Social weather science class issues

Recently I've been reading that global warming causes suicide, as well as terrorism, which means it probably threatens to hurt an emerging identity-politics-group of people called "the homeless." I don't know whether there's a bureaucratic plan in place to deal with the unique threat that "global warming" poses to them, but the right now, the biggest climate threat this group is facing seems to be cold weather. While it doesn't yet seem to have triggered an outbreak of homeless suicide bombers, the government in New York has decided that it's so cold that something must be done, so it has given police authority to help them by force:

Arctic Blast Sends Temperatures Into Danger Zone

NEW YORK (Jan. 26) - One month into one of the mildest winters on record in the Northeast, an arctic blast sent temperatures into the danger zone Friday, and New York gave its police legal authority to remove homeless people from the streets to keep them from freezing to death.

Why? Because it's dangerous to be out in the cold? Should it be a crime to refuse to come in out of the cold? Lots of things are dangerous, and if we are to give police the authority to take people in out of the cold, why stop there? What I'm trying to get at is: under what social theory is this being done?

I don't mean to be frivolous, but I suspect that the people who gave the police this authority were motivated by some kind of concern grounded in what many people would call morality, and I think it might be worth examining it in a little more detail. Whether from a libertarian standpoint, a "moral conservative" standpoint, a "compassionate conservative" standpoint, or even a "moral liberal" standpoint isn't the point really. I'll leave it to others to worry about the labels. I just want to know why it is that demented psychotics are allowed to run around clutching stuffed monkeys and yelling at their hallucinations in various states of, um, "mind" and nothing is done about it until they hurt other people in ways that simply cannot be ignored.

Like sawing open the chests of total strangers.

But in addition to the commission of heinous crimes, we are now to add the refusal to come in out of the cold as a reason for removal from the street?

It's tough being logical about these things, but let me try. Apparently, it's OK for people like the mental patient who sawed open the subway passenger's chest to have been running around hallucinating and hassling people for money in cool weather, warm weather, and I assume hot weather (maybe I shouldn't assume that), to block entrances to stores despite the high taxes and rents charged the store owners, to stink up public places, to not take medication which might cause his hallucinations to stop, to refuse treatment for out-of-control substance problems, but once it gets too cold, something has to be done.

If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that the psychos on the street weren't the only psychos running around.

But I do know better. It's not crazy if the goal is maintenance of bureaucratic power. Leaving decrepit and psychotic people in place and calling them "homeless" (as if they're victims of corporate downsizing or a failure to tax the rich) is a good way to build and maintain a power base. Endless problems require endless solutions that endlessly solve nothing but create endless bureaucratic jobs. (For people with degrees! In social, um, "science"!) Endless committee meetings. Endless "special commissions on homelessness."

But there's a bright side in this spot of cold weather -at least from a bureaucratic standpoint:

"In some ways, [the cold] was fitting," said Madeleine Shea, acting director of Baltimore Homeless Services, which provides funding to nonprofit groups that serve homeless people. "It's good to be reminded of the conditions in which homeless people live."

The city's 2003 census recorded about 2,600 homeless people. Two years later, about 3,000 people reported that they did not have a regular place to stay. The final total of this year's census won't be known until the spring, but Shea said there's reason to believe that homelessness has continued to increase.

"The cost of housing is going up, and that influences homelessness," she said.

Cost of housing?

While I'm not entirely convinced that's what your average hallucinating derelict is thinking about (what, I should ask the guy with the saw and the monkey?), let's assume she's right.

If the cost of housing is the problem, then the government should build special housing for the hallucinating classes who can't take care of themselves.

Not only am I all for it, I'm old enough to remember it!

Gee, I hate to think about the political implications of being in favor of free housing for the mentally ill. It might mean I'm not a liberal, not a conservative, or not a libertarian.

(Thoughts like that can trigger depression. Seriously, it can be depressing not to have an identity group.)

posted by Eric on 01.28.07 at 09:19 AM


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