One of the surprises of visiting developed countries has always been finding homeless people – sufferers – on the streets. Men seems over-represented in this category.
The media in developed countries, from newspapers to TV and even movies, rarely highlight the plight of such men and women who fall through the cracks. It could be part of branding or good PR.
Homelessness, whether in Kenya or in any developed country, is a sign that the much praised capitalism has its limits. Not that its proponents didn’t know it, but its followers seem to ignore its dark side. While we read about the richest men in the world, no one has time to list the poorest in the world, the sufferers of this planet.
I was mesmerised by tales about life in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall and how the excesses of capitalism were bottled, including homelessness. Today, you’ll find homeless people in the now integrated Germany. I’ve found them in the US, Canada and other developed countries I’ve visited .
Novelists like Charles Dickens and politicians like Karl Marx and Frederick Engels (both with German roots) long pointed out the excesses of capitalism, but the solution they offered, called communism, lasted only 70 years before collapsing under its own contradictions. Now capitalism without any countervailing force has flowered, with its excesses like homelessness too apparent.
The first victims, the sufferers, of rejuvenated capitalism are the homeless.
It’s real suffering because even animals have burrows or nests they call home.
Such homeless people have defaulted on their rent after losing jobs, have abused drugs or alcohol, come from dysfunctional homes or have other social problems. They’ve all fallen out of the ‘neatness’ of capitalism.
In Kenya, it’s no different, with thousands begging and well-wishers keeping them alive. There are also beggars in developed countries, some even negotiate for the money you give them.
It’s interesting that homelessness, aside from breathing and other biological functions, ties together developed, developing and even under-developed countries.
In most countries, irrespective of their economic classification, homelessness is more prevalent in cities, which is where capitalism shows its true colours.
The rural folk, despite being portrayed as unsophisticated, beat urbanites hands down in getting shelter. In fact, the housing agenda under the Big 4 is more about urbanites – the rural folk are at home in their manyattas, thingiras, simbas and other exotic names given to houses, or their semblance.
Homelessness seems to be purely an urban problem. After all, it’s in the cities where capitalism first found a home and its victims.
Maybe I’m being too emotional, but on a planet that has governments, philanthropists and human hearts, there should be no homelessness.
One wonders how animals would react if they knew we humans can be homeless.
[XN Iraki; email@example.com]