The Wet Pants of Poverty

This week down at the laundry-shower place, a guy named Phil pees on himself.*

Oh, crazy street people, you say.

Nah, I don’t think so.  When you meet Phil, one of the things that stands out is that he almost certainly has miserable health problems.  A lot of the clients have that look.  From the way Phil has trouble walking, you might guess, for example, that he’s got a spinal injury or something.

Something else you notice after spending a little time in the same room, and getting to wash his clothes and to observe the care he puts into straightening himself up at the shaving sink, is that this is a guy who cares about his appearance.  He knows odds are against him, and he’s making the effort.  He doesn’t want to be that unkempt crazy street person.

No one who comes into the shower-laundry does.  That’s why they come.

So today from my post at the machines I notice the odd whiff of urine-fresh-scent, and it seems to pick up when Phil walks by, and sure enough when I glance over at him sitting waiting his turn for a shower, evidence is he either dropped a cup of water in his lap or he’s the guy.

He does what any sane person would do in his position: He stays cool and pretends it didn’t happen.  Maybe no one will notice.  Maybe people will think he spilled his ice water.

What else is he going to do?  In a minute he’s going to be able to shower and put his clothes in the wash and take care of the situation, but until then he’s stuck.  And I’m telling you: Phil is not a guy who wants to be sitting there with wet pants.  He just isn’t.  He hates it as much as you would.

***

Here are two things about being homeless:

  • You have to scratch together every bit of help from seven different places.
  • Poverty doesn’t wait until you’re ready for it.

When people with good stiff bootstraps visualize homelessness, they visualize a weekend with the Boy Scouts.  Be hard-working and resourceful!  No-match fires and a foraged meal?  Sure!  Except of course that if the Scouts went on a camping trip but you were in no condition to go, your mother made you stay home.

Poverty doesn’t check to see if you’re feeling well.

If you are homeless or nearly, depending on your area there may well be help for you with food and clothing, with shelter if you can get along in a group, and sporadically with medical care and so forth.  I’m not aware of any programs that stock incontinence supplies.  I checked our supply shelves — we don’t.  You have to have cash to cover that one.

That stuff’s expensive.   Price it yourself — everyone pays out of pocket, not just homeless people.   There’s a lot of help to be had for homeless people, but none of it involves handing out cash.  So if the problem’s new or infrequent, financially the calculus may well lean heavily towards hoping that if you have an accident it happens right before you go in to get your weekly shower.

 

*Heck no, I’m not telling you people’s private business.  All names and identifying info are totally changed.

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Artwork: The Dressing Table, 1879, Gribkov.  Via Wikimedia [Public Domain].

Quick Note on Living Wages & Social Justice: Profiteering

While waiting for the timer on the pizza to beep, I came across Theodore Seeber’s post about a hypothetical scenario (linked from yet another blog writing on yet another topic) concerning a business owner who sources his clothing from a sweat shop.

There is much to say on the topic of just wages, and if you check the early archives of this blog you’ll see where I’ve gone and said a goodly portion of it.  The question of culpability looms large, in that often we cannot know or control every aspect of a commercial transaction.

The one concept I thought worth highlighting from Seeber’s comments is that there is a moral distinction to be made between solidarity and profiteering.  Everything else equal, if the business owner is profiting from the low wages and poor working conditions at his factories, it is a serious sin.  That should be contrasted to the situation of, say, a subsistence farmer whose hired workers live and eat just as badly as the employer.

In terms of economic theory, the challenge is overcoming the idea that just because an exploited worker is better off being exploited than being dead, does not therefore mean that we have a free and fair exchange of labor for wages.  Anytime your only alternative to a course of action is certain suffering and death, we cannot say your choice has been “freely” made.

For more details, see Rerum Novarum.

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Pope Leo XIII, who knew what he was talking about.  Courtesy of Wikimedia [public domain].

50 Shades of Donald Trump

Among conservative Catholic Republicans on Facebook, there’s a meme being passed around that keeps ending up in front of people like myself and Scott Eric Alt, though neither of us can possibly be the intended target.  The argument is that the popularity of novels such as 50 Shades of Grey proves that women don’t, in fact, object to Donald Trump’s lewd behavior; any objections are political calculus.

Rebecca Bratten Weiss responds to another variation — same argument, different famous incident:

“But Bill Clinton…”

Oh yes. And I opposed him, and criticized him, at the time. Anyone else who did so must, in order to be morally consistent, do likewise with Trump. If you don’t, it just sends a message that you never really cared about sexual abuse of women, but were just appropriating morality in order to make your opposing team look bad.

Before my next sentence, let me reiterate: I do not think you should vote for Donald Trump.

Next sentence: There is some validity to the observation that Donald Trump’s lewd behavior is indeed representative of the American public at large.  I said so here.  This is a representative democracy, and our two candidates do in fact represent America.

Dear friends, if Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump represents you?  You can change that.

You can’t change the candidates, but you can change yourself.  You don’t have to be a person who winks at sin.  You don’t have to be a person who creates convoluted defenses of BDSM. You don’t have to be that person who justifies exposing kids to porn.

You can stop that now.  You do not have to be enslaved to the person you were yesterday.

***

Pro-life friends, another minute of politics: When people give sorry mealy-mouthed justifications for voting for a pro-abortion candidate by explaining that solving poverty or immigration or global warming will somehow fix abortion, those people are dangerously deluding themselves.  There exists a hierarchy of priorities, and cold-blooded murder is a far graver and more pressing issue than good roads or good tax policy.  When someone says I don’t like abortion but I’m voting for the person who advocates tirelessly for abortion, what I hear is: Actually, I’m fine with abortion.

I understand, therefore, the Republican Impulse.

I have grave reservations about Donald Trump’s sincerity on pro-life issues, however, because his life is one long series of promotions of the actual, real-live causes of abortion.

Food stamps don’t cause abortion.  Adultery? That causes abortion.

***

Quick aside on modesty.

When people like me talk about “modesty” we tend to hit a few topics related to girls’ clothing.  That matters, of course.  But for those who are trying to get their heads around about what immodesty looks like in someone who is neither female nor scantily-clad, Donald Trump is the poster boy.   He models immodesty not just with regards to sexuality, but also with regards to wealth, power, and personal accomplishments.  

It is easy to excuse his unseemly boastfulness by saying that he needs to prove his leadership potential or share his legitimate accomplishments with voters.  Not so.  It is possible to communicate one’s ability to lead without behaving immodestly.

Below in the links I include some examples of SC’s governor Nikki Haley in action, for other reasons.  But in her hurricane Matthew press conferences, she’s a vivid example of the counterpoint: A leader who is both a strong, decisive, competent leader, but who also conducts herself with modesty.

***

Link Round-up.  Here are all kinds of loosely related links.  At the bottom are a few of mine, but first here’s the pile I extracted from my reading list.

Timothy Scott Reeves, an evangelical Anglican philosopher with strong ortho-catholic leanings writes on our tendency to rely on chariots and horses instead of trusting in the Lord.

Simcha Fisher has an excellent piece on why consent alone is not sufficient.

Nathaniel Peters at Public Discourse writes:

Many young conservatives have been disheartened to see the leaders of their movement endorse Donald Trump. I am one of the disheartened ones. Let me explain what these leaders taught me and why their endorsement of Trump betrays those principles.

Faithfully Catholic, orthodox, conservative Katie O’Keefe catalogs her series of encounters with so called “locker-room talk” sexual abuse, and how she learned from an early age that protesting was futile:

5 years old – In my own backyard. I was stopped by a man in a car in the alley behind my house who showed me “what (he had) in his pants” and then offered me the opportunity to put my mouth on it. I declined but never told anyone because I had no idea that it was anything but just gross. . . .

12 years old – On my paper route, I was collecting for the monthly bill. An old man who had been very kindly toward me and had several grandchildren that he looked after, grabbed my breasts (which were more impressive than they were when I was 8) and humped me. He told me I was a good girl and he’d take good care of me. I quit carrying papers that month. I never told anyone because I figured that no one would believe me. . . .

Father Longenecker has sensible, hard-nosed advice on what to do after the elections, which promise us four years of disaster no matter what.

And here is a short, heartening story on seminarians already following that advice.

Erin Arlinghaus writes about:

Mary Pezzulo writes about the bad news for feminism that will come with the election of our first female president.

To which end, here’s a refreshing antidote: Watch a conservative, pro-life female governor in action, successfully managing a natural disaster. I don’t know how long the SCETV archives will be up, so here’s a link to the governor’s YouTube channel where you can find most of the videos.

(Tip: If you skim ahead to the Q&A’s with the whole executive branch team, a few of the press conferences contain striking examples of the linguistic diversity among educated, standard-English speaking southerners.  And that’s just a beginning.  Armchair linguists, this place is a treasure trove.)

Here’s Meg Hunter-Kilmer saying what many of us are saying:

A friend of mine attempted to defend Trump by pointing to his daughter’s respect for him and saying that he must be a good father. I don’t care what she says. I don’t care how marvelous he was every single time he was with her. Owning strip clubs makes you a bad father. Being a serial adulterer makes you a bad father. Treating women like objects for your sexual gratification makes you a bad father. And it will make him a bad president.

To round out the reading, from a man who’s no slouch on Catholic faithfulness, Archbishop Chaput shares his thoughts on faithful citizenship:

But 2016 is a year in which two prominent Catholics – a sitting vice president, and the next vice presidential nominee of his party — both seem to publicly ignore or invent the content of their Catholic faith as they go along.  And meanwhile, both candidates for the nation’s top residence, the White House, have astonishing flaws.

This is depressing and liberating at the same time.  Depressing, because it’s proof of how polarized the nation has become.  Liberating, because for the honest voter, it’s much easier this year to ignore the routine tribal loyalty chants of both the Democratic and Republican camps.  I’ve been a registered independent for a long time and never more happily so than in this election season.  Both major candidates are – what’s the right word? so problematic – that neither is clearly better than the other.

And finally, a few links from my own archives:

Adultery is Not the Only Option: Five Things You Can Do to Keep Your Vows Intact

Here’s a patron saint for those who’ve fallen for the idea that Catholics need to be all sophisticated and cosmopolitan.

And to close, here’s my report from the field on how our Trump-Clinton society plays out among middle schoolers. In Sexual Bravado vs. Sexual Maturity, I share some of the real-world evidence parents like to ignore, then discuss the underlying issue:

In our popular culture, sex-status is the big thing.  The kids have learned from their parents that the purpose of sex is to gratify one’s desires, and that a girl’s worth is measured in sexiness.  The kids have adopted that philosophy wholesale. . . .

. . . Why is there such a market for teenage girls in a sleepy Bible Belt town, to the point that pimps are willing to risk kidnapping charges and worse in order to abduct upper class girls and sell them locally?

You can almost hear the eighth grade boys scoffing at those pathetic men who have to pay for what they can get the girls to give them for free.

There is no magic remedy that will guarantee your teens will live chastely and stay out of harm’s way. But you can be certain that if your understanding of human sexuality is all about the quest for gratification and sexual status, your children are going to learn that from you.

 

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Photo Collage by DonkeyHotey (New York Primary 2016) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Free & Fascinating: Watch the SC Evacuations Stream Live

A little living history: You can see the I-26 lane reversal in action by going to http://www.511sc.org/ and selecting the traffic camera you’d like to view. Each camera icon will pull up a list of nearby camera locations.  Click on the location you’d like to see, then hit the “play” and “fullscreen” icons.

I’ve noticed some of the locations are a little glitchy — I assume everyone and their brother wants to see I-26 westbound at I-526 (except, of course, the people who have to be driving there), so that one’s not functioning at this writing. But there are other locations of interest.

Admit it: It’s pretty crazy seeing the westbound traffic on the eastbound side of the interstate.  Quit acting all nonchalant.  Just because we make it look easy doesn’t mean it isn’t epic.

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SC State Flag courtesy of Wikimedia, Public Domain.

Related . . . My comments at the blorg on why SC takes a holiday anytime the weather gets mildly interesting.  If you fail to click through, here’s the essential part:

. . . remember kids: The South is terrible and backwards.  Stay away.  You’ll hate it here.

I’m thinking we should start a partnership with Rust Belt cities to encourage northward migration.  Detroit: Everything the say about the South, only more of it! And snow every year!

 

Papal Economics + We Don’t Want Your Stinkin’ Snow Plow

Over at the the blorg bookshelf, I do a book club bleg.  I’m reading Papal Economics, which is a good book, but one that wants to be discussed.  So if that’s your scene, get a copy and chat with me.  Your place, my place, whatever suits.  Let me know what you like.

***

Meanwhile, speaking of economics:

1) Usually snow does not actually cause any more problems in the South than it does anywhere else. That thing going on in Atlanta is an aberration.  And really? Atlanta?  It’s Atlanta.  ‘Nuf said.

2) Ice causes problems.  There is an economic case to be made in favor of below-ground power lines.  But the call-before-you-dig people probably have the winning charts, so I bet our lines stay overhead for a long, long time.   And really, the ice mostly just makes things cold and unpleasant.  It can cause the same terrible problems it can cause anywhere. But most people don’t experience that.  So you’d have to have some serious cost-benefit studies before even taking on much in the way of anti-ice measures.

But, please, dear northern friends, do not form a 501(c)3 and start collecting funds for poor, snowplow-deprived southerners.

3) Because here’s the clincher: When we get “winter weather”? We want to stay home.

Not only is there no financial justification for, say, your county owning a snow plow when you have a perfectly good Sun that will be back again by Friday . . . who’d want one?  Why on earth would anyone want to go to work on the only snow day in a year? If you’re lucky enough to get snow that often. Way better to get out the ATV, hitch up a towline and an inner tube, tell the kids to hang on tight, and do donuts on the school playground.

Clarification: I don’t actually think parents should do this.  But I approve of the spirit of such recreation.  Only mean nasty evil people think innocent children should do school work during the Snow Minutes.  Sheesh, one shouldn’t even have to do housework doing the snow minutes.  You shouldn’t have to go to bed.  You should just admire, photograph, touch, shape, throw, sculpt, and roll in the stuff.

I do feel cheated, though, because NOAA’s revised their forecast, and it’s not supposed to hit 60 by the end of the week.  I was looking forward to short sleeves.  Meanwhile, yes, of course we have harvested our icicles and tucked them away safely in the freezer.  Waste not want not.

How much does Kolbe cost?

I keep forgetting to answer question in the title, which someone asked me via e-mail.  My answer:

I do not know how much it will cost you if you decide to enroll with Kolbe.  It depends on:

  • How many children you are enrolling.
  • What parts of the program you choose to use.  (Even if you order full-menu, there are choices).
  • How you acquire your books.

Proven accountant trick: Get out your spreadsheet and add it up.

 

Some Tips for Lowering Your Total Cost

1. Get yourself onto CathSwap, so you can buy used books from people.

2. Beg and borrow books from people you know.  Many Kolbe books are also used by the other major Catholic homeschooling programs.

3. Do every-other-year on subjects that you really don’t need to do the full shebang for.  We do that with the National Catholic Reader — I only own years 2, 4, & 6. I’d take the others if someone gave them to me, but we get plenty of benefit from just the half-set.

4. If you own a computer of some kind (such as the one you are reading this blog on?), look on Kindle or Project Gutenberg for free e-books for out-of-copyright works.

5. If you don’t own a computer, or you just like paper, go to the thrift store or garage sale to find your classic works of English literature.  That is where the ones that don’t get composted end up.  (I know!) You won’t necessarily find the best edition, but it will do.  At $0.25 – $0.50 a piece, most people can afford to speculate that their kindergartener will in fact read Tom Sawyer one day.  You can even afford to accidentallly buy duplicates now and again.

6. Don’t buy services you don’t need.

7. Don’t buy services you can’t afford.  That’s more important than #6.  If you haven’t got the cash, do something else. Learn to avoid debt, and your child will have a very strong foothold on the world.

That was fast.

Whoever prayed for the SuperHusband’s ribs, THANK YOU.  It worked.  Now please apply your efforts to Hathaway’s lungs.  Thanks.

(PS: People tell me the radio thing sounded good enough.  So double-thanks on that one.)

And two things to read:

Chris T. on when and how to give to a worthy cause.

Pope Francis on just about everything.

Busy not blogging. And blogging.

What I’ve been up to so far this Advent:

1. Acquired a cold just strong enough to plant me in front of the PC and get some writing done for a change.  I’d complain, except it’s really not that bad. For me.  My family wishes I’d start making dinner again.  I think.

2. Posted my book review of the Didache series of textbooks up at AmazingCatechists.com.  These are awesome books, and the new parish editions bring serious theology to high school and adult faith formation.  Long-needed.  Don’t cry to me you don’t have priests, but refuse to teach theology.  How exactly is a boy supposed to fall in love with a something he’s never met?

3. Guessed at my login information for the Happy Catholic Bookshelf enough times that I finally broke in.  And put up my review of Walking Dickens LondonVerdict: I still don’t like Dickens all that much, but the guide book is awesome.  Of course I had to put a reference to Rerum Novarum in the review.  Only logical.

4. I cleaned out my inbox.  If I still owe you an e-mail about something, you’d better tell me.  Because I’m under the mistaken impression I’m all caught up.

5. Planted the potatoes that were sprouting in the cardboard box in the living room.  Ditto for some garlic in the bottom of the fridge.

6.  I’ve written about 5,000 words on the homeschooling manuscript. Also pre-wrote my January CatholicMom.com homeschooling column, because once you get school on the brain, and a cup of coffee, these things just pop out.

7.  I got all vice-presidential over at the Catholic Writers Guild.  Being VP is almost exactly like being the blog manager, except that instead of plaguing the officers all month long with bad ideas and unhelpful suggestions, you also get to do it during the monthly officer’s conference call.  I think someone nominated me because the existing officers were already practiced at telling me, “No!  Quiet! Sit!  No Biscuit!” so it makes their job easier.  So mostly as VP I amuse people with my ridiculous ideas, and about 1 time in 10, I think one up that someone makes me go do.  And then I regret it, and don’t think up any more ideas for at least 10 minutes.

Also, I goofed off on the internet more than I had planned.   It happens.  I was sick.

3.5 Time Outs: New Things

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, who’s also doing a time-travel edition today.

Click and be amazed.

1.

Blogging Popes.  That’s my topic for today.  Not the kind you’re thinking of, though.

2.

See, here’s what happened:  Saturday night I was bored, tired, and itching for something to read.  Something fun and relaxing and novel.  Meaning, new-to-me.  I usually grab one of my daughter’s library books for this purpose — just enough entertainment to get me through a non-digital Sunday, but not so much that I’ll be out of service, glued to a book, for 10,000 hours waiting for Br. Cadfael to tell me who did it.  But I needed novelty.

So I went to Papal Encyclicals Online.  I’m sure that’s what you do, too.  But before you get too impressed, keep in mind that the three reasons this was a possible source of reading material were:

  • I’d never read most of them before.  Strike one against my Catholic-nerd credentials.
  • They’re usually very short.  This is why I’ve read the minor prophets, but *still* never gotten through all of Isaiah.
  • There was no chance I’d let the cat starve, or grouse at my children for interrupting me during an especially gripping scene.

And the thing is, they tend to cover that same juicy ground as your average Catholic blogger, only you get bonus credit for not being stuck to the computer all day while you work up your angry frenzy at the injustice in the world.  Of course, no Star Trek screen shots for illustrations, but look, I was desperate for entertainment.

3.

And the one I picked was Rerum Novarum.  Which is basically a series of blog posts on economics.  Perfect.

(Let me just say right now, JPII’s follow-up work is not blog-genre.  Waaay more wordy.  Waaay more.  I haven’t finished it yet.  But I’m half thinking, “What more is there to say?  Leo.Encyclicalpress.com already covered the whole territory.  But you know how it is, people need to explain the obvious.  Or maybe people needed the obvious re-explained.)

Here’s a sample snippet of the Leonine goodness:

Hence, by degrees it has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hardheartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition.

And this:

The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different guise, but with like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men.

Followed by this:

To this must be added that the hiring of labor and the conduct of trade are concentrated in the hands of comparatively few; so that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the laboring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself.

 

See? I spent my weekend reading 64 Cath-Econ-blog posts, 19th century edition.

3.5

And although I could pretty much shut my eyes and point my finger anywhere in the document to find a good quotable quote, one of my underlined favorites is

***

Well that’s all for today.  Still accepting suggestions for additions to the sidebar, so tell me who to add.  But do just one link per comment, because otherwise the robotic spam-dragon will consume the whole lot of them.  Thanks!

Labor Day, Slavery, and the Mercy Project

There’s a pile of us blogging today about The Mercy Project, a non-sectarian effort to free children from slavery in Ghana.  I have no affiliation with the project myself, so if you decide to support it financially, do your own due diligence.  But I think the project deserves attention as a model for serious anti-slavery efforts.

Why does slavery persist?  It is difficult to maintain the unbridled hatred that inspires forced labor camps, Nazi-style.  Over the longer run, the humanity of the slave is undeniable; to calmly take lifetime ownership of another person requires the unshakeable certainty that somehow, for some reason, we simply must have slaves.  To be convinced it’s an unavoidable fact of life, one of those regrettable difficulties we must chin-up and endure, hand in hand with long work days, mosquitoes, blisters — all that we suffer in this fallen world.

In Ghana, parents relinquish their children in desperation — the alternative is death. [My own former-slave-state’s motto seems to particularly apt.  Probably not what the founders had in mind.]  The fishermen on Lake Volta who use the children as slaves are in a similar situation: I need this free labor, or I can’t stay in business. The Mercy Project’s method is to think up a village-scaled sustainable new business project that eliminates the financial need for slaves, and then to partner with a particular village to coordinate an emancipation day in conjunction with the implementation of that new opportunity.

[There’s then a process for helping the newly-liberated former slaves to recover from their experience and to rebuild their lives back home with their family of origin, with family assistance to prevent re-trafficking.]

The reported success of the Mercy Project’s first initiative suggests that given any viable alternative, the local slave-owners really are willing to move on to some better business model.  You can read about their second project-in-progress here — same model, slightly different details.

So that’s the Mercy Project.  Take a look.

Thanks to Heather Hendricks for coordinating the giant blog-a-thon.