What The United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, with its mindset of competition and expansion becoming the only language and route to legitimate human progression. This mindset has flipped the definition of who and how the “individual” is defined and is fixated on the individual’s fallibilities. The lens used to view who and what construed an individual can drastically effect the reception and benefits allotted to them in society. Whether an individual is perceived as a lazy, violent, selfish addict or as an exploited victim effects that individual in every facet of their lives. Using the Edgewater homeless as an example, “…in absolute moral categories such as worthy worker, or thief, or xenophobic dopefiend, overstates the parameters for the individual agency and obscures structural forces” (Bourgois & Schonberg, 2009).
The Edgewater homeless here are viewed by society from polar opposite stances determine who or what is constructing their definition and the reason “why” around them. The neoliberal society of the United States has created a society that believes “everyone gets what they deserve” and this in turn has increased inequality and has halted durable expansion for all. So What Whether it is budget cuts, globalization, gentrification, or neoliberalism have a ripple in the lives of the Edgewater homeless. The city of San Francisco lost twelve thousand jobs between 1962 and 1972 (Bourgois & Schonberg, 2009). During this time most of the Edgewater homeless were adolescents, while watching their main bread winners’ professions slowly become obsolete. Globalization as well had an effect on these communities in Edgewater as many steel and shipyard business closed their doors for cheaper labor overseas.
During the 1970’s there was a rising income inequality and the federal government made reductions for subsidized housing (Bourgois & Schonberg, 2009). By the 1980’s, President Reagan halved the federal budget for public housing, this along with the growing neoliberal mindset, things like job training, legal services, public transport, and community Block grants were also reduced (Bourgois & Schonberg, 2009). Focusing on the Subsidized housing, in 1994, eight hundred thousand families were official waitlisted for the nation’s 1.3 million existing public housing. (Bourgois & Schonberg, 2009). Many of the Edgewater homeless grew up understanding the realities of government assistance and the reality of where they stood on the totem pool of who’s needs would be met in America. When you mix hardworking lower class laborers and their work views on a growing up generation where the world does not fit with the truths that are taught to them, you have a failed system.
What Now This chapter in this photo- ethnography revealed how perspective is powerful and has real-world effects and that it is also up to us, if those effects will be positive or negative. The Edgewater homeless communities’ individual stories in this chapter shined a light on this idea of individualism and poverty in the United States and how it is the individuals responsible and fault they are where they are. The system itself makes them play this script, whether you are the an African-American exaggerating your professional skills as a criminal or a “worthy single mother applying for support with the welfare bureaucracies (Bourgois & Schonberg, 2009). With all of this in mind, it has shown me that when I interact with the homeless, addict, impoverished or working class population to make sure I am not following the script of the middle-class do “gooder” or making them act out societies scripts given to them.