identifying as Republicans or Democrats to view opposing partisans negatively and copartisans positively (Campbell et al. 1960; Green, Palmquist, and Schickler 2004). This affective separation is a result of classifying opposing partisans as members of an outgroup and copartisans as members of an ingroup. The standard definition of an outgroup is a group to which a person does not belong, whereas an ingroup is a group to which a person does belong.
Knowledge does not reconcile, but rather reconfirms its own position, since a lack produced (though necessary) must be filled. One can see the counterproductiveness in such an action as the ‘ingroup’ must be consulted before the ‘outgroup.’ This is due, in large part, to the abundance of bias-confirming information within the ‘ingroup’ of moneyed society. Based on the numbers and statistics I’ve presented in this paper, this perception of the ‘outgroup’ monolithically engenders oppositional information as outside, outlying, schizoid while presented as fact. The reality of this lack in communication manifests in an argument (or even in the communication itself)—the problem is not the lapse or the lack or the ambiguity. Rather, the issue rests in the ignorance of the lack, with the justification of filling the lack with one pole—to totalize with partialisms: laughable. Even with a(n) (un)conscious effort to ignore the lack, the ambiguity still exists, is still produced, and is still a lack in a more practical sense. Financial lack is produced not just in symbolical language, but that lack can become embodied whereby the homeless person becomes the placeholder for something so abstract as visualized prejudice.
People are codified and embody codes. Their lives have a meaning that is made by their repression—thus, it is an expectation of how they ought to act, where they ought to live, what they are able to do, and so on. Where is there room to ‘get out’ or move up, if the entirety of that person is decidedly poor in aspect and account and made threateningly closer each day? The representative that bears its marker of a societal guesswork as repressing representation, thus becomes represented. And eventually, according to Deleuze and Guatarri, the represented is displaced by the representation and all we see on the streets is a dirty bum or a bad neighborhood. Regardless of bodily makeup, or human uniqueness, ‘poor’ and ‘homeless’ are designations that occur at the site of the body and in the collective cognitive bias of society.
I sense scorn from the provider classes; scorn in the laws, scorn in ourselves, scorn for those who we have deemed social unfit to participate as freely as certain bumper stickers would promise me. This scorn, I can imagine, is something not altogether anger (or it could be in some cases), but merely a pushing into the norm—the measures, however punitive, are dissuading people from wanting anything other than participation in a capitalist economy. A society’s values enter in and are expressed from our desires in a bodily, lived sense: “the organs and agents of [capitalist reproduction]…pass through…an axiomatic of decoded flows.” Deleuze and Guatarri express, here, how the processes of capitalism have become so integral to our way of life. Capitalism has become so abstracted, so normal, that capitalism can be equated to life, how we, as individuals, use and experience it. What we value for ourselves, as individual property owners, paints even the idea of poverty—god forbid, homelessness—as negative, counterproductive, slovenly. Yet, I stress once more, that this is not a mentality that we’ve had to work on, or that needs proselytized: it simply is the way of the world in this current moment. We have on our hands a naturalized way of the world.
Moneyed Ideals as Punishment:
As I’ve discussed so far, the only way to project the image of a participating individual, thus, an economically responsible member of our society. What participating individuals desire, at the outset, is this feeling of being responsible and that other people know we are responsible. By confirming to others that we can ‘keep up with the Joneses’ we feel as though we are ‘keeping up with the Joneses,’ so to speak, and we do this by the material possessions we have. Our possessions represent us, more so than we represent ourselves through our possession of them. Of course, what is necessary to acquire and (more importantly) keep acquiring these possessions is capital-money—precisely the problematized object I’m talking about. By my logic, a lack of capital-money means a lack (or a least a disadvantage) in in one’s ability to actively acquire and (more importantly) to continue acquiring such objects which can represent them—thus, a lack of willed representation, but an abundance of repressing representation.
The privilege or capacity to constantly own and buy is no suggestive principle, but, more a punitive measure. This is true, particularly in the light of homelessness. When I spoke above about how the individual uses material possessions to feel something inside of themselves (whether it be some personal excitement, achievement of bare necessity, or explicit pleasing of a neighbor’s eye), it is not simply a personal neurosis since the same individual liberties and individualism that we as a society benefit from soon becomes an expectation from others. Falling short of expectations is, however, falling behind in a highly personalized sense. And who wouldn’t feel excluded is this repressing representation permeates even academic knowledge of the subject? Local knowledge of homelessness and poverty, to Farrugia and Gerrard, is “constituted as ‘outside’ of a community of normatity, legitimate and ‘socially included’ neoliberal subjectivities…and made governable according to the epistemological demands of neoliberal governmentality.”
In the American imaginary, we speak of the homeless as sinful or bad—again as a failing of provisional character. And the solutions we have generated thus far, such as Safe Haven homes, are colored by our personal values and are thus, individualized solutions to a, frankly, systematic issue. Our research into the problem of homelessness bends towards neoliberality, positing that the homeless are individuals suffering hard, financial times. These monetary solutions that dominate the realm of practicality are attempts to reintegrate the homeless, the poor, back into the mainstream participating society.
To address the capitalist problem would be hackneyed and unproductive, though to ignore capitalism’s involvement with homelessness would be a serious mistake, one that does ignore a strange double-bind: that capitalism causes homelessness. Thus, one’s inability to participate in capitalism rules one out from continued participation. Yet, this closed system of logic ignores one’s abovementioned humanity, which seems to only be a factor when we, or economists consider human-capital as
expenditures on education, training, medical care, and so on as investments in human capital. They (humans) are called human capital because people cannot be separated from their knowledge, skills, health, or values in the way they can be separated from their financial and physical assets.
Those qualities of a human, thus, what can be invested in, are equitable to a human’s productive capabilities. Assets for assets, what a human possesses is not what a human is, but what a human can produce and thus what is necessary to invest in in order to produce more (thus, buy more), and continue living in a normative situation. We effectively conclude a human life is what it possesses. The Safe Haven/monetary solutions to homelessness merely reconstitute the American human need for private property, adopting the desire of a society into our own desires and extending it well beyond the individual. By name, by deed, by contract, by lease, the American human is seen as an extension of one’s property as much as the property is seen as an extension of the American human. For the name consigns the corporeal experience to word and representation through the political and legal matrix in which a lease is signed. And we see the intertwining of the American human life as a legal(ized) being in the form of evictions: a tenant cannot make payments on a lease and the body experiences the sensations of termination, expulsion, and erasure in the same way the lease has undergone a termination. Without the money needed to pay the rent, the human experience parallels eviction in that, the corporeal person is thrown out like the lease itself. Lease(e)=human. No matter what the tenant feels, if they can’t make good on a lease, they are legally forced from their homes: a statement of failure on one part, the tenant, and a declaration of the lease’s priority over leasee. People become dollars, transactions, leasor-leasee relations through space are transactions, at best. Livelihoods of tenants are contingent upon the paper-trail distance, and just how willing the landlord is to evict.
Kathleen Arnold discusses how the ‘home’ as we know it became a politicized determinant of citizenship in the United States. Yet, as Arnold mentions, the homeless step on the toes of the civil allowances we are guaranteed every day—homelessness disproves the concept of universal citizenship, or shows, rather, that the forces that promised it to us are doing so at the expense of others. Moreover, these same systems are impotent to act when the culture surrounding them is unsympathetic to the victims of capitalism. The United States has jus soli citizenship which hides the labeled differentiations by claiming that all those who are of this soil are citizens. Why, then, are we allowing citizens to suffer in the streets and shelters? Because homelessness is viewed as a problem and a personal ailment; their humanity is universally scorned by all. Our political Self is divorced from its political Other, so demarcated by the threshold of material possessions and access to services. This work raises a good point: we cannot say that, in this society, we are all equal—so, once again, the monolothicism of the term ‘homelessness’ collapses all the homeless into a singularizing label with a singularized need.
In doing so, I would argue that the solution in the now does nothing for the potential problems in the fute creeping in the potential future of the economy. In short, the monetary ‘now’ cannot truly preurvent future or further forms of economic expulsion. Saskia Sassen’s work in Expulsions explores how most, if not all, of the world’s knowledge-based discourses are constituted by the expulsion of individuals or groups of people. Expulsions are the displacement of peoples in order for some social mechanic in one particular social group to achieve their overarching goals. And these overarching goals can only be wrought when events in history are arbitrated by some power. We can imagine, in the context of capitalism and homelessness, expulsion is necessitated by certain industries—we can look to the slavery happening in the mass farming business currently. The organizing criteria for a work-force, too, could discriminate against people. These two examples bespeak a larger issue in that, expulsion is not simply prohibition from doing a certain activity—it is a forced condition. This means that the expulsion from society is, in reality, not the fault of the homeless, rather from some other orchestrated event. Thus, the concept of expulsion will play heavily in this paper because it, fundamentally reworks culpability to look at structures instead of individual people at the source of the problem. Proving that structures, at least, are legitimate foci of critique, instead of individual failings.
Homelessness, outright, is a censure on the body—limiting where people can go, what they can do, what they have access to, and so on. The problem, however, goes much deeper than just income and materiality: a person’s bodily agency is reducible to its ability to consume and continue the flow of money. Subjectivities reveal what money cannot about a person. This is why current measures, like Safe Haven, are monetary in nature: the issue is economical, the solution is likewise. Though this answer is the practical one, it perpetuates a system of capitalism that is predicated upon the expulsion of non-producers, rather than the aid and reintegration of them—but, under what fear? what paranoia is so much stronger than our precious economic system? Do we truly fear coming close to the other? This schizophrenia of capitalism reveals the arbitrary cultural values one places upon money: in order to participate, one must always-already be participating. The solutions to homelessness ought not to be individualized in nature, rather systemic. Yet, when humanity is ruled out based on income levels, it is hard to see a homeless person as anything but a problem. There are more conditions involved with homelessness aside from simple capital-money lack. This bears mentioning for the simple fact that, derived from the issue of lack, the solution of homelessness is monetary, rather than an issue of humanity. If homelessness is a cold, then money is the Tylenol—merely a medicine for enduring a virus, rather than an attack on the virus itself. And, to add, the issue that this metaphorical body and its needs are totally transitive from the medicine: a body with a cold is one that doesn’t have enough Tylenol. The homeless human just doesn’t have enough money. So, suffice to say, money is not the sole cure for the homeless, though within a context of capitalism it is the most practical. Even in the practicality of this measure, the ‘sanity’ of capitalism’s expulsion of the poor ought to be seen in its strange, neurotic logic of maintaining an institution of homeless. The everpresence of this ‘sanity’ must remind us of what precisely it is that we are doing when we reintegrate people back into status quo society: reinforcing the very system that has excluded.
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