Bewildering the Tramp: How modern legislation criminalizes poverty

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posted on Mar, 5 2013 @ 08:01 PM
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Have you ever been really tired? I mean, so tired that you fall asleep on a bus, a train, or a park bench? You're far from home, weary, and a ways away from rest, and you just need a few minutes to shut your eyes and sleep? I'm going to bet that this situation has happened to nearly everyone at one time or another.

I imagine if any of you are university students, you'll know exactly what I mean: University lounges, quiet hallways, and benches in odd corners, are always filled with sleeping students. It's one of the great things about university: Everybody gets it, and no one bothers a sleeping student (as long as they don't look like a homeless person trespassing.)

Have you ever fallen asleep on a park bench, a bus, or a train, only to be woken by the police, asking you what you were doing? If you've ever had this interesting privilege, you may have noticed something rather odd: The moment that they realize you're not homeless, they let you go.

Most public parks have signs telling people not to sleep, or else they have benches designed to prevent people from lying down. If you're just an ordinary fellow, you've probably always assumed that these signs were there as warnings to everyone. But that is not really the case at all.

The reality is this: We only punish someone for sleeping in public if they are homeless.

Let me say that again, with added emphasis:

"We only punish someone for sleeping in public if they have nowhere else to sleep.

Is this not absurd? Surely, those who have a home should be held to higher account for sleeping in public than those who literally have nowhere else to lay their head. A man with a home has no excuse -- especially if he is rich. Why, he could call a cab! Or a friend! Why then do we forbid the tramp to sleep in the park, but let a landed or otherwise presentable gentleman nap wherever he likes? True -- the police may wake you up if you are sleeping in public, but the moment they ascertain that you do in fact have a place to say, they will let you on your way. The homeless man who tries to do the same thing is likely to be arrested. He'll find somewhere to sleep then -- but only at the cost of his liberty.

Is this not abject? Is this not absurd? Has no one else noticed this?

Let's go even deeper:

Have you ever been short a quarter for a cart, a parking meter, or a telephone call? If you're like most of us, you'd probably feel pretty silly asking a passer-by for some help. But chances are, if you did, someone would accommodate you -- so long as you were dressed for success. In fact, I bet that most of us, at one time or another, and not otherwise hard up, have asked a stranger for a nickel or a dime or a dollar.

This is, strictly speaking, illegal. Panhandling, in most jurisdictions, is illegal. But have you ever been arrested or accosted for this? Have you ever bummed a cigarette from a stranger, or asked for a light? Have you ever been arrested or imprisoned for this act?

Probably not. And why? Because you're not homeless.

And this is the real, terrible, and morose truth:

The laws of the city and state which prohibit sleeping in public, or asking strangers for help, are not really meant for us at all. No, they are meant only for the poor. And the proof of the thing is in this fact: That all men, at one time or another, have broken these laws without thinking, without worry, and without fear. Because we do not recognize these things as crimes unless they are chronic. And this is the very essence of a bad law -- an unenforceable law, a mean law: That we do not, have never, and will never prosecute a rich man for these crimes. Indeed -- we do not even think of them as crimes unless they are committed by the poor.

Are these the only cases? Surely not. I can think of countless others; from the possession or admitted use of narcotics, to the childish acts of minor vandalism and hooliganism that are always deemed indefensible when committed by the poor, but pardonable when committed by the rich.

I say that this is a travesty. If The Law is to be just, and if we care anything for justice, than it should be obvious to all of us that the same law that applies to a bankrupt should apply also to a banker -- that a crime committed by a tramp should still be a crime when committed by a Senator.

But this is not the case. And the reason is one quite apart from any notions we might have of "repeat offenders" or "chronic conditions". The reason is not that these crimes are a bigger burden on society when committed by the poor: I have been asked for a cigarette on the street more times by well-dressed passers-by than I ever have by a bum, and the honest truth is that the minor irritations and vexations I experience when accosted by these requests is no different whether the man smells of urine, or smells of perfume.

No, the reason is not that these crimes are greater when committed by the poor, or even that they are less likely to be repeated: the real reason is something altogether more sinister, mean, and capricious.

The real reason that a policeman does not punish the rich for the same crimes as the poor is not that he cares not -- it is that he dares not. The real reason is that such laws, when applied equally, evenly, and on the whole to everyone; are so absurd, repressive, and otherwise malicious that we would not stand an instant being subjected to them: We would bang our fists on the table, and shout to high heaven that the law had run amok, and free men had become slaves, and the principles of justice had been perverted and corrupted beyond all recognition. We would gaze wildly around to our fellows, and shout out in one collective voice that "we will not stand this tyranny for an instant!"

...But the tramp has no table to even bang his fist upon.

More than one hundred years ago, writing about the "Bewildering of the Tramp", GK Chesterton remarked:

"A little while ago two tramps were summoned before a magistrate, charged with sleeping in the open air when they had nowhere else to sleep. Each of them eagerly produced about two pence, to prove that they could have got a bed, but deliberately didn't. To which the policeman replied that two pence would not have got them a bed, and therefore (argued that thoughtful officer) they ought to be punished for not getting one.

"The intelligent magistrate was much struck with the argument, and proceeded to imprison these two men for not doing a thing they could not do. But he was careful to explain that if they had sinned needlessly and in wanton lawlessness, they would have left the court without a stain on their characters; but as they could not avoid it, they were very much to blame."
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...And that is the real, sad, and sinister truth of the whole affair: That when it comes to the crimes of public nuisance, we punish only those who cannot help but stray. Those who can help it, we pardon. And the reason we do this is because we can: Because we know that the homeless man is unlikely to stand up for himself, join a protest, start a movement, or speak to a reporter on the TV news. We bewilder the tramp because we don't like tramps. We convict him of crimes of which we ourselves are guilty without even seeing our own actions as crimes.

There is no equality under the law when enforcement is biased.

- R
edit on 5-3-2013 by RedBird because: (no reason given)




posted on Mar, 5 2013 @ 08:25 PM
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Thank you for the stars and flags, I really do appreciate them.

...But this is not about my karma. This is not about congratulations. It is far more important to me that you REPLY, and keep this thread visible to the countless visitors who only check the "Recent Posts", than that you give me kudos for my gift with words.

If you can only offer one thing to this thread; offer a reply, not a star or a flag. Let people know what you now know: Keep this thread in the public eye.

- R



posted on Mar, 5 2013 @ 08:28 PM
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reply to post by RedBird
 


Not to mention, that to even feed the homeless or needy, you have to jump thru the hoops of our government to get permission........or else!



posted on Mar, 5 2013 @ 08:36 PM
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im just waiting for some deluded fool to make the argument that the homeless do not pay taxes and therefor do not have the same rights to public infrastructure as a tax payer

......any minute now



posted on Mar, 5 2013 @ 08:52 PM
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Reply to post by sirhumperdink
 


They may not work, but they most likely have at one point in time. On point: it has occured to me many times these laws were for the homeless... However I never gave it a second thought. I'm a bit ashamed of myself for that. It is outrageous. Theres my bump for the thread.


 
Posted Via ATS Mobile: m.abovetopsecret.com
 



posted on Mar, 5 2013 @ 09:05 PM
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reply to post by seeker1963
 


Exactly!

This is yet another example of the utter absurdity and meanness of our laws: If I were to take a casserole or a pot of stew to a community hall, or a picnic, or a private function -- no officer of the state would knock on the dorr and ask to see my papers. Not one.

But were I to take that casserole or pot of stew to a corner or alleyway in some dubious corner of town where very poor men and women are known to loiter and gather -- I would likely be shut down within minutes.

How is this not, in itself (alone!) a conspiracy?

How could it be anything else? When almost anyone; of any age, sex, creed, or color; can look at a law, see the harm that it does, the anguish it creates, the good it prevents, and feel the nearly tactile absurdityof the thing -- and yet, together -- in their plurality -- be somehow unable to affect meaningful change... I cannot help but wonder by what mental trick or terrible tragedy have we lost the tradition of democracy?

I refuse to believe that we did it to ourselves -- though I could believe it, if I knew not hope.

Some how, by some way, we have forgotten what we are:

We are the peasants that rose up. We are the children of slaves. All of us!

When the first Revolutionaries rose up against the old kings and aristocracies of Europe, it was the abolition of special laws, rights, and privileges that they sought. When we first fought for freedom, and the equality of all men under the Law, it was to protect ourselves from the re-establishment of serfdom and feudal privilege -- impositions that had been increasingly bought or shrugged off in practice and popular tradition for hundreds of years during the high middle ages.

And yet, in our modern liberal democracies, we grant group rights and special privileges to classes with glee abandon -- and our process of profiling, selective enforcement, and indeterminate sentencing grants de facto privilege and status to members of the upper classes even when no such right exists in the laws or the constitution. The rich and the poor are still (technically) subject to the same laws, but the leeway judges have in sentencing ensures that, in practice, criminals with high "social standing" (notes of aristocracy, anyone?) receive far more lenient sentencing.

We are already living in a neo-feudalistic society!

And yet, our modern state of tyranny is, in many ways, more sinister and awful than anything that has come before it -- except, perhaps, for the wild industrialist, plutocratic anarchy that followed the industrial revolution.

And for this reason:

That through all the tyrannies of the past, through all the uprisings and rebellions and revolutions; through all the times of state and plutocratic oppression that lie behind us -- through all that time -- to ask a fellow man for charity was considered lawful, and to give that charity, admirable.

Only in this -- our modern age of reason and enlightenment -- do we count a man a coward when he asks for help, and call that man a fool who bends his ear to the desperate cry of a beggar.

Even the institution of charity has been despoiled and be-fowled by the rich: That I could to jail for buying meat, bread, mayonnaise, and mustard; assembling them into sandwiches; walking to the ghetto, and handing them to strangers.

Are we not already living under tyranny?



posted on Mar, 5 2013 @ 09:49 PM
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I have been homeless but not hopeless or helpless. I called it urban camping, or wild space surfing. It is not a nice existence in most measures of living standard. I never have slept in a park per say but have occupied temporary shelter in public spaces ninja style where I could not be found. (not even on FLIR)

being hopeless or helpless is a more serious situation than being homeless. Homeless for the prepared boy scout, soldier, outdoorsman is crappy but tolerable for a short duration. Being unfortunate always puts a person at a disadvantage. Having strength of character goes a long way to improving your condition. No one wants to see chronic drunks sleeping it off in parks. People have to come to grips with their situation and choose to improve their lot in life to change their situation for the better short of some miracle or saving grace.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 02:37 AM
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Well what do you expect? We live a capitalist system, a class based system. Money buys you special privileges that others cannot afford. It's the reason why the US has deemed certain banks "too big to jail".

Rich people can also buy the best lawyers, which lead to more not-guilty convictions and less-if any jail if found guilty.
edit on 6-3-2013 by WaterBottle because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 03:21 AM
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It's interesting that you posted this when you did, as I had a thought just last night about this very subject.

I imagined what would happen if I became homeless today and had to remain so for a protracted period of any duration. I'm fortunate to live somewhere that provides me free prescription coverage because I have no income of my own. So I would have my medical needs cared for at least, which makes me already much, much more fortunate than many other people. And we also have wonderful soup kitchens here who provide healthy meals twice a day to the poor and homeless. So I wouldn't starve to death in all likelihood.

The shelters on the other hand, are usually full and give preference to women and families with children (as I believe they should, mind you.) Thus my primary concern would be warmth and shelter. I imagined taking a blanket with me or a sleeping bag in a backpack. Finding a dark, secluded spot, perhaps under an overpass near the docks, to sleep at night. I imagined being exhausted from having walked around all day, with no bus fare and no other means of transportation. Finally slumping down against something somewhere, and falling asleep with exhaustion, hoping for a better tomorrow.

It was then that I gained insight into what it must feel like to simply be sleeping, exhausted, homeless, and to be awakened and harassed by someone asking you to leave. Or even being arrested as is often the case. I grew up very poor and very close to homelessness (and sometimes actually homeless, but because I was a child, my family managed to get into decent shelters) so I know more about it than some might, and I've always opposed harassing or criminalizing the homeless, but this was the first time that particular dynamic really dawned on me in a way that I could truly relate to and "feel." It must be an absolutely horrible existence to be on the street and just want to sleep in safety and not be accosted, but not be able to have that simple luxury.

Imagine, if you will, being exactly who you are today, but being forced through circumstance, illness, or what have you into homelessness. When people look at homeless people sleeping in doorways or under bridges, they see them as dangerous. And like any population, there are dangerous individuals, and desperation can make people even more dangerous, to be sure. But people see them as sub-human. Disgusting, worthy of scorn and dismissal. But imagine if it were you. And all you wanted was to sleep. Imagine the fear, the uncertainty, the exhaustion, and the resignation to the fact that you have nowhere else to go and nothing else to do. Next time you look at a homeless person sleeping in a doorway, or anywhere else, please remember whatever you just felt when you imagined it was you.

Peace.
edit on 3/6/2013 by AceWombat04 because: Typo



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 07:19 AM
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I'm just going to leave this here. It's pathetic that we do such things.


townhall.com...
edit on 6-3-2013 by XxkingofosirisxX2014 because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 07:27 AM
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Homeless people don't do it on rare occasions like students do. Those who are not homeless do not beg constantly, only when they forgot to bring money.

That is the difference.

Tell these people to get a job and make something of themselves rather than sponging off of me when I walk into the store.

Sorry but if you can walk over and beg me for money you can be out working.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 07:29 AM
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It is the so called "protestant work ethic" we are talking about here. America looks down upon the person who does not work because he lives off the labor of other people. The system isn't "fair" unless everyone works.

Sal



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 07:43 AM
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reply to post by SallieSunshine
 


Nah, we look down on them because they are foolish and lazy.

With the exception of an illness that debilitates you or a horrific accident that prevents you from working, there is no reason to be poor other than bad decisions in your life.

Its not my job to give you pity for being an idiot.

I will add, children are excepted from this, and all efforts should be made to provide for them.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 08:01 AM
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Have any of you people ever tried to get a job in this economy? You say they need to get a job, but where? I have been looking for 4 months and haven't found squat. I have a bad back, so that limits what I can do. I can't do labor jobs anymore as it is too painful. If it were not for my family I would be homeless. I am broke as it is. If my mother loses her job I will be sleeping in a tent down by the river.

Some people can't find jobs. Period. So why persecute them for it? Why make life harder for them? It is not right and not fair. Even more unfair than them wanting a dollar off you. I am not known for my compassion, but have some humanity for goodness sakes. Those laws need to be repealed. Soon there will be more homeless than people who have homes. Then what? The collapse is coming. There is no stopping it. Then what?



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 08:20 AM
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Originally posted by Hopechest
reply to post by SallieSunshine
 


Nah, we look down on them because they are foolish and lazy.

With the exception of an illness that debilitates you or a horrific accident that prevents you from working, there is no reason to be poor other than bad decisions in your life.

Its not my job to give you pity for being an idiot.

I will add, children are excepted from this, and all efforts should be made to provide for them.



You are very naive again. Please answer me seriously if you think that all homeless people are 'lazy' and/or 'foolish'?

I can't believe your cheek. If you'd be interested more into homelessness and its causes you'd be ashamed of having said the above.
There are many reasons that people become homeless.

Some are youths that have been either thrown out of their homes or have left because a life on the street is preferable to a life with their family.

However most are mentally ill. The younger healthier homeless more often than not can work their way up slowly, by going to organisations etc, but in Britain for example you can't get a job or paid if you don't have a permanent address. So explain to me how they can get a job?

The mentally ill however can never get out of their situation unless someone is giving them help and often that proves futile as you hopefully can imagine as there isn't anyone watching over them 24/7.
So they won't take their medications for example. These people are not only completely unemployable but also very vulnerable.

Are you telling me that lazy, foolish people prefer the dangers of streetlife, the cold, the humiliation, the discomfort and lack of food, shelter and safety to being safe and warm?

Of all the very naive things you often come up with, this has to be the biggest one. It is also a very personal matter to me. Please only say things if you have knowledge about the matter or at least think twice.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 08:39 AM
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Have you signed up with temp agencies? Sometimes you can get a permanent job from that. If you can get temp work and the employer sees you are a good worker then he might be willing to take you on as a permanent employee. Good luck with your job search. I know it can be very trying to be unemployed.

Sal


Originally posted by Robonakka
Have any of you people ever tried to get a job in this economy? You say they need to get a job, but where? I have been looking for 4 months and haven't found squat. I have a bad back, so that limits what I can do. I can't do labor jobs anymore as it is too painful. If it were not for my family I would be homeless. I am broke as it is. If my mother loses her job I will be sleeping in a tent down by the river.

Some people can't find jobs. Period. So why persecute them for it? Why make life harder for them? It is not right and not fair. Even more unfair than them wanting a dollar off you. I am not known for my compassion, but have some humanity for goodness sakes. Those laws need to be repealed. Soon there will be more homeless than people who have homes. Then what? The collapse is coming. There is no stopping it. Then what?



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 09:00 AM
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It's quite simple really why the law is in existence, it's because of taxes.... If you are not being a good little slave and not paying property tax, you cannot sleep on that bench. That money you bum? Are you paying a tax?

This society is sick and perverse. It is a satanic luciferian society.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 09:56 AM
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reply to post by RedBird
 


I never really thought of it that way and I thank you for opening my eyes. You make a very valid point and I'm sure that the same applies for everything from sexual abuse to tax evasion to speeding tickets.

Maybe we need a new slogan to garner attention for the need to correct this inequality. Something like; "No legislation without fair & equal implementation."



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 10:14 AM
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reply to post by Hopechest
 





Nah, we look down on them because they are foolish and lazy.



A bunch of homeless people are mentally ill with no family willing to take them in.......

Some people don't have families.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 10:14 AM
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reply to post by RedBird
 





S&F!

Thoughtful, excellently presented and true.

I was thinking something like the same thing earlier today.

Laws are the same for all of us but the penalties are nearly non-existent for the wealthy who break them.

A mans guilt or innocence is largely dependent on the counsel he can afford.

The poor have no hope for representation and travel a one way path to a privatized "for profit" jail run by the very same wealthy.

Call this a justice system? It is an enterprise, an incarceration industry and literally entrapment of the poor, fueled by moguls to add to their own wealth and profit.





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