The essay is composed of two parts: One is about different ethical perspectives of the responsibilities of common citizens to homeless people, and the other is about the personal narrative of the author’s direct experience with them. Our basic conception of homelessness is typically associated with poverty and sickness. When we saw a homeless person, we think of them as sick – physically and mentally speaking. They are unemployed, and most are already abandoned by their families. The street becomes their home, and they create fraternities with other homeless people to assure spot and security. The reason on why they freely choose that kind of life rarely enters our mind. In fact, we think that they are victims of this unfair life. We always pity their appearance. We do not realize that some or most of these people actually chose to stay in the streets under their self-autonomy.
Anyhow, the personal encounter of the author with these kinds of people will give us hints of the reasons why they jump to the wildlife in the street. Far from all the impressions we have against homeless people, the essay “Free to Choose” by Dalrymple discussed stories of homeless-by-choice individuals.
Their habits and attitudes are wild, in a sense that they already know the streets by heart. They know the race of life and the ups and downs of living in the streets. However, they do not want to leave that kind of life. They want the excitement, the freedom and the simplicity of living homeless.
As homeless, they live in Hostels and they are granted with free medical services in the hospitals. They have free foods, and some are luckier to be taken for rehabilitation. Under rehabilitation, the government provides for their needs. From housing, to bills, to food, and other expenses, the state pays for everything.
Man Outside a luxury hotel
The essay started with a story of a man who chose to discharge himself from the asylum, and live in the streets until he was found lying unconscious on the road. He did not eat for days, and he only drank little amount of water that caused his dehydration. After this, the author started to ask the moral obligation of the civilians and private individuals living in the city. Most of the succeeding arguments range from reactions on individualism and indifference of the society, liberalism, and the liberal ideas of injustice,de-institutionalization, and freedom of choice.
When you saw a beggar or just a homeless person in the street, will you talk to them? How about if they are sick, or they are in pain, will you bring them to the hospital? These are some of the dilemmas that you will encounter when you try to fight within yourself whether you will concern yourself with these homeless people or not. According to the essay, there are different contradictory perspectives that hinder or promote social awareness for homeless people.
The very first perspective is about individualism and the passivity of the common folks. Most of the people believe that these homeless individuals are responsibilities of the state. Since they are paying taxes which are then used by the government to fund these homeless people, it means that they are now waved from their responsibilities to these people.
Another perspective is given by the liberalists. They claim that the existence of these people are indication of inequalities and injustice in a state.
The last perspective is about respecting the choices of these people. They have free choice to do what they think is best for themselves. If they want to stay in the streets then there is nothing that we can do.
On the other hand, the personal narrative of the doctor discussed the reasons of his homeless patients for choosing the life of a recluse. They told him that they want that kind of life. They want to stay in the streets because they experience freedom in the streets. They have no worries, no fears and they do not have to work to feed themselves. They can also go to hospitals for free medication.The government also offers a rehabilitation program for them, wherein the state pays for their housing, meals, etc… All are given for free, so why return to a life of hard labor and high taxes?
Freedom of being free
I agree with the analysis of the writer about the common perspectives towards the homeless. On the other hand, I cannot say that I concede in only one perspective among them. because I think that there are interconnection among them. I acknowledge that every person has different reasons for leaving the normal life as exchange to this uncertain way of life, and there are also variety of reasons for an individual to justify his feelings towards the homeless people.
There are homeless individuals who turned into that kind of life, because they cannot find work. Sometimes, they are mentally or physically challenged that their relatives abandoned them in the streets. Moreover, it can be observed that some of these homeless individuals chose the life of a recluse, because of their pursuit of freedom. They have everything; a work, a loving family, and a home, but they decided to leave everything behind to pursue a life with no worries. A life that they do not have to work to survive. On the other hand, some were driven by uncontrollable forces like unemployment and sickness.
Sad to say, this phenomenon is also taken advantaged by greedy individuals who use the homeless to earn money. The managers of the hostels, the politicians, and the staffs who work side by side to organize these people and the collections that they could get for them. Although, I am not saying that they are all inherently bad, but majority of those people was just hiding under the cloak of compassion to take advantage of the situation.
Hopefully, the government will not just provide material means for them, but will provide them also with spiritual healing and ethical studies (or moral upliftment). They live in the streets long enough to make it harder for them to change. Some are illiterate, and some are sick. There are also members of this “fraternity” who continue to live in the dark side of life. Some are contented with that kind of life not knowing the other opportunities in this world.
The problem here is that even with the thought of self-autonomy, these people are still living under the facade of this so-called freedom. There determination of freedom is only superficial, that they are unaware that they are actually permitting corrupt officials to use them for benefits. They lose their lives from this cynicism. They think that freedom is being lazy and selfish. They think that freedom is something you can get when you don’t have responsibilities and obligations. Yet, are they happy? I think that true freedom is being happy and satisfied with your life. Everybody need to see the importance of life, its impermanence and happiness. It could be argued that some of the now-homeless individuals came from prominent stature, so at least they know the value of life and freedom. Nevertheless, what is the goal of the state ? Will it continue to promote the life of “homelessness” to its people, or should it try to insert another belief system to remove the self-imposed “homeless” from pouring in the streets?
Dalrymple, Theodore. “Free to Choose”. City Journal. 2 June 2013.