Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Homeless Culture: Alternative Labor

Almost without exception, the homeless are not lazy. One cannot be lazy if it is necessary to walk miles for a plate of food. While one is homeless it is very difficult to obtain a full time job even if one was able to work such a job. So the homeless instead depend, for the most part, on alternative kinds of labor. This includes recycling cans or scrap, begging for change, dumpster diving, busking, day labor through an organization or through personal contacts, or stealing. Some would say that some of these kinds of labor isn’t really work at all, but only those who haven’t done it could say so. Just like any other job, the labor might take mental exertion—like begging— and some might take physical exertion. Some might simply be disgusting, like dumpster diving, and some might be immoral, like stealing. Some may not pay much for the effort involved, like recycling cans. And different homeless do different kinds of labor, based on their gifts and moral ideals, but it is all work. There is labor involved, not leisure. No one would be doing it if what they needed were easily available to them. And some of it is really difficult work. Just alternative work.

(I want to make a point that I am not supporting stealing, nor do most homeless people accept stealing as a way of life. I am just saying that it is one example of what some think of as alternative labor, the category is accepted by almost all homeless people.)

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