I’m blaming the 1950s …. Yes, it is considered to be the best time in our history. A post-war economic boom meant lots of jobs, if a person (specifically a man) wanted to work there was more than enough to go around. The only homeless back then were drunks, drug addicts and drop outs (hobos and beatnik writers). A man could start with very little and build great wealth with nothing more than sweat and persistence. You could start in the mail room at a company and find a seat in the vice president’s office during your 30 year tenure, before retiring comfortably. The things that were wrong with the 50s… the 60s-90s worked vigorously to address, racial and gender equality has made great strides. The rights of the individual to safety and dignity, in society and within the home are now protected under law.
My problem is with the way the good old days have coloured or attitudes, our world view and our expectations. The homeless of the 1950s represents only 30% of today’s homeless population. In 1950 the mentally ill and infirmed were hospitalized. Better than today's lack of facilities and structure which leaves this population accounting for 20% of Canada’s homeless. There are a couple of city’s doing an excellent job of providing supportive housing, kudos to E4C of Edmonton Albert.
The other 50% of homeless are just poor… minimum wage earners, single parents on assistance, pensioners, and large families. True in 1950 people did alright on minimum wage which was only $0.65 an hour. You heard me right, sixty-five cents. A loaf of bread was 5 cents… a bus ride was 5 cents …a movie with pop corn was a quarter (25 cents). So a person earning minimum wage could ride the bus, take in a movie, ride home and bring a loaf of bread with him… and still have money for 2 Coney dogs at the McKellar Confectionary (not bad for an hours work). Today a bus ride is $2.50, the movie $20, a bus home $2.50 the loaf of bread $3; let’s add the 2 hotdogs that’s another $7. $35 THIRTY FIVE DOLLARS that is 3x the minimum wage in Ontario and 4x the minimum wage for Alberta. Let me be very clear increasing minimum wage is NOT the solution… minimum wage goes up…prices go up and the poverty just continues.
Thanks to the affluence of the 1950’s we still cling to the delusion that money = success=happiness. Since the economic shifts of the 80s and 90s one can no longer build great wealth without serious money with which to prime the pump. Today’s barons either have family wealth (or wealthy backers) or gain their foothold through exploitation enterprises like buying up foreclosures, or providing payday loans or buying your family treasures for pennies on the dollar. But not to worry there is always the lottery or… "The Secret" by the way, manifestation was intended for benefiting the universe, not to get you a private jet, but that's another discussion. Since, so few of us can actually have wealth; we keep ourselves in the chasing happiness game through credit. Let it go already …this is the 21st century… if the people in your life are only there because of your stuff; you should probably get rid of them and the stuff.
Thanks to the black and white sitcoms we all labour under the misguided notion that life should be perfect; free of any hardships, struggles, losses or challenges. But these hardships are what build us; through our pain we can gain strength and confidence and learn compassion toward the trials of others. Surviving (childhood abuse, teen pregnancy, single parenting, divorce, illness, death, depression, deferring your personal goals until the kids are grown, re-educating, changing professions) is not heroism …this is just living your life. My sainted old granny would say “shit happens …deal with it”. Stop trying to live up to imaginary lives…reality will always fall short, instead take another piece of advice from granny, “no matter how bad things get you don’t got to look too far to find somebody worse off than you.”
Just an interesting note Robert Young (Dad Jim Anderson of Father Knows Best fame) died an alcoholic. And here’s an interesting quote from Billy Grey who played the son on that show.
[On his "Father Knows Best" (1954) years,] "I wish there was some way I could tell kids not to believe it - the dialogue, the situations, the characters - they were all totally false. The show did everybody a disservice. The girls were always trained to use their feminine wiles, to pretend to be helpless to attract men. The show contributed to a lot of the problems between men and women that we see today....I think we were all well motivated, but what we did was run a hoax. "Father Knows Best" (1954) purported to be a reasonable facsimile of life. And the bad thing is that the model is so deceitful.....If I could say anything to make up for all the years I lent myself to that kind of bullshit, it would be: *You* Know Best."
The attitudes and mythology of the 1950s belong in the world of nostalgia … Reality requires new solutions applicable to the new situation which western society has to deal with in the 21st century.
Have a joyous day my friends... we'll talk again soon.