We consider these victims to be blameless and deserving of all our help and compassion. (Well, except maybe when victims do not share our skin colour, religion, etc. Then we might come around to [minimal] help and [grudging] compassion if the scale of the disaster is massive enough.)
Right now the fire in Fort McMurray is gripping Canada. As it should. More than 80,000 people are homeless, their homes, possessions, jobs, schools, communities wiped out.
The response has been huge.
The media can't get enough of stories about formerly or currently afflicted groups like Syrian war refugees, blown-up towns, and First Nations stepping up to help.
The national self-congratulation has been huge also.
I was thinking of all those homeless people. And then of homelessness (2013 report) in general.
It is estimated that on any given night, there are 30,000 homeless people in Canada, 200,000 at some point over the year. No, most of them probably weren't suddenly and dramatically driven from their nice suburban homes. For the majority, their situations are the result of dozens of small individual earthquakes of the personal, emotional, medical, financial sort. Some of their situations are the result of larger, systemic ice storms like the residential school system, the utter failure of the mental health system, war, racism, patriarchy . . .
So. I tweeted.
Not meaning any disrespect, but events like #ymmfire make me wonder what Canadians could do to tackle all the homelessness/poverty.— Fern Hill (@fernhilldammit) May 5, 2016
@GameIndie_1 Um. Compassion?— Fern Hill (@fernhilldammit) May 5, 2016
More people responded with variants of this observation.
@fernhilldammit Nothing. Because we blame the homeless and impoverished. Fires could happen to any of us. But not poverty. Oh no. PFFT.— Luna (@Heading_West) May 5, 2016
A vivid example is presented daily by Mark Cherrington, a youth worker in, coincidentally, Edmonton. He tweets about his efforts to help homeless, poor, abused youth and his battles with an incredibly stingy, uncaring bureaucracy.
Supporting a young mom of 3X children fighting a slum landlord. No smoke detectors, mold, unusable toilet. She is going to take him to court— Mark Cherrington (@MarkCherrington) May 2, 2016
Rushing across the city to some road on the outskirts. A girl has been tossed out of a car like some fast food wrapper. Make her safe.— Mark Cherrington (@MarkCherrington) April 27, 2016
These are kids doing the best they can with shitty situations, running afoul of petty laws, trying to stay in school, looking after children of their own.
But we won't care for them properly because they are not blameless. Somehow they are the authors of their fate and so not "deserving" of our attention.
In short, fuck 'em.
You'd think homelessness on the scale of the current disaster in Fort Mac would get us thinking about homelessness and inadequate housing in general.