Sunday, May 20, 2012

One of the things I have noticed about social programs

 is that most of them make it too easy to quit.

I learned that at the homeless shelter because I tried to get to know a few of the guys. There were a couple that were motivated and simply needed a little help to get back on their feet and back in the game. I wrote about one of them the other day.

Still, the majority of them really didn't seem to be too motivated and it didn't take me long to figure it out because in a sense a lot of them are an awful lot like the rest of us. There are not a whole lot of us that would simply go back to what we were doing if we hit the lottery. I don't suppose I would.

To be honest what keeps me going is that by working I can do things I couldn't do otherwise. I spent an awful lot of my earlier years carefree and living wherever the hell I wanted to and I suppose by modern definition I could say I was homeless for a long period of time. Believe it or not, for the first ten years I was out of the service I only paid rent for about five or six months (excluding a year or so's sailboat slip rent. $250 a year. Big deal.) for the entire decade.

I lived in an assortment of places ranging from under a bridge to a camper-trailer I bought to a sailboat and God only knows where. For a couple of weeks I'd slip under the bandstand of one of the bars in Kodiak and sleep there.

As such, I tend to understand a lot of the homeless guys better than most.

I didn't really live anywhere because I was young, healthy and pretty impervious to the weather and was about as insensitive to the cold as a hemlock stump. My first 14 months out of the service were spent in a tipi in the Rockies and that served as a pretty good shelter for free. I took classes on my GI bill and could spend time studying and doing well on what the GI bill paid and still have a couple bucks left over.

After I moved to Alaska I realized that the rents there were outrageous and that most people I knew that were renting didn't seem to have a whole lot left over so I decided to simply snag a camper of some sort and go that route which I did for most of the time I lived in Alaska. I have never spent a single night in a homeless shelter unless the night I spent in the Kodiak jail counts.
Come to think of it, I never needed any of the social programs. Ever. I just took care of myself.

I only really worked when I wanted something and for quite a while the first thing I would do when I woke up was to open my wallet and see what was in it. If I had more than ten bucks I'd generally roll over and go back to sleep as I knew ten bucks could last me a few days. Then I would get up again and go looking for something interesting to do.

Truth is, I had it pretty damned good in Alaska and I knew it. It was damned hard not to leave but I finally did because I knew if I stayed I would wind up trapped in the lifestyle. I left in my sailboat and went looking for adventure.

To a certain extent the social networks have made it a whole lot easier to be homeless and stay that way. There is shelter available and there are a lot of ways of staying fed with little or no effort.

Clothing is so easy to come by in this country. When you break life down like that and put it in the simple terms of being fed and staying warm it is really pretty easy.

Entering or reentering the rat race really isn't too appealing when you think about it. It's too easy to say 'why bother'.

While not all of the homeless guys out there are simply unmotivated individuals, many are. Some are mentally ill and a lot of them have a monkey of drugs and/or alcohol on their back. Still, there are quite a few of them that have copped to the same attitude I had at the time. Why bother?

Now, of course, when I wanted to work then there was work and to tell the truth there was a constant string of people that wanted me to do things for them because I had a lot of the necessary skills to do any number of things. If there was something out there that I wanted I would work for it and get it. If there wasn't, I'd simply find something interesting to do like hang around an air service and load an airplane in exchange for a flying lesson or something.

I often wonder whay I did leave the gravy train I was living in when I lived in Kodiak.

Right now I have a home that is paid for free and clear and it has a yard. I have a few toys that I could easily do without but they are fun and fulfil my needs for mental challenge and activity so I suppose they are good to have and worth the effort. Still, there is a freedom of being able to live with little more than a sack of clothes and a few other odds and ends. There is something to be said for having nothing to lose.

I guess the compromise I seem to have made is that I don't go overboard on a bunch of stupid stuff and junk that means little anyway.

Ben Franklin once said that the way to cure poverty was to make it so awful that the impovershished would find a way to climb out of it. Who knows? Maybe he was right. If it wasn't so easy to let the world go by I might have just entered the rat race and wound up in a cubicle somewhere, although that would have sucked.

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