Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Wretchard has a fascinating look at some of the sad history of public housing and tosses this interesting intellectual tidbit at the end (read it all):
.... Yet if public housing projects are a solution to anything, the evidence is far from encouraging. Too many of them are sinkholes of human misery. In part, the problem lies in that planners and bureaucrats see housing, not as the consequence of lifestyle, but a cause of it. The slums they so heartily disapprove of are often better suited to the survival of their residents. Slums are often the way they are because they evolved according to definite environmental pressures. The horrible characteristics of a slum are in many cases, a feature, not a bug. Yet none of that will dampen the appetite for public dream-house....

The architectural terrain is a mere reflection of human terrain. Buildings are an expression of the economic, social and cultural conditions of the human beings they enclose. They are like the Picture of Dorian Gray, they show the soul within the man. The place to start isn’t by giving a man a house; it is by giving him an opportunity.

But most governments are convinced that the soul can be altered by a change of clothes. After all, politicians do it all the time. And public housing is popular with the construction industry and only costs the taxpayers a few dollars more.

In Theses on Feuerbach, Karl Marx wrote, ". . . the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of social relations." By changing the "ensemble of social relations", Marx believed that you can change "the human essence."

He was incorrect.

In fact, he was incorrect in exactly the same way that the social engineers of today are incorrect--whether they are developing grandiose plans to save the environment from humans, or building the next housing project for the poor.

The internal landscape of the soul of any human being at any moment in time will be externalized and reflected in that human's behavior; or, how he presents himself to the world. Character and one's state of mind will find expression in the environment the human creates around himself and in which he chooses to live. It can also be found by examining those with whom he chooses to associate.

Observing the state of a person's home can provide valuable information on the internal state of that person. One of the techniques I learned in psychiatry, called "guided imagery", was to have a person close his eyes and imagine walking along a road until he comes to a house. He then is asked to describe the house outside and in. The idea being that he will describe a house that is a replica of his internal state of being.

Real personal pride (not the narcississtic cockiness or desperate faux superiority or bravado that is so commonly seen these days), will translate into an environment that expresses that pride. Conflicts in one's life find expression in one's possessions; or the state of one's room or home.

Pride of ownership and self-actualization cannot be bestowed on any individual or group, they must earn that pride with their own actions and behavior. When they achieve that sense internally, then the environment and landscape around them will reflect it.

Poverty does not have to translate chaos, crime, or ugliness--but sadly, it often does because those realities lurk inside the soul of many poor persons. They are nurtured within a culture of victimhood--a culture in which they are taught early that there are only two options in life: being a victim, or victimizing others.

Handouts and programs that are created with the "best" of intentions, including all those wonderful public housing programs for the poor--fail to take all this into account. All those do-gooders with the grandiose plans for the poor probably don't deliberately intend to make people feel like losers; but that is what is reinforced by all those government programs. Those who break out of the victimhood mentality do so because they grabbed the opportunities to make something of themselves and did not sit around waiting for the do-gooders to pat them on the head paternalistically so that the do-gooders could feel good about themselves.

I am not opposed to charity; nor am I opposed to helping those in need. What I am opposed to is the perpetual victimhood scam that is perpetrated on poor people by the ideology of the political left; an ideology that is guided by Marxism instead of the realities of human nature.

As Wretchard says, instead of giving a person a house, you need to give them an opportunity. The former will only reinforce the victim/victimizer dialectic; the latter may actually help them to change within.

The landscape of the outer environment will then quite naturally alter to reflect the inner change.

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