Where We’re At Now

About 11:30 am on a sunny March 3 in downtown Eugene, I saw a man urinating in broad daylight on the street corner of 10th and Willamette, the heart of downtown.

I had never seen that before. Unexpected abundant reality in yo’ face. No doubt he was homeless, maybe even “crazy.”

This is not his moral failing. Our society stripped him of human dignity and decency.

Is this the kind of society worth living in and working for?

It’s the inevitable outcome when private aggregations of power have obligations only to making a profit and not to the general welfare, when there is a great concentration of political power in corporate hands, power difficult to bring to democratic account.

We delude ourselves into thinking we’re a nation of individual property owners — farmers, artisans and merchants — as Thomas Jefferson envisioned. A worthy ideal, but it’s not the reality.

In fact, most of us have become wage earners in huge corporate bureaucracies — dependent on vast institutional structures we do not control.

The self-identified “rugged individualist,” who criticizes what Sen. Mitt Romney called in the 2012 presidential campaign “the 47 percent” — that is, those who depend on what’s left of “the welfare state” for things like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or food stamps, to get by — is deluding him or herself.

Such “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” people are oblivious to what the poor go through daily to get by on very little — not even the dignity and basic decency of a privy.

Sam Porter


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