Anonymous Life

Fourty-one homeless people died in Edmonton in 2006. This was up from 1/3 since last year. The last two years of relatively mild weather had made us forget that the season is deadly. In the land of bountiful oil profits, winter kills and there is no money to help the homeless.

Well these people chose to be out there. There lazy, shiftless, drug addicts, …and myriad of other reasons why we the “producers” in society are so much better than the homeless. But, how different are we ? Is it by mere accident and fortune that we are not in their place ? What hardships have they had to endure, abuses, privations,mental illness, drug addictions. Under similar circumstances would I have done much differently ?

The shielding goes beyond not looking at the homeless. Armored in steel and rubber, with their identities hidden, people push the boundaries of politeness and safety. Last week a pickup truck blew by the intersection, where the light was clearly green for me. I had started moving,when I noticed that the pickup was not slowing down for anything as silly as a red light. On the same day another car decided to make a turn just as the yellow light was turning red. The oncoming traffic had to stop abruptly to prevent a collision. The guy making the turn had no real reason to hurry, he wasn’t in the intersection. I guess these people had somewhere really important that they had to be or they needed another coffee at Tim Hortons.

The faceless existence in this society allows companies to treat workers as commodities, buyers as merely numbers. It allows us to exploit children to make cheap clothes, to ship our garbage and poisons to the third world and to bomb another country into submission for oil. It allows people to run red lights. Would people be so callous or quick if they knew their identities would be broadcast after such an act of stupidity ?

But how can we comprehend the real damage done by our way of life. To comprehend we have to be connected to something other that fulfilling our next desire. Living in our suburban dormitories. Insulated from our neighbors by the two car garage, the morning commute and the idiot box. We have no connection to our communities, our neighbors or the land that our houses sit on. Food comes to us from the grocery store, there is no planting, no storms, no pests to threaten the crops, and no real gratitude when we do have food. So we continue in this orgy of consumption, protected by anonymity, because it is “normal” and what we consume really is our souls.

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