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Homelessness on Oahu

Hawai’i is paradise. You might be expecting me to now make some sort of comment about how it has been ruined or  how it’s really not paradise, but I’m not going to do that. Hawai’i is paradise. I love it. It really is every bit as good as you might imagine it is. There is no denying that. When you look at the water, swim in it, breathe the salt air, feel the tradewinds, or wake up and hear the birds – you know – this is heaven.

Even for the homeless, this is paradise. I mean it’s still paradise when they are looking for a place to sleep, or trying to get their kids ready for school in a makeshift cardboard hut or car, or sleeping on a park bench. The homeless enjoy all the benefits of Hawai’i just like everyone else – but I’m not trying to say they have it easy or that the homeless epidemic here isn’t a serious problem. There are a lot of people that consider homelessness a problem because it impedes on their ability to enjoy paradise. They complain about the homeless spoiling the perfect view or about the homeless camping on the beaches or sidewalks. They want the homeless swept away so they can enjoy more of paradise. They want someone to take care of the homeless problem, they just don’t want to have to deal with it. I admit it, that would be nice – it would be great if it all just disappeared and everyone was happy and we could all admire million dollar views out our windows without having to see other people suffering – but that’s just not going to happen because homelessness isn’t the problem. It can’t be solved in a vacuum. The problem is not homelessness – that would make it simple. The problem is systemic – it’s our society and culture that is the problem. It’s the culture of greed and the society of selfishness and the glorificaton of wealth and riches over things like empathy and compassion. America is a nation based on lies. The American dream is complete and total bullshit.

I know a little bit about being homeless on Oahu (Down and Out on the Island of Oahu , July 30, 2004), enough to know that I don’t want it – I’d much rather be homeless on the mainland than here – although there are things here like showers at the beach, balmy weather, tropical fruit growing wild if you know where to look, and more – the problem is – this is an island and there is nowhere you can really go to get away. I see the homeless under bridges, building rafts and boats to sleep on, on their bikes, yesterday I spotted a guy just having a nap under a bush.  Taken by itself, it almost looks idyllic – but you have to account for the police telling you to wake up and move along when you are breaking the law by sleeping in your vehicle or the complete and total lack of parking if you choose to live in a vehicle, the homeless sweeps that force the homeless to move along and the bedbugs – if you don’t think the homeless are getting eaten alive by bedbugs, you simply haven’t thought about it. And if you haven’t experienced bedbugs, then count your lucky stars.

Hawai’i is a part of the United States but it isn’t a part of North America – so technically, it’s not an American place. Unfortunately, American ways of doing things have been undermining the spirit of aloha here since the days of the missionaries. I’m not about to tell you that the kapu system was better than democracy – I have no way of really knowing that – no one does since it was completely overturned in the early 1800s – but I will tell you that the rat race, the greed and corruption, the awful drive for wealth and riches is destroying the empathy and compassion of people all over the world – even here. I’m not so sure we have a homeless problem as much as we have a wealth problem here in Hawai’i and an empathy and compassion problem.  Don’t get me wrong – even with the problems – I believe Hawai’i is better than the rest of the United States – but it could be better for everyone (everyone who isn’t protected or shielded by great wealth, that is)

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Vago Damitio

Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook

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