Since I’ve moved to Tennessee, I have pretty regularly had these conversations with people about how having the government provide basic things for people is a crock because it’s the government performing a role that should be performed by churches or other charitable organizations. This morning, I read this post, about how a woman came to an organization that’s been doing a lot of difficult work helping flood victims (a charity, we could call it) and, in spite of the organization being clear about not taking used clothing, the woman got pissed because they wouldn’t take her used clothing. “Beggars can’t be choosers,” she said.
I also overheard a man in Bordeaux talking about how folks kept bringing in expired canned foods for the flood food drive (I think at his church, that was my impression), and not just a few months, but ancient canned foods. They basically just had to throw them out.
And I’m not trying to make an argument that the government is necessarily the better alternative to charities. I don’t think that’s the case at all. Local organizations have knowledge and flexibility that a huge bureaucracy is never going to have. And I think we all know families who have struggled who would never take food stamps, but who appreciated a box of canned goods left on their doorstep every now and again.
But I think the thing I’d say is this. We are all deeply fucked up. And, at least, with a bureaucracy, no one expects you to be grateful for whatever crap they give you. In a best case scenario, you don’t get crap, of course. In a best case scenario, every step of the way you have people who are willing to say “No, not good enough,” even in the face of people who mean well (or who are angry). But we don’t always get, or often get, the best case scenario.
Often you get people who expect to be able to hand you their crap and have you be happy about it.