The Homeless Occupation

The New York Times had a piece today about how the Occupy Wall Street movement was handling the homeless which was both unsurprising and sad. The first part of the article focused on how homeless people who are mentally unbalanced cause conflict in the movement, but the second part zeroes in on the inherent contradictions of OWS.

One homeless man is quoted as saying:

“If I need clothes, someone donates clothes,” he said. “If I need to take a shower, someone helps me find a place to do that. If I need medical help, there are medics here. Everyone gets fed well, 24/7. I need medical marijuana but I have no money. Here, people give it to me.”

His sentiments embody what OWS has become- “Where’s my bailout?” This gentleman has needs which OWS now fulfills. He doesn’t work for those benefits, he doesn’t even necessarily agree with the movement- they’re provided anyway.

OWS doesn’t see it that way. At the epicenter of it all, Zuccotti Park, OWS has created teams to deal with the homeless problem. Hero Vincent, a member of one of the teams, said OWS wasn’t here to be a recovery institution. The kitchen staff for Zuccotti Park recently went on strike because they were forced to serve the homeless.

Of course, helping the homeless should be a natural extension of OWS’s beliefs. Isn’t that what economic justice is all about? Instead, we see them reject the homeless because they aren’t contributing to the movement. Irony much?

Compare that to conservatism. Capitalism gives agency to private individuals to act- not only in economic terms, but in charity, too (which is why, for example, conservatives, on average, give far more to charity than liberals do). When people abdicate responsibility for helping others to abstractions like “society” or “government,” they are far less inclined to do it themselves.

Seen in that light, OWS isn’t being hypocritical, I suppose. While they claim to be concerned for the needs of the 99%, they don’t actually expect to fulfill those needs individually or even as a group, but simply want to demand government do it for them. Convenient.

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