Last night as it was a lovely evening (a glorious end to summer), and so it seemed, a good idea then and because my mate and I being a wee bit skint this week, decided to take a bicycle ride to a new street handout we had heard about the evening before from some other street friends.
I must explain at this point in the post to those who may not know; that I’ve been visiting and using some of London's best known soup-kitchens catering to the homeless and poor - for over twenty years having once in my life been street homeless and a rough (oh yes) sleeper; you tend to keep in touch with the community, and its continuous for some like me, who become involved with some remarkable people over the years. It’s a community like no other thats all I can say, very hard to describe, draw or paint the picture that I experience on this city's streets moving and being a part of what some call an underclass, and if you don’t know I will tell you, that I don’t like that term or description; why must we accept the ridiculous labels that capitalist society uses to put sections of the working class down with; just why do we except the dividing term of middle class? Because I have met people who have told me that they would have considered themselves once' as middle class; thats until something,a situation personal, financial, economic or other led them to the street.
Just one other thing about labeling of people, some of the most foul labels are attached to the homeless. Dossers, junkies, drunks, down and outs, queers, delinquents: the list is endless, and each label helps to put distance from people we encounter or walk past on the way to work without a thought as we are conditioned that way. Worst still some of us look down on others as failures, and this only serves as confirmation of how far we are deliberately divided in and by capitalist society, think about it and "soak it in the warm soapy water".
I like this definition of middle class:
“I consider myself middle class. For me, it is having health insurance, making enough money to pay the bills, having enough in savings to last 6 months if something awful would happen, going out to eat and to a movie once in awhile, taking a vacation every year (not something luxurious...just a week away from the day-to-day), having a decent house (3-2-2), and driving a car that is fairly new. However, all of this is tenuous and could collapse if you have a catastrophic health issue, lose your source of income or some other disaster should befall. “
Only last year, I met James for a brief time, he was an interesting young man. James, as it soon became apparent had like many a big problem with drink, other than that he was a lovely guy but his addiction to the demon drink was messing his life up so much so that there was a real danger of it becoming a lifelong friend that no one really needs, but the only thing is, you or in this case James, is unable to see it that way, and ultimately you are totally lost and the damage can be fatal - many of my friends have been lost to an addiction or other and for ever I’m sorry to say.
The point is James real problem was he had failed to be a successful member of the so-called middle class, he had failed to live up to the expectations of his family, who yes, could not understand why after having received and in comparison to many others a good and privileged upbringing, and has now ended-up the way he has on the streets, this is extreme and a misleading simplicity, as a so-called middle class person is subject to the same competitive aggression that capitalism promotes and some just don’t make the grade, or have what it takes to survive in capitalist society, they may call themselves middle class’ but, and for all the conditioning they are still members of the working classes - if they sell their labour power in order to live.
James disappeared as fast as he appeared, the last I heard he was in France trying to make money for a restaurant but probably drinking still - the only way to kill his pain inflicted on him by this cruel society.
“Nothing exists except through human consciousness”
How true it that? The state of being awake and aware of one’s surroundings comes hard to many, especially to someone who see’s a homeless person on the streets and giving it not much thought really, as they themselves go about their own lives. But at the back of one’s mind you do wonder, could this happen to you? Every time I visit and spend time on the streets with my friends it always reminds me more than anything; that capitalist society as we know it hurts many. And the queuing for the handouts of food gets even longer.
Last night we tried out a new handout held in a small back street in Victoria and quite near New Scotland Yard, this one was really good and a very friendly soup kitchen run by a wonderful vibrant and generous group of Coptic Christians from the Egyptian Orthodox Church, which is the largest Christian Church in Egypt. I Had a good chance to speak with these guys about their countries domestic affairs and an interesting conversation did ensue, but that is a different thread and possibly for another time.
The Coptic Christians were well organised armed with tea, coffee and lovely food, many of the assembled soon got to enjoy the evening especially when the Coptic’s began to sing some lovely songs led by a very talented young lady - very enjoyable and a very big thank you to them.
But there is one other thing that I found blood-warm and lovely, they came with sleeping bags, the old sleeping bag is a very important piece of kit on the street, many don’t have them, and please believe me, rough sleepers are on the rise everywhere and much worse than back in my day. Thousands are lining London's streets every night, it’s not just food banks that help to keep the many but the old street soup kitchen is back and lets be grateful as was indeed the homeless person who was given his own sleeping bag, his smile of gratitude said it all to me, and reaffirmed my commitment to do all and everything I can to raise political consciousness’ amongst the homeless and within my community.