Food for Thought: Exploiting Homelessness As an Object Lesson?

 

I keep seeing this video and others like it pop  up on my Facebook page. I seem to be the only one who’s uncomfortable with it.

 

If you haven’t seen it, and you don’t feel like watching, the premise is:

 

A guy walks around a pizza shop asking patrons for some of their food.  His friend secretly films the patrons reactions. When everyone in the pizza shop turns him down, the guy has his friend buy a pizza and give it to a man they assume is homeless. Then, a little while later, with the camera running in secret, Mr. Hungry comes along and hits up the free pizza recipient for a slice.

 

Okay, I get it. The whole point is to make people think about gratitude and sharing what they have. That’s important, and commendable. I still have questions, and it bothers me that nobody is asking them.

 

  • Why is it okay to film any of these people without their knowledge?
  • Why is it that the faces of the people in the pizza shop are all obscured, but the face of the guy we think is homeless is not?
  • Why is it okay to make someone into an object lesson simply because you assume that he is homeless?

 

To my way of thinking, either the whole video is staged, which calls the validity of the experiment into question, or the premise assumes that it’s okay to exploit a person who looks “homeless” without guarding that person’s privacy.

 

Why I Don’t Give a Shit What You Were Raised to Believe

 

 

Rose Meets WorldDuring my travels on the Internet, I come across a lot of people who like to argue their positions on social issues. I’m interested in social issues, and I’m always open to reevaluating my views, so I read these posts carefully. I’ve noticed that a HUGE portion of the argument on any given issue seems to be based on variations of the phrase

 

“I was raised to believe…”

 

Well. Quite frankly, I don’t give a shit.

 

Here are some things I was raised to believe.

 

  • It’s important to work hard and finish what you start. You’re not competing against anyone but yourself.
  • It’s okay to drink excessive amounts of alcohol or use illicit drugs and then lie about having done so.
  • If you have food or other resources and someone else doesn’t, you should share what you have.
  • It’s okay to scream at, insult, threaten or imply that you will leave your family as long as you don’t actually hit anyone.
  • It doesn’t matter what religion someone believes in or what color their skin is. What matters is whether or not they are a good person.
  • People who serve their country, either in the military or as military support staff, should be shown respect.

 

Some of these things are absolutely true. I believe them, and I will argue them to anyone who asks. Some of them are ridiculous and unhealthy. I had to learn that, “I was raised that way” doesn’t mean anything in a critical argument. I had to start asking myself why I believed things.

 

Here are some examples:

 

  • I believe that marijuana should be legal. If I want to argue that point, I can’t do so based on “I was raised to believe that drugs are okay.” I have to use facts, distance myself from emotional associations, and NOT make religious arguments of any kind because I live in a country where civil policy is not supposed to be determined by anyone’s religious beliefs.
  • I believe it’s not okay to threaten, lie, or insult anyone at any time, for any reason. Just because I saw adults behave that way, doesn’t make the behavior healthy or safe. Saying that doesn’t mean that I hate the adults I grew up around who did things like that.  I’m not being disrespectful of my roots or forgetting where I came from. I have a wealth of empirical evidence and a lifetime of my own experiences that both tell me how much damage can be done by that kind of behavior.
  • I believe it’s important to work hard because that’s how we make progress on the things that matter to us. If we can’t finish what we start, eventually, no one will hire us or believe us when we say we’re going to do something.
  • I believe we should share with others because everyone needs help at one time or another.
  • I’ve met people from all walks of life and all kinds of religious beliefs. I’ve met people from many racial backgrounds, and the one thing I’ve learned is that people are all individuals. Some people are nice. Some people are assholes.  I want to spend my time with nice people.  Religion and race have nothing to do with whether or not someone is a nice person. There may be racial or religious bigots out there, but there are also plenty of people who are open-minded.
  • I believe that people who serve their country’s military make tremendous sacrifices, and they’ve earned the respect of their fellows on that score.  However, I can respect someone’s service and be grateful to them for it without idealizing the person.

 

It’s important to respect tradition if the tradition is healthy and meaningful in our lives. Basing our social and cultural beliefs on the way we were raised instead of on critical examination of why we believe them is dangerous.