I have bagels and broadband. I live, on the whole, in relatively comfortable surroundings. I could be considered middle class. My experiences in not having a place to live are limited to being a very young child, when my parents were transients; and some adventures in Pranklin when I was a teenager. So perhaps some would take it as a sign of rich kid angst for me to talk about what homelessness really means. Feel free to take it that way if you like.
However rich you become, you will always be two, not one, because believe it or not, America ain't your home
About two weeks ago, at a train station, I got in an argument with some police officers. I don't know if "argument" is the right word, more of a double one sided shouting match. I yelled at some cops detaining a black teenager that they seemed to be better at harassing kids than stopping crime, and since they seemed not to notice my comments, I got on the train. About a minute later, one of the police officers returned, took me off the train, and told me that such a thing was not tolerated. Honestly, I felt bad for losing my temper, interfering with someone's job, and infusing my ignorance into a situation I knew nothing about. But that is not really the point. The point is the officer said he could exclude me from the train lines forever (which may be true), and that the platform was "mine, not yours" (which is either untrue or nonsensical). Perhaps the officer was just saying that my behavior didn't belong on the platform. But in a moment of truth, I realized that the meaning was that the platform, and perhaps the city, didn't belong to me.
Not fully American, but getting there VERY slowly
Which gives us the question: how does someone own something? What REALLY belongs to you? And why does it belong to you? I am not speaking strictly of property ownership here. Your home is where you belong, inalienably. Your home is your castle. Since the United States has now been our "homeland" for four years, is it now our castle?
One of the more cognizant things that Noung said, when he described the psychological makeup of the fascist, and mentioned the "unbearable kitsch propaganda". I don't know if he realized how important this is, though. Many people find their sense of ownership and membership in society as coming from participation in a mythic past. In America, we say "Mom, Apple Pie and Baseball", a phrase that is hard to explain but that we all know the meaning of. We could say that being "at home" comes from being "down home". While in our country, the roll of kitsch-membership is mostly used ironically, extreme versions of it are still important in other countries.
But kitsch, even though its importance is probably underrated, is only one part of the puzzle. While kitsch usually refers to a recent mythical past, in many countries, ownership comes from an actual mythic past. Both parties in the land of Israel/Palestine, or whatever you want to call it, have at least a partial argument that their claim to the land comes from histories dating back thousand of years, histories that no one else can confirm. I certainly wouldn't accept a check with this evidence, but it seems to be proof enough for thousands of square miles of land. One of the problems that comes up from this is that not all of us played a part in this ancestoral drama. Especially in America, where people came to this country by accident or worse:
Your ancestors come from Africa, through stealing them, you are not born in America, so how does African-American make much sense? I am not a racist, I am stating the facts: blacks are actually prisoners of war.
I have already discussed, as a joke, but also seriously, the idea that existence is meant to serve a mythic order to bring the past into the future, a belief I call teleological nihilism
. The idea of teleological nihilism sometimes takes on a mythic element, in the belief that social activity is important because it carries us into the future, and sometimes it appears more pragmatic: a person is important in a society because they "contribute to the society", a society that is made up of individuals who are important because they contribute to a society that...This is what I mean by teleology, and this is what I mean by nihilsm.
Related to this is the belief that people own their place in the world due to sacrifices they have made and pains they have endured, a belief that is important especially in a Masochist culture such as America. While it is true that the actual weight of experience gives us a connection to the world that we otherwise wouldn't have, in the end, if pain is the only way to purchase a sense of belonging, it is not you that belongs, it is merely your pain. And even that is not finding a home to belong in, that is merely:
So you are homeless, even though you pay your rent
Our last options aren't much better ever. There is perhaps "law of jungle", where what you own is owned by the physical violence you manage to threaten or inflict. Since most of our options so far have been full of nihilism, this may be the simplest and most direct answer. Perhaps the question can only be untied when we refuse nihilism. But I am thinking there may not be much of a chance of that.