2
   

Hey buddy, can you spare some morality?

 
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 03:29 am
Well, i think you miss my point. The individuals to whom i referred were staying in shelters for which they paid nothing. As often as not, i susupect they were "sleeping rough" because of their drinking. When they asked for money for food, i would offer them food. They were not interested. So the point i'm getting at is that it is often possible to resolve the issue of what the genuine intention of the panhandler is. You actually took the young lady to the hostel and paid her entry, did you not?

When people try to bum a cigarette from me, i point out that it is a nasy and expensive habit, and tell them that if they wish to indulge, they needn't expect any help from me. This is not to me an issue of morality--and frankly, i am rather contemptuous of the entire concept of morality. I believe in a rule of law, based upon society's particular construction of the social contract. I believe in personal ethics, based upon those ideas which the individual values and the practical application of them from that individual's point of view. As i will go get food for someone in such a situation, i consider that my personal ethical considerations are met. I won't subsidize the individual's drug or tobacco habit, and will freely tell them as much. So my point at the outset has been that it is possible to avoid the very simplistic, and very "real world" dilemma which OurWindyCityJoe presents at the outset, with very little additional effort. On two, perhaps three, occassions, i've encountered someone who was willing to take the food. One of them who sticks in my mind seemed resentful, and asked for money immediately after i went into our office and got him a couple of sandwhiches--i declined to help him with that. In the situation which Joe describes, as it most often plays out, i either ignore the individual or if pressed flatly refuse. If i have the time, i offer to purchase a sandwhich for them. If i'm actually in the city of Columbus, i offer to call Calvac for them so that they may learn where to obtain a meal. I plainly tell them i won't hand out money to them, and that is an end to it. I don't consider that "morality" enters into it.
0 Replies
 
paulaj
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 07:49 am
Hard-core alcoholics can die from withdrawels, Mr. Rich could be saving Mr. Rag's life and not know it. I say perform the random act of kindness and leave the judging to God.
0 Replies
 
Piffka
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 08:24 am
nimh wrote:
When you give your alm, you've given it, its outta your hands.


I like this. I also like that this girl that you sort of know from the streets wanted an ice-cream. We forget that these people are just like us.

The street people deserve to wrap themselves in whatever remnants of dignity remain and not have our judgement following them everywhere, trying to remove that dignity. They KNOW they've chosen a difficult and dangerous path. It doesn't need to be driven home with every glance and with every disdainful comment.

I think it is much kinder, therefore more moral, to walk on by than it is to make a comment of their moral worth or choices, especially if it is attached to a hand-out.

We have a lot of street people here. Some are mentally ill - they numbers grew huge when the feds opened the doors of the mental institutes about twenty years ago. I think some are alcoholics, some are native Americans, some are drug-addicts... some are all of the above. The Pacific NW has become a huge methamphetamine zone. People make it out of over-the-counter drugstore products, ruining rental houses when they turn them into "meth labs" because of the dangerous fumes & by-products. Many of the addicts are street people. Apparently it is highly addictive and fairly cheap. I'd rather the street people stuck to alcohol.

Has anyone read the short story "What You Pawn I Will Redeem," by Sherman Alexie? It is a bitter-sweet story that shows a depth to the street people's lives that we forget.
0 Replies
 
Sofia
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 11:55 am
Strong and ultimate agreement with Piff, nimh and someone else who said--Once you give, it is out of your hands.

Who knows those who give with strings attached?

My own blessed mother ( :wink: )has a habit of offering this and that, and saying "But, do so and so with it", or "Take care of it, I may want it back..."

She's not giving, she's 'BUYING' a bit of false morality and a bit of control.
Needless to say, she's very safe in offering, as I won't take from her.

I submit if Rich has strings on his gift, it is not a gift, and not moral.

joefromchicago asked me a few pages back why it is immoral to judge people. Because it utilizes prejudice or bias, or stereotypes. I am submitting that you can never, with 100% assurance judge anyone. And, an incorrect judgement is a disservice. Who can know the mind of another?
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 12:03 pm
I submit that we make judgments from the time we arise in the morning until we retire for the night. It is unavoidable. What is subject to scrutiny is the character of the judgments we make, and the basis upon which we make them. I further submit that about 999 times out of 1000, we are each as individuals, the only proper reviewer of those judgments.
0 Replies
 
Sofia
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 12:11 pm
Yep. Making judgements like --"Is that car coming slowly enough to pull out in traffic without a major mishap?"-- and "Is that person worthy of my $3"-- IMO are very different.

I feel that when we judge a person like Rags, we use unfair, or incomplete, criteria.

I don't mind if others don't give money to people, who are likely to spend it on alcohol. That is their decision to make--and I don't consider them IMMORAL to keep their money. But, I do consider it moral to give the money, with no strings attached.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 01:12 pm
Sofia, yes, sharing is a value that it fundamental to all societies. In the case of the "beggar" it is one of the few situations in which reciprocity is not expected. Another would be the giving of gifts to our young children.
0 Replies
 
Sofia
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 01:18 pm
<basking in agreement with the esteemed JLN>
Smile
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 01:41 pm
Esteemed? Embarrassed
0 Replies
 
shepaints
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 02:47 pm
I once thought it was more moral to donate to a charity rather than to give to an individual on the street. Naively, I mailed along my donation
only to subsequently get hit on by a zillion charities! Obviously, my address had been distributed.

That was then, this is now. I volunteer in a shelter a few times a year and prefer to give something measurable, like a few hours of my time
and skills. However, I do give on a case by case basis. This is dependent on a quick glance and the state of my wallet but I am not sure there
is any morality in this gesture.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 03:36 pm
Sounds sound to me.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 04:38 pm
Piffka wrote:
We have a lot of street people here. Some are mentally ill - they numbers grew huge when the feds opened the doors of the mental institutes about twenty years ago.

Yeah, <sighs>, thats a massive part of the problem here too. Part was the stringent budget cuts of the eighties (and now again). So many places closed - not just the 24/7 places, but the places that offered useful daytime shelter, work, activities. "Walk-in centres" for those sane enough to live on their own, but not to do it all on their own. Most now cut - it was "soft", social work, not hardcore health necessity - and all the social and community work was totally cleaned out.

Part of it was the paradigmatical shift in what used to be called madhouses. Way back when, the crazies were put away in safe camps in the forests ... far from us. Last three decades, care has shifted drastically to reintegration. Gotta encourage, force them to take part as much as possible in normal society. For a lot of psychological patients, a liberation. No more being stuffed away in the forest - new opportunities! But for many others, deep insecuritisation. They usta have a life of certainty laid out - food, bed, care, activities, the same the rest of their life. Now suddenly they're supposed to do and manage all kinds of things by themselves. Live in their own place, or in shared semi-independent flats in town, etc. Deal with constantly changing circumstances, with expectations. Many fail.

Now we got two kinds of people on the street. One: those who are too unable to manage by themselves, but are not serious enough cases to "deserve" full-time care anymore in the new, do-it-yourself-as-much-as-possible system. They fall between ship and shore as we say.

There was a sad story in the paper of the psychological centre of a mother who told of her despair about her psychotic son. He wasnt sick enough to get full-time care - no, reintegrate, live with your own family! But she couldnt cope, either ... Kid had a certain number of hours of available care. He gets crazy at night - just try to make it to the morning. One night, he got crazy, and he walked away, to the psychiatric centre, started banging on the windows. They wouldnt help him (no emergency staff at hand), he broke three windows with his hands. What did they do next appointment? Rebuked him and fined him for the costs of the windows. This is 2001. Its called promoting self-responsibility, you know.

Plenty of young people, too crazy to manage by themselves, not crazy enough for one of the too few full-time places. Family needs to jump in, but it fails, they wander the streets. But the other category is much more serious still. Its the people who are too sick for the system.

Again, the problem is part budget cuts (the people want lower taxes, you know ... "more efficiency" in health care) - and part paradigm change, again focused on "more efficiency". Locking people away the rest of their life is not efficient. Gotta reform/reeducate/reintegrate them. Target: to minimise intramural care, or what its called - 24/7 care. Get them ready for outside as quickly as possible again. But what of those who will never be ready?

Here's the director of the psychological care institute. He's grappling with budget cuts - and he's rewarded or punished by government based on his succesrate, his efficiency. How many people did he manage to reintegrate how quickly? He's got a limited number of beds. Who wants a patient who will never reintegrate? Cause all kinds of problem, is violent perhaps, will just not adhere to rules, freaks out the nurses? The more of those you accept, the lower your efficiency rate - which means more budget cuts from above still.

So now they're peddling these people. Doctors and cops trying to find a place to accept them, cause jailcells arent meant for them either. But when someone will accept them, its at best for emergency care - then back out on the street. Its a vicious cycle.

Are these people on drugs, when they're out on the street? Sure they are. Often hardcore. Do they drink the local equivalent of Thunderbird? Sure they do. What lead to what, which came first? Who the **** knows? They're walking by here at night, every coupla nights one is cursing and yelling and hitting the wall down this quiet downtown sidestreet.

Do I want people to accept that, yeah, for some kind of care there will never be efficiency rates to be met and succes targets to be fulfilled - you're just gonna have to pay a little more taxes - or learn to live with 'em on your street? (Well, mosta the people who vote for tax cuts live out in the sub- or exurbs of course, so I guess they wont notice much ...). Hell yeah. Will it happen? Probly not. And in the meantime?

They say perhaps half of the people on the street here have serious psychological syndroms. Can I realistically demand them to, you know, behave, act sensibly and rationally and spend the little money I give all on healthy things? Wont happen, will it? One thing I do know - last thing they bloody want is a lecture. And another thing: I will never have enough money to give 'em all a buck. I prioritise Streetnews vendors, but even those 9 out of 10 times I say no. Just too bleedin many of 'em. Twice, three times as many homeless as there were when I moved here. Thanks, people. Great job.
0 Replies
 
Piffka
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 08:00 pm
Nimh -- The situation you describe in The Netherlands sounds very similar to here and just as depressing. We also have that "catch-22" about if a home tries to help a more difficult person, they end up being effectively punished for their efforts. We have a lot of private groups who try to help, mostly with a religious bent. As it happens, today the local newspaper had an interesting article about the homeless teenagers in Seattle (Belltown is in the rough end of downtown Seattle):

Quote:
Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Runaways paint mural of 'how street life is'
Project in Belltown designed to help teens discover own talent, passions

By DEBERA CARLTON HARRELL
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

Hershey and Chief gaze at an immense mural, its vivid primary colors spanning the south side of a former warehouse, and flash triumphant smiles.

The mural tells a story. Their story.

Painting the mural, the street kids say, has made them feel less invisible. Its symbolism speaks for them: red, blue, yellow and orange circles, the city's skyline, gray figures morphing into brighter ones, masks and a rope stretched and frayed.


Full story here.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 08:37 pm
I was impressed to see city vans come around to pick up drunks for the night in Helsinki. They would have froze if not given shelter. But I was there in the summer. They were let go in the morning and then picked up again at night. I don't know how they got their alcohol since it is sold only in government stores. I guess it's sold even to obvious street drunks. I consider that one of many possible civil ways of handling the problem.
I remember a street drunk saying something like,"Well it's simple. I drink, I fall, I sleep in the street or in the joint. No problem." It's all a matter of perspective, I guess.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 09:49 pm
dlowan wrote:
joefromchicago wrote:
dlowan wrote:
However, the people who DO work effectively with Ragses here strongly advocate assisting them with sleeping, eating and food when they wish - and making rehab available - but respecting their decisions as to whether they take them up or not. Interestingly, that is where government policy in my state is going re homeless folk - similarly to harm minimization strategies re drugs.

I suppose they take the same approach with people who suffer from all other potentially fatal diseases?

Well, they do not chase people down the street with medicines and lifestyle changes, but these are offered to them - pretty much how homelessness and alcoholism is treated, yes. What are you saying should be their approach? What is you rpoint? (Even if we accept the "disease model" for alcoholism.)

My point is that you are supporting a treatment model for alcoholism that, it seems, does not apply to other types of diseases that involve mental impairment. For instance, suppose that a person has Alzheimer's Disease.* Would you also say that we should make treatment available to him but respect his decision as to whether he takes it or not?

Even if we don't accept the "disease model" for alcoholism, we can, I think, recognize that alcohol is physically addictive. And for alcoholics, both the physical and psychological need for alcohol as well as its stupifying effects can seriously affect their judgment. Given that fact, it's a bit unusual to respect the judgment of alcoholics when we don't respect, in the same sense, the judgments of Alzheimer's patients, or those suffering from dementia, or children, or people who are otherwise impaired. In effect, you've set up two standards: one for alcoholics (whose judgment we respect) and one for all other persons suffering from diseases or other conditions that make their judgment unreliable or defective (whose judgment we don't respect). So why do we give alcoholics special consideration?

*EDIT: just to be clear, I'm talking about late-stage Alzheimer's, where the patient is no longer mentally competent.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 24 Aug, 2004 10:01 pm
Piffka wrote:
I think it is much kinder, therefore more moral, to walk on by than it is to make a comment of their moral worth or choices, especially if it is attached to a hand-out.


Sofia wrote:
I submit if Rich has strings on his gift, it is not a gift, and not moral.

joefromchicago asked me a few pages back why it is immoral to judge people. Because it utilizes prejudice or bias, or stereotypes. I am submitting that you can never, with 100% assurance judge anyone. And, an incorrect judgement is a disservice. Who can know the mind of another?

Let's be clear here: nothing in the hypothetical indicates that Rich is "judging" Rags, except perhaps in the sense that Setanta suggests: i.e. that Rich "judges" Rags to be an alcoholic (perhaps wrongly, probably correctly). Whether Rich regards Rags as a good person or a bad person is, in contrast, unknown.

That being said, I don't see why Rich would act immorally if he, in fact, did judge Rags to be a bad person. Even if Rich thought that Rags was evil, rather than just morally flawed, he still gave Rags a dollar. In that case, we could perhaps more properly characterize Rich's attitude as one of pity rather than of generosity, but is pity so objectionable that it makes one who feels it immoral?
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 12:35 am
Thomas wrote:
Mr. Rich is a teeny bit unhappier for the loss of his money. But this loss is small enough to be ignored in practice. Mr Rags gets drunk, which makes him substantially happier. For the rest of society, the transaction is more or less neutral.


Liquidity Idea
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 04:25 am
joefromchicago wrote:
My point is that you are supporting a treatment model for alcoholism that, it seems, does not apply to other types of diseases that involve mental impairment. For instance, suppose that a person has Alzheimer's Disease.* Would you also say that we should make treatment available to him but respect his decision as to whether he takes it or not? [..]

Given that fact, it's a bit unusual to respect the judgment of alcoholics when we don't respect, in the same sense, the judgments of Alzheimer's patients, or those suffering from dementia, or children, or people who are otherwise impaired. [..]

*EDIT: just to be clear, I'm talking about late-stage Alzheimer's, where the patient is no longer mentally competent.

Whoa, hold on there. Are all alcoholics mentally incompetent - to the degree a late-stage Alzheimer's patient is, in fact? And do they thus fit in the same category as children, who in effect legally do not have the right of self-government, so to say?

I would say not. Compare people with psychological problems. There are medicines and treatments available. But yes, we do respect a patient's decision as to whether he actually takes it or not. As far as I know, enforced application of such medicine and treatment, here at least, is only allowed in the most extreme situations, for example when someone is regularly violent to other people or attempts serious self-mutilation or suicide attempts. It is not habitual practice to forcibly apply treatment to anyone who behaves in unhealthy or self-destructive ways.

So the question is whether you would suddenly apply such more coercive standards when someone is homeless, as opposed to when someone is, say, being an alcoholic at home.

May I ask you, Joe, what moved you to bring up this subject?
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 04:42 am
JLNobody wrote:
I remember a street drunk saying something like,"Well it's simple. I drink, I fall, I sleep in the street or in the joint. No problem." It's all a matter of perspective, I guess.


Having worked in a family shelter, and therefore seen this on a daily basis, i am going to interject that it damned well is a problem--it destroys families, for one thing, but beyond that, the solitary drunk is a major problem as well. In Columbus, Ohio, there are (or were 15 and 16 years ago) Alcohol Control Officers whose sole duty was to deal with alcohol related problems. Although ostensibly these officers were to sort out rows in bars and domestic violence thought to be a product of alcoholism (two very obvious problems of irresponsible drinking), in practice, the ACO's spent the lion's share of their time dealing with "street people." When the county commissioners have to step over drunks to get from their cars to their offices, the ACO's get called right away, and if they encounter unresponsive individuals, they call for a squad. Emergency Medical Services aren't cheap, not by a long shot, and you can bet the wino on the street doesn't pay. The ACO's were stretched so thin, the mounted patrols were told off to deal with the aggressive panhandlers at the bus stops (the huge transfer point is within shouting distance of the State House) who often intimidated women and children waiting for buses. The same people who complain the loudest about smelly, intimidating drunks harrassing them for change at the bus stops also insist that they not be left to freeze in the streets in winter; no one certainly wants to see a drunk passed out on the lawn in front of the State House being burned to a crisp in the hot summer sun, either. The contention that anyone can behave as these people do in the heart of a large city, and that they do not affect others, is little short of ludicrous. Panhandlers in the area of High Street by the Ohio State University campus became so threatening, the local neighborhood development association told the police that if they did not "clean up" the neighborhood, they would engage in vigilantism. Far beyond Our Joe from the Toddlin' Town's hypothesis here is an ugly reality of urban life--public drunkeness burdens us all, whether or not we know of it, or acknowledge it.

Edit: I'm not criticizing JLN per se, but rather, providing some of the perspective of which he wrote.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 04:56 am
joefromchicago wrote:
Given that fact, it's a bit unusual to respect the judgment of alcoholics when we don't respect, in the same sense, the judgments of Alzheimer's patients, or those suffering from dementia, or children, or people who are otherwise impaired.

1) I have met alcoholics in my life, and I have met old demented people, though none of them were Alzheimer's patients. There is a world of difference between the judgment of alcoholics and that of demented people. Most alcoholics don't have their judgment impaired to a degree even remotely comparable to dementia. I think you greatly overestimate the importance of this special case for the decision to give or not to give a beggar money.

2) The argument from incompetence, insanity and dementia always cuts both ways. Sure, the beggar could be afflicted by either or all of them. But so could I! I could be withholding the money because I'm too dense to see the beggar's need for help, or because I'm a compulsive scrooge, or because I'm too demented to reach for my wallet. In either case, the beggar could use your argument, Joe, to justifiy not just begging me but robbing me. That strikes me as pretty radical. Do you have enough confidence in your argument to follow it to this conclusion?

I don't. I think the best default assumption for the case is that both sides are grown-up people who know what they're doing.
0 Replies
 
 

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