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What’s disgusting about homelessness – Ooo, that smell update

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A biweekly paper written by people who are or have been homeless

As one might imagine, D.C. has a large population of people who are homeless. There are many who live right in the heart of this nation – where the monuments and museums and Big Gubbermint buildings are scattered between the Capitol and the river – but they live in the suburbs as well. Any clump of trees and undergrowth that is dense enough to conceal a tent and close to a public transportation route probably contains an encampment.

What I find disgusting about this is that people – many of them suffering from at least one untreated illnesses – have to live outdoors because paying to house and care for them is seen by many other people as a waste of money. People who also bitch and moan about homeless people.

But according to Mr. Drum, my disgust is pointed in the wrong direction, and this means I’m crazy.

A pair of researchers conducted a survey on homelessness and claim to have been surprised at the results:

We uncovered a strange pattern. On one hand, majorities support both aid (60 percent) and subsidized housing (65 percent), with only a small percentage opposing these policies — by 19 and 17 percent, respectively. On the other, a majority supports banning panhandling (52 percent) and a plurality supports banning sleeping in public (46 percent) — while only about a quarter of the public opposes these policies, by 23 and 30 percent, respectively.

This does not seem strange to me at all. Most people don’t like being accosted by panhandlers and don’t like their park benches being taken over by potentially dangerous vagrants.

I never liked being accosted by shitheads who seem to think their purpose in life is to shout at passing women. Especially the shitheads who become abusive when they are ignored or given a very polite center digit salute. And a look at crime statistics indicates men are potentially dangerous. However, I would never suggest men ought to be barred from walking around in public.

As for the park benches, I disagree with the assertion that they are the exclusive property of those who aren’t homeless. It’s also worth noting that Drum provides stats about mental illness and substance abuse rates for the homeless, but the statistic to back up his claim that they are potentially dangerous never appears. However, I do realize he is attempting to rationalize the irrational and that means taking as many logical fallacies as possible out for a spin.

The researchers solved their conundrum by suggesting that most people are disgusted by the homeless. No kidding. About half the homeless suffer from a mental illness and a third abuse either alcohol or drugs. You’d be crazy not to have a reflexive disgust of a population like that.

You have to be crazy, ad hominizes the man who seems to be on the verge of leaping around shouting Outcast unclean!

But so be it. If my refusal to assume all homeless people are dangerous and suffer from untreated illnesses, or to be disgusted by them for being sick means I’m crazy, then to hell with Kevin Drum.

None of this means we can’t or shouldn’t have empathy for the homeless. Of course we should, if we want to call ourselves decent human beings.

A couple of problems: First, it is impossible to see people as a clot of stereotypes and have empathy for them. That would be like trying to have empathy for a man’s shadow or his fun house mirror reflection.

Second, decent human beings aren’t disgusted by people who are extremely vulnerable.

Even if one claims a learned hostility towards people who are unfortunate and powerless, is really natural and uncontrollable.

In fact, overcoming reflexive feelings is what makes us decent human beings in the first place. There’s just no need to deny that these reflexes are both innate and perfectly understandable.

Disgusting.

Update: People keep bringing up the way some homeless people smell as a defense of Drum and/or being disgusted by the homeless. A few thoughts.

First, Drum never mentions smell as a cause of disgust. He mentions mental illness/substance abuse, panhandling and calls homeless people potentially dangerous vagrants. I think if one feels he is worth defending, it would help to stick to the points he makes.

Second, trying to bundle reaction to an odor into a reaction to an entire group of people is at best, incredibly dishonest. Here’s a little story to help illustrate why this is so:

Every day when I take the train home, there are always a few passengers who have gone to the gym after work. Normally, they smell bad. When the train car is warm, they fucking reek. The smell of post-Zoomba armpit, foot and groin is disgusting. But I would not say people who exercise after work are disgusting. That would be ridiculous.

Third, what’s really disgusting is some people can’t bathe regularly because they don’t have homes.

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  • saraeanderson

    C’mon, Kevin. I’ll bet half of the people you’re friends with are mentally ill.

  • Ryan Denniston

    I am lazy, what’s the sample size for this survey? Also too, what proportion of the not-homeless abuse drugs and alcohol? I can think of a prominent lawyer (hic!).

    • Alex

      from the linked article: “a national survey of 861 adult U.S. citizens through the survey firm YouGov during October and November 2014”

  • About half the homeless suffer from a mental illness and a third abuse
    either alcohol or drugs. You’d be crazy not to have a reflexive disgust
    of a population like that.

    I’d be willing to bet a shiny new dime that about half the 0.1% suffer fromenjoy a personality disorder (perhaps not a mental illness; though for that matter I don’t know whether Mr. Drum really has any good reason to distinguish “the homeless” from the population at large when it comes to “suffer[ing] a mental illness”—I’d bet another shiny new dime that what distinguishes “the homeless” and their mental illnesses from the 0.1% and theirs is the kind and amount of treatment the two groups get); similarly for alcohol and drugs.

    Of course, I go into this comparison with a reflexive disgust of the 0.1% that I don’t even have to anchor in their minds and the substances they use to alter them; so I’m way ahead of Drum already!

    • And of course there’s not a little overlap between people with mental illnesses – especially untreated illness – and people who abuse drugs or alcohol.

  • Anniecat45

    My office is in an area with a large number of people who are either homeless, have mental health issues, or both. Some of the more aggressive of these people get right up in my face waving their arms and shrieking at demons only they can see. A couple of coworkers have been physically attacked by homeless people.I find this frightening.

    A year ago, a fire set by some homeless people in a vacant lot got within forty feet of my apartment building Before the fire department put it out. I found that frightening too.

    The bus stop nearest my office smells of human waste and several people who used to use it have seen human feces there. Within a day of its being steam cleaned, the smell and mess are back. Two of the entrances to the main library also smell of waste; the city cleans them often but again, in a very short time they smell again.

    I want homeless people to get help, housing, mental health services. But
    I also find human waste on the sidewalks disgusting, not to mention being scared of my apartment building burning down. If that makes me a rotten person, well then that’s what I am.

    • Cool story. I regularly have to shoo away people who are peeing in my yard and pick my way around splats of vomit. I have neighbors who have woken up to find strange people sleeping on their porches and couches. Property destruction and petty theft are common and every couple of years there’s a major house fire.

      But this is all caused by college students so people mutter about stupid kids rather than say they’re frightened.

      • tde

        Cool story.

      • MarciKiser

        That’s a pretty flagrant example of wokesplaining. Why are Anniecat’s experiences not worthy of a respectful hearing and consideration?

        • Jordan

          *massive eyeroll*

        • First “wokesplaining”? That’s not even coherent.

          Second, isn’t the point obvious? Anniecat’s experiences are worth hearing, but Shakezula’s demonstrating that, at least at a population level, visceral reactions aren’t solely generated by the first order experiences but partially by ideological framing.

          Drum’s own line is a perfect example of trying to naturalise the reaction.

          I don’t think Anniecat’s reactions to their experiences make them a rotten person, and they are careful to keep their reactions to the events (poop on the sidewalk’ fire) but there is an implicit generalisation to the people (in this context).

          • Just_Dropping_By

            First “wokesplaining”? That’s not even coherent.

            Are you just not reading Shakezula’s comments in this discussion? Because “wokesplaining” is an absolutely perfect description for a lot of them.

            • Given their general sense, wit, and intelligence, you may presume, for all future replies, that I’ve read them.

              “Wokesplaining”, as a word, is clearly an attempt to analogize with “mansplaining” but it fails in almost every way as an anological formation. You either mean actually woke, in which case it’s semantically a praise term which is obviously not the intent, or you mean scare quote “woke” in which the analogous formation fails.

              Of course, this sort of incoherent may be the intent, but I doubt it. It just looks like an attempt to co-opt a term without much thought about what makes it work.

              It’s closer to “reverse racism” in its function, but less coherent.

          • MarciKiser

            wokesplaining: the act of telling a person their experiences are invalid because they are insufficiently woke to process and contextualize them correctly.

            In this instance, Shakezula’s response to Annie was a snarky “cool story” dismissal, and then some irrelevant aside about college students (because apparently if someone negatively reacts to drunk college students, another person somewhere else can’t negatively react to homeless people.)

            Coherent enough now?

            • No, see above.

              And factually wrong about Shake’s comment. She didn’t at all say that her experiences are invalid.

              And wrong about the function of the college student point, cf my explication of Shake’s perfectly clear comment.

              • MarciKiser

                “And factually wrong about Shake’s comment. She didn’t at all say that her experiences are invalid.”

                Claiming that Anniecat was given a respectful hearing is completely undermined by beginning the post with the dismissive snark of “cool story”. But I think you knew that.

                With regard to wokesplaining, you’re also incorrect.

                Let’s take the term “whitesplaining”. It is the implicit assumption that being white gives a person special insight or credibility, and then acting on that assumption to ‘correct’ someone else’s ‘incorrect’ views or deny the validity of their ‘incorrect’ experiences.

                So, let’s do a little transitive property work here:

                Wokesplaining: the implicit assumption that being woke gives a person special insight or credibility, and then acting on that assumption to ‘correct’ someone else’s ‘incorrect’ views or deny the validity of their ‘incorrect’ experiences.

                Ironically, I made the error of assuming you wouldn’t need this explained to you.

                • If you can find where I wrote that Shake’s comment was snark free or that it didn’t begin with “Cool story” or that I said that Anniecat’s experiences were given a respectful hearing (if by “respectful” you mean snark free) I’d be grateful.

                  I believed I explicated Shake’s point more than clearly enough. I don’t agree that her snark was functionally worse than Anniecat’s rhetorical tropes (cf the last sentence). Both comments are a mix but it’s easy enough to get at their substance.

                  You might want to reread your paragraph on wokesplaining and then reread my other comment: you lay the incoherence out clearly. I mean just replace “woke” with its definition.

                  And btw, you are wrong on the splaining part too. It’s worth going back and thinking about the meaning of mansplaining and some canonical examples.

                  Funny how people want to die on the hill of “wokesplaining”…this is one way it’s really like “reverse racism”. If you want to say that Shakes is being a condescending and dismissing asshole, then go ahead. Plumping hard for “wokesplaining” is pretty embarrassing.

                  And I’ll add that the social category under threat in this discussion is *not* “people who have had bad, frightening, or unpleasant experiences around people living on the street in urban environments”. It behooves us not to act as if it were.

                  ETA: I apologize in advance if I’ve missed something…I’m replying on a phone on the go with a migraine so I should be more sympathetic to misreadings.

                • MarciKiser

                  “… I’d be grateful.”

                  BP: “Anniecat’s experiences are worth hearing…”

                  If your claim now is this meant “Anniecat’s experiences are worth hearing, but obviously Shakezula didn’t think so,” then… OK. Seems disingenuous, as your support for Shakezula’s response is implicit in your response, but you’re the only one who has to live with that.

                  Regarding your long dismissal of my neologism: simply saying “you’re wrong” when I’ve laid out a clear parallel from the ______splaining word cluster and appropriately substituted one state of wiser-than-thou for another is just special pleading. You haven’t articulated one invalid element.

                  Condescending and dismissive, for those of us who are old enough to remember, are the words we used before we had _____splaining. Weird how you aren’t aware that the three words are a Venn diagram, not binary opposites. You keep wanting to marry this to “reverse racism”, but the nearest parallel is actually “holier-than-thou”, as wokeness is a self-conferred relative moral standing.

                  I was happy to leave wokesplaining with its single use, as it seemed an elegant and efficient term for someone whose wokeness leads them to be condescending and dismissive of others who lack that wokeness (e.g. Shakezula). You’re the one who worked themselves into a lather over it.

                  I suppose it is possibly embarrassing for one of us if you personally dislike the word but can’t articulate why beyond “it’s incoherent” or “you lack sufficient theoretical grounding in the history of mansplaining, I shall have to report this to the Académie française (département d’internet)” but that someone isn’t me.

                • If you can find where I wrote that Shake’s comment was snark free or that it didn’t begin with “Cool story” or that I said that Anniecat’s experiences were given a respectful hearing (if by “respectful” you mean snark free) I’d be grateful.

                  Normally, you’d expect a quote to the effect of “Shake’s comment was snark free”, etc. Here’s what you gave:

                  BP: “Anniecat’s experiences are worth hearing…”

                  Which…doesn’t mention Shake’s comment at all! It’s a weird quote for your interpretation:

                  If your claim now is this meant “Anniecat’s experiences are worth hearing, but obviously Shakezula didn’t think so”, then… OK. Seems disingenuous,

                  You’d actually do better with the full quote:

                  Second, isn’t the point obvious? Anniecat’s experiences are worth hearing, Anniecat’s experiences are worth hearing, but Shakezula’s demonstrating that, at least at a population level, visceral reactions aren’t solely generated by the first order experiences but partially by ideological framing.

                  It’s a little inartfully presented, for sure. I certainly believe that people’s actual experiences are worth hearing, but inferences from those arguments don’t merit deference. You folks are eliding these two things.

                  The point of Shake’s comment is the argument is flawed. Just presenting your experiences doesn’t establish any thing about Drum’s point or other generalisations which stigmitize homeless people.

                  Shakes doesn’t say much of anything in this comment about the experience per se.

                  Regarding your long dismissal of my neologism: simply saying “you’re wrong” when I’ve laid out a clear parallel from the ______splaining word cluster and appropriately substituted one state of wiser-than-thou for another is just special pleading.

                  Sigh. Look, no one is confused by the syntactic substitution. As I pointed out earlier in this thread that substitution is *incoherent*. I’ve already explain why but you didn’t go back and read that. So here it is again.

                  “White” and “woke” have different relations to explanatory ability. “White” does not give one explanatory privilege over “non white” (indeed, likely the contrary). “Woke” does give such explanatory privilege over “non-woke”. X-splaining requires that the x-splainer be 1) a true member of the category X and 2) there’s no good relation between being an X one being appropriate explainer. Thus “wokesplaining” is incoherent as is “informesplaining” or “correctsplaining” or “actuallyknowsmorethanyousplaining”. Compare with “woker-than-thou” which *is* a coherent analogical formation from “holier-than-thou” (indeed, both internally incoherent and coherent with the source locution).

                  There are lots of other problems with wokesplaining (including its potential as coded language).

                  I suppose it is possibly embarrassing for one of us if you personally dislike the word but can’t articulate why beyond “it’s incoherent”,

                  I’m sorry you couldn’t read my earlier comment and were incapable of noting the disanalogy between “white” and “woke” but there it is.

                • MarciKiser

                  The difficulty you’re having, it seems, is that you understand “white” and “woke” to have a different relation to explanatory ability. You think that woke does give explanatory privilege over the unwoke, because that’s where your sympathies lie. However, a whitesplainer explictly or implicitly thinks that whiteness (or the inherent privilege/socioeconomic vantage for which the term serves as a useful surrogate marker) gives them explanatory privilege over the non-white. It doesn’t really matter whether you or I agree with them. The white and the woke both think they’re right.

                  In my formulation neither term confers greater explanatory ability, so there is no issue with false equivalence. I don’t grant the woke the same dispensations you do. You privilege the self-declared “woke” and think they genuinely have a superior perspective — which, of course, is how this thread started and why wokesplaining is such an effective and efficient word. Your confusion actually demonstrates the need for such a term.

                  Hey. You’re committed to my perspective on the matter being “incoherent”, and I think there are clear problems with your definitions and analogy schematic. We have a fundamental disagreement as to the explanatory/moral superiority of the woke, and there’s no bridging that divide short of one side abjectly surrendering.

                  I’m content with my neologism and believe it serves a function. You think it’s incoherent. That’s ok. Unlike a wokesplainer, I’m actually fine with people having different opinions on a subject, opinions that are, based on their understanding of the situation, as valid as my own.

                  PS: There’s really no need for sighs and condescending remarks about my “incapability” to understand your point. I understand it just fine, we just happen to be working from incompatible axioms.

                • The difficulty you’re having, it seems, is that you understand “white” and woke to have a different relation to explanatory ability.

                  It’s not a difficulty, it’s the plain meaning of the words.

                  I already explored both forks of reading “woke” (the plain and the “undermined”).

                  You privilege the self-declared “woke”

                  Nope. Show me where Shakeszulu declared themselves “woke”.

                  and think they genuinely have a superior perspective — which, of course, is how this thread started and why wokesplaining is such an effective and efficient word.

                  Well, effective in doing bad things to discourse. Shakes made a bog standard point about the conclusion Anniecat was suggesting in her comment, and you (and others) decided not to respond to the point but say a bunch of other silly things. “Wokesplain” is effective in causing a lot of noise as well as undermining genuinely useful words such as “mansplain”.

                  I’m content with my neologism and believe it serves a function.

                  I believe it servers a function, just not a savaory one.

                  You think it’s incoherent.

                  I’ve demonstrated that it’s incoherent. The concept you are trying to push is coherent but wrong headed and wrongly applied here.

                  There’s really no need for condescending remarks about my “incapability” to understand your point. I understand it just fine,

                  This is clearly false as you made clear with:

                  I suppose it is possibly embarrassing for one of us if you personally dislike the word but can’t articulate why beyond “it’s incoherent”,

                  I can and did *before this comment* articulate why it’s incoherent.

                  This is a pattern. You attribute and misattribute claims, attitudes, and actual words to Shakes, me, and even yourself.

                • MarciKiser

                  Well, there’s your first difficulty. The meaning isn’t at issue, but its relative explanatory authority.

                  “Nope. Show me where Shakeszulu declared themselves “woke”.”

                  Show me where I said she declared that. You privilege them by assuming that possessing wokeness confers greater explanatory authority, as I said. These “misattributions” you accuse me of seem to be borne of your frequent misunderstandings, apparently due to the rigidity that comes with “this is what the word means because it’s the plain meaning of the word”, “I’ve demonstrated it’s incoherent because I’ve demonstrated that it’s incoherent to me” and other tautologies.

                  “The concept you are trying to push is coherent but wrong headed and wrongly applied here.”

                  Well, is it coherent or incoherent? You accuse me of incoherence, but I never flatly contradicted myself in the same post.

                  “I believe it servers a function, just not a savaory one.”

                  Speaking of incoherence… also, if you have to accuse someone of vaguely damaging ‘the discourse’, you’re already losing. The vague accusations of trying to justify “reverse racism” are a nice touch (I suppose if I was feeling frisky I could condemn you for misattributing my argument). But when it comes to the discourse, only one of us is convinced that they possess the One Truth on the matter and no further discussion is needed.

                  “I suppose it is possibly embarrassing for one of us if you personally dislike the word but can’t articulate why beyond “it’s incoherent”,”

                  Your articulation of incoherence is a flawed logical assessment because it rests on a different axiom, as I said. So no, you did not articulate why it’s incoherent. You articulated why it’s incoherent under your particular understanding of a word’s explanatory authority.

                  As I said, I’m content with us having different perspectives on the issue, and that if one agrees with your definitions and deployments of the key terms you’re correct. You’re the one who can’t seem to live with my not privileging wokeness with greater explanatory power than any of the other _____splaining entities.

                  So, be OK that I think wokeness has a different relation vis-a-vis explanatory authority, or continue to act as if your opinion is some inviolable truth that hasn’t been considered and rejected by someone whose fully capable of understanding you, condescending sighs and all, but disagrees with you on the fundamentals of the discussion.

                • Nope. Show me where Shakeszulu declared themselves “woke”.”

                  Show me where I said she declared that.

                  Here:

                  You privilege the self-declared “woke” and think they genuinely have a superior perspective

                  If “wokesplaining” applies to Shake’s comments, and the use of “woke” in it means “self-declared woke” then you’ve claimed that she is self-declared woke.

                  And really, this is the second fork of the dilemma of the incoherent of “wokesplaning”. If you want to appropriate “woke” as “faux woke”, then the analogical formation fails. “Mansplainers” aren’t ersatz *men*.

                  You articulated why it’s incoherent under your particular understanding of a word’s explanatory authority.

                  Not a word, but a person who is correctly and literally described by that word.

                  And this is funny since your original accusation was that I was merely asserting the incoherence.

                  So, be OK that I think wokeness has a different relation vis-a-vis explanatory authority, or continue to act as if your opinion is some inviolable truth that hasn’t been considered and rejected by someone whose fully capable of understanding you,

                  You certainly took a long time in understanding my point (or even that I *had* a point). Plus, it’s pretty clear that you are just wrong. “Woke” has a meaning. X-splaining has a structure. Your construction of “wokesplaining” requires you to change the meaning of “woke” (to “faux woke”) or change the pattern of X-splaining (which requires X to be a category unconnected with explanatory power). It’s just like “informed-splaining”.

                  Now you certainly can think that’s it’s worth this incoherence to express the (coherent) concept of “self professed, but not really, woke person relying on their woke status to condescend and devalue legitimate perspectives”. But there are a lot of problems with that and it doesn’t remotely apply to Shakes anyway.

                  And really. Assimilating “woke” to “white” or “man” gives the game away. I guess thanks for being so explicit about it?

                • MarciKiser

                  The difficulty you continue to have, of course, is that you cannot break yourself from the assumption that “woke” is an inherently positive word with positive explanatory authority. I do not agree: in its current usage, it is a neutral word that if anything has acquired negative explanatory authority, as it is a rhetorical posture that declares any disagreement de facto wrong, and enforces this by an implied lack of wokeness on the part of the persons who disagree. It’s a self-justifying credential that implicitly ends discussion.

                  If you do not reflexively privilege “woke” as a positive term, then there is none of the issue with “faux-woke” that is troubling you. So, I’m encouraging you to try and overcome your assumption of the term’s inherent virtue and consider it objectively.

                  Therefore, as your logic matrix is founded on axioms that are incompatible with mine (I’m assuming someone as educated as yourself is familiar with Euclidean vs. non-Euclidean geometry), and I don’t accept your premise, your conclusions aren’t sound. Repeating this “it’s incoherent because it’s incoherent” and not “it’s incoherent assuming my personal axioms and logical analysis” is just special pleading.

                  “And really. Assimilating “woke” to “white” or “man” gives the game away. I guess thanks for being so explicit about it?”

                  Right. So, I’ve tolerated a not-insignificant amount of condescension and generally unpleasant treatment from you. I’ve been far more accomodating and charitable to your perspective than you have to mine. And I’ve certainly never implied that your disagreeing with me is due to moral or character defects on your part. But now you’ve gone all-in with the ad hominem fallacy of sinister implication!!!

                  Always the sign of someone arguing in good faith.

                • The difficulty you continue to have, of course, is that you cannot break yourself from the assumption that “woke” is an inherently positive word with positive explanatory authority. I do not agree: in its current usage, it is a neutral word that if anything has acquired negative explanatory authority, as it is a rhetorical posture that declares any disagreement de facto wrong, and enforces this by an implied lack of wokeness on the part of the persons who disagree. It’s a self-justifying credential that implicitly ends discussion.

                  Nope.

                  Look, you have two horns:

                  1) “Woke” taken literally, which functions like “informed”. Thus incoherent. I think it’s a praise term because it *is* a praise term.
                  2) “Woke” taken non-literally. Of course, we need the specific kind of non-literalness. Your favored variant is self-profession cf “It’s a self-justifying credential that implicitly ends discussion.” But then it doesn’t fit the x-plaining pattern. A mansplainer isn’t something who wrongly self-claims the *credential* “man”. They *are* a man and “man” isn’t a credential. Thus incoherence (with the pattern).

                  You want 2, but 2 is still an incoherent neologism. It can be made to work by shifting and diluting the pattern.

                  In any case, since Shakes didn’t profess “wokeness” and didn’t argue from the authority of her wokeness (but, y’know, made actual arguments which you systematically ignore), even if we give you the (badly fitting) term for your concept, you application of the concept is clearly wrong. Shakes didn’t say, “I know better because I am woke” she argued that relevantly analgous first order experiences do not inevitably lead to the same claims of appropriate or “natural” population level disgust. You disingenuously ignore this point.

                  You and your pals want to bully Shakes by throwing up a silly term and a bunch of silly slander instead of engaging with the points. This isn’t good.

                • BTW, my first explication of the incoherence included both forks Given that you keep asserting that my incoherence claim rests on 1 alone is pretty conclusive evidence that you haven’t understood my point.

                • MarciKiser

                  “1) “Woke” taken literally, which functions like “informed”. Thus incoherent. I think it’s a praise term because it *is* a praise term.”

                  To you. I have yet to see the Académie française ruling on the subject.

                  For instance, Merriam-Webster ends its excellent precis on the origins and multiple uses of the term woke with:

                  “The broader uses of woke are still very much in flux, and there are some who are woke to the broader implications of woke…”

                  Like any neologism, its usage recursively affects how people understand the word (much as Trump supporters embraced the ‘deplorable’ label, or how conservatives turned ‘liberal’ into a slur). You’re not the authority on how other people understand the word, and you certainly don’t get to carve its definition in stone.

                  (I’m ignoring the Urban Dictionary “Huffington Post” definition, as it’s the sort of dismissive snark Shakezula’s exhibited throughout the discussion)

                  So in the formulation I’ve laid out, wokesplaining doesn’t even require the wokesplainer to claim “wokeness”. It simply requires that they assume the rhetorical posture that has negative explanatory authority of which wokeness has become a chronic practitioner, because it assumes any disagreement to be due to the inadequate cultural sensitivity/perception/understanding of the person who disagrees.

                  In short, when it comes to the analogy of “woke” to “holier-than-thou”, you think that the woke actually are holier than thou. And that’s a personal judgment, not an objective fact.

                  “(but, y’know, made actual arguments which you systematically ignore)…”

                  Yes, the dismissive introductory snark of “cool story”. I do remember. I don’t consider snide nonsense to be an actual good faith argument.

                  In sum: you refuse to accept that a new slang term can have multiple meanings or even be trivially or radically re-interpreted based upon its use to date, even though that has been the case of countless neologisms, particularly group labels, in the past.

                  As this discussion has reached a vicious circularity in which you assume that your understanding of a slang neologism is the only legitimate one, (a preposterous view, one I’m baffled that a person who has clearly spent time in the academy could hold), and as you continue to disingenuously elide your own abusive condescension and ad hominem sniping towards me, a stark contrast to my own accommodation of your own views, assume any response that does not include an apology will be ignored.

                • “1) “Woke” taken literally, which functions like “informed”. Thus incoherent. I think it’s a praise term because it *is* a praise term.”

                  To you. I have yet to see the Académie française ruling on the subject.

                  Sigh. Did you not see that I considered both cases? It’s incoherent on either reading.

                  And of course you actually do agree that the literal meaning of woke is a praise term or you wouldn’t talk about it as a self-proclaimed *credential*.

                  Silly.

                  It simply requires that they assume the rhetorical posture that has negative explanatory authority of which wokeness has become a chronic practitioner, because it assumes any disagreement to be due to the inadequate cultural sensitivity/perception/understanding of the person who disagrees.

                  1) you raised the self-proclaimed aspect. I understand why you abandon it, but it’s bad form to do so without acknowledgement.

                  2) then this has nothing to do with what Shake’s comment. She made an argument by relevant analogy. That you don’t engage with the argument doesn’t make it a bad argument.

                  Yes, the dismissive introductory snark of “cool story”. I do remember. I don’t consider snide nonsense to be an actual good faith argument.

                  Yes, if you ignore the bulk of her comment, she has no argument.

                  In sum: you refuse to accept that a new slang term can have multiple meanings

                  No, I pointed out that the neologism is incoherent…it fails no matter which way you define “woke”. You can, of course, make it stipulative, but that doesn’t stop it’s incoherence.

                  As you systematic ignore most of my and shake’s comments in order to argue against straw, your high horse is pretty hilarous.

                  , a stark contrast to my own accommodation of your own views

                  I agree! Your misattribution, misquotation, and outright misrepresentation is a form of “accomodation” which is in stark contrast to mine. Good job.

                  assume any response that does not include an apology will be ignored.

                  Cool story.

          • Ithaqua

            Oh look, some other person had a bad experience with something completely different, so your experience is invalid and shows you are a bad person!

            • I explained the point clearly enough. Pretending to something else doesn’t make for a persuasive reply.

              • Ithaqua

                Sorry, screwed up the reply button somehow, meant to reply to Shakezula above. I happen to disagree with your explanation of Shakezula’s comment, but clearly that would be a totally different response.

                • Ah ok.

                • Souris Grise

                  But some other person didn’t have a bad experience with something completely different. The particular “disgusting” Shakezula and Anniecat encountered, although not identical, were similar: Human effluvia, threatening behaviour, etc.

                  I don’t know of anything written to address the “disgusting” problem of college students, however. (Perhaps that’s just my ignorance?) That is, the same scenario is perceived differently depending on the identity of the scenario’s lead.

                  I think I’m foolishly trying here to restate Bijan Parsia’s (and Shakezula’s) insight and point. Which doesn’t need restating as it’s already clear, concise, and not vulnerable to charges of over reach:

                  “… at least at a population level, visceral reactions aren’t solely generated by the first order experiences but partially by ideological framing.”

                • I don’t know of anything written to address the “disgusting” problem of college students, however. (Perhaps that’s just my ignorance?) That is, the same scenario is perceived differently depending on the identity of the scenario’s lead.

                  The closest case I know of off hand is looking at reactions to white riots (which often haven’t been called “riots” and have often been highly consequential, e.g., the coup d’etat in Wilmington NC or the Brooks Brother’s “riot” in 2000).

          • drdick52

            Thank you.

    • kaydenpat

      The way to solve this problem is to help the homeless with affordable or subsidized housing. Your being disgusted by them is interesting but does nothing to address homelessness. It’s a shame that affordable housing isn’t more of a priority.

  • emjb

    I was so taken aback by his statement when it first started popping up. I mean, I was not brought up with enlightened attitudes toward the homeless, my parents ,tsk/tsked and assumed they were lazy. But even then there was no “disgust” just pity/anger/frustration. And since then, the only thing I feel is sadness, frustration and guilt (that I can’t do more/do much). It’s like it’s never occurred to Drum that nobody **wants** to pee in the street, sleep on the ground, or go without a shower for weeks; those are just your only options when you don’t have a home. I’ve also seen some articles that talk about how, when we assume the homeless are mentally ill, we don’t realize that it’s very difficult to ever get a full night’s rest when you’re homeless. You’re likely to have to get up and move a lot, or be assaulted, or have to endure rain/heat/cold. And people who are sleep deprived act loopy and disconnected, even if they have no other mental illness.

    • BigHank53

      A week of sleeping rough, fearsome stress, and eating badly can also turn a minor mental health issue into the galloping fantods.

    • Just_Dropping_By

      It’s like it’s never occurred to Drum that nobody **wants** to pee in the street

      Except that very clearly some people do want to — when someone whips out their penis and pees literally in the middle of a sidewalk or or on a signpost roughly 3 feet away from a group of people standing at a bus stop (both things I’ve personally witnessed) rather than stepping into a nearby alley or going behind a larger obstacle, there’s not really any other explanation.

      • drdick52

        Yes, but those are frat boys, so they get the benefit of the doubt.

  • Mike Travers

    I feel like defending Drum here, he’s talking about visceral reactions (which nobody can help and honesty requires that we acknowledge) but also says that we are morally required to override those reactions. Seems about right. Not all homeless inspire disgust reactions, but some do — like the guy on the subway whose unwashed BO fills up the whole car. I don’t put any moral culpability on him for stinking, but that doesn’t make it any less disgusting.

    I might point out that Freddie deBoer has weighed in on this and also condemns Drum. It’s a perfect platform for his typical moral posturing.

    • Repeating Drum’s assertion that the disgust is uncontrollable to defend Drum’s assertion that the disgust is uncontrollable isn’t a good defense of Drum’s assertion. I forget what sort of fallacy pointing to you-know-who’s disagreement with him is. Does anyone know?

      • Mike Travers

        I read him as saying that it *is* controllable: “In fact, overcoming reflexive feelings is what makes us decent human beings in the first place.”

        • A reflex is the opposite of controllable.

          • Mike Travers

            You can’t control a reflex; but you can control your response to that reflex.

            Now I’m not sure what your point is. We have some people who report that they have a reflexive reaction of disgust to (some) homeless people. If they can’t control it, then why do you condemn them? Are you denying their self-reporting?

            • Again: It is a learned response, saying it’s reflexive doesn’t make it so.

              As an aside, this is not self-reporting.

              You’d be crazy not to have a reflexive disgust of a population like that.

              • Ithaqua

                It is very likely not a learned experience. Our reaction to bad smells and people acting in bizarre ways is to avoid them. This seems to me to be rather a matter of evolution, you know, avoid the crazy person because they might injure or kill you, the person with highly unusual smells may have a disease that you can catch. Sure, the probability is low, but evolution works on low probability events too.

              • drdick52

                Indeed and it is heavily informed by our social values. Living in a college town, let me just say that our homeless population accounts for far lees of the public urination than overprivileged white frat boys and football fans. Also, have you ever been around a bunch of drunk, sweaty rugby players in a bar after a tournament (we have one here every year and I generally avoid the bars on those nights)?

          • ForkyMcSpoon

            You can retrain your reflexes, it just takes effort. You can learn to have someone swing their fist and stop within an inch of your face and not flinch. But it’s not going to happen unless you put effort into overcoming that reflex.

            Which is just to say that I don’t consider “reflex” to be the same as uncontrollable.

            But there are different types of reflexes, some are more universal, some are much harder to alter. I don’t think “disgust at the homeless” is like “closing your eyes when you sneeze”.

      • nominal

        Yesterday I walked by a guy shittting in a can by the door to a 7-11. Can I feel disgusted by that?

        Today a guy asked me for money who smelled so bad my daughter gagged. Can I feel disgusted by that?

        Just a wee but later a woman followed my other daughter into three different stores and an effin public bathroom asking for money. Can I be disgusted, A little worried, and perhaps angry about that?

        • Ithaqua

          I’d give this a lot more than one upvote if I could.

        • McAllen

          Good thing you’ve found the only three homeless people in existence so we don’t have to be guilty about being disgusted by the homeless as a class!

          • Ithaqua

            Wow, you must be really rich, to be so out of touch with what the homeless are like.

            • McAllen

              Just so I understand you, is your contention that every single homeless person shits in public and harasses people?

              • Ithaqua

                A little shifting of the goal posts there, eh? You go from “you’ve found the only three homeless people in existence” to “every single homeless person”.

                To make it perfectly clear to someone who has evidently not progressed past third grade reading / writing comprehension, you can in fact describe people as “Trump voters” or “Democrats” or “Japanese” without meaning to ascribe the particular behavior you are detailing to every single member of the group. There would be little use for collective nouns were that not so.

                • McAllen

                  If you said you found Japanese people disgusting because a Japanese person had harassed you in a bathroom, that would be a problem, yes? Similarly, the fact that a homeless people did so should not make you disgusted by all homeless people.

                • Drew

                  I don’t necessarily think it would be a problem. If you had a traumatic experience at the hands of a [insert race/ethnicity] and developed a fear/dislike of said group of people based on that, well..that wouldn’t be a *good* thing, but I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable directing opprobrium at them. It’s not comendable, it’s not rational, but it’s only human. People without said experience should be condemned though.

              • Ithaqua

                … and, to go into a little more detail on my background, my wife volunteered at the Berkeley Free Clinic for over 10 years and worked for many years as a critical care nurse at SF General, where homeless people routinely wind up (flesh-eating bacteria are one of the major causes for these visits.) I have been serving dinners to homeless people for I guess maybe 15 years now in the Berkeley area and I routinely give money to those I run into on the street, which is quite frequently. This does not mean that I don’t also think “geez, this person really smells” and “I’m glad there’s a cop at the top of the farmer’s market, where the crazy person is screaming at all the passers by”.

                • McAllen

                  This does not mean that I don’t also think “geez, this person really smells” and “I’m glad there’s a cop at the top of the farmer’s market, where the crazy person is screaming at all the passers by”.

                  No one is saying you can’t think those things! Just don’t generalize that disgust to all homeless people!

                • Ithaqua

                  Hmmm, we have interleaving replies going on here! I’ll stick with this for simplicity. Well, generalization is one of the very fundamental learning mechanisms; without it, we’d be way less advanced than we are (for better or worse.) Kevin’s point, as I read and interpret it, is that if you have encounters with the homeless, it’s quite possible to be disgusted by them, and that generalizes weakly to other homeless you may encounter in the future. That’s the way humans are. But a large part of the point of civilization is to overcome our reflexive, emotional responses to our fellow humans. So the disgust does not preclude treating the homeless with decency and respect, and offering some sort of helping hand.

                  So perhaps we disagree less when we step back and say “how should we treat the homeless – with disgust and rejection or with respect and decency?” and find ourselves in the latter camp, than we do when we focus on “disgust”, which can be, for example, a reflex to a really bad smell (as I use it and I believe Kevin mostly did) as well as a “You disgust me and I consider you worthless scum as a result so please go die in the gutter now” sort of meaning, to take it to an extreme in both directions.

        • Can you be disgusted by bad smells and aggressive people? Of course you can. See my comments about street harassment.

          Can you then say these anecdotes mean all homeless people are disgusting? Well, of course you can, but you’d be an ass.

          • tde

            Gosh, thanks for taking the brave step of admitting that some homeless people are disgusting.

            I don’t think anyone in this thread or in any of your links ever said that “all” homeless people are disgusting.

            What percentage of homeless people do you think are disgusting?

            • This is low quality trolling. I demand high quality trolling.

              • cpinva

                “This is low quality trolling. I demand high quality trolling.”

                as with most things in life, you gets what you pays for. :)

            • I don’t think anyone in this thread or in any of your links ever said that “all” homeless people are disgusting.

              From the linked Drum piece as quoted in the OP:

              About half the homeless suffer from a mental illness and a third abuse either alcohol or drugs. You’d be crazy not to have a reflexive disgust of a population like that. Is that really so hard to get?

              You can argue that his verbal generalisation doesn’t reflect a real generalisation (hard hard line) or you can split hairs and claim that reacting to a “population” isn’t the same as reacting to literally each member of the population (which misses the point) but come on. The survey seems to be catching a broad category and Drum agrees.

          • cpinva

            “Can you then say these anecdotes mean all homeless people are disgusting?”

            I may have missed it, but I didn’t get the impression that Drum, or anyone else, was making that assertion. i’m sure some people would, but I haven’t seen it on this thread. having worked in both the Federal Triangle in DC, and in downtown Richmond, VA, I noticed a commonality: they both have fairly large populations of homeless people, and I encountered many of them, on my way to/from work.

            about the only thing uniting them as a group, is that they were homeless.

        • Pretzelogic in Philly PA

          Can you, or anyone else, be disgusted by that? Of course, if you mean that you find the fact that one of the world’s wealthiest nations is so beset by wealth inequalities & other problems that many people have no other option to be disgusting. I share your revulsion against that.

        • DiogenesOfRVA

          Today a guy asked me for money who smelled so bad my daughter gagged. Can I feel disgusted by that?

          I mean, you’re more than welcome to, but I wouldn’t tell her you’re disgusted in her – she’s your daughter after all. You might want to warn her against international travel, though…

          …and an effin public bathroom asking…

          And here is where your story falls apart – there are no public bathrooms in the United States anymore.

          • Ithaqua

            Wrong. Gas stations, Barnes and Noble, the Pet Food Express I was in earlier today, fast food restaurants, Starbucks, and plenty of other places all have bathrooms available to the public. That is what “public bathroom” means these days.

            • DiogenesOfRVA

              The facilities installed at a private business are public now?

              • Ithaqua

                If they are for use by the public, yes, they are, in the common usage.

                • DiogenesOfRVA

                  Public use or customer use?

                • Ithaqua

                  I think you’re splitting hairs, here. Nobody refers to a McDonald’s restroom as “a private restroom available to the public”, but just says “There’s a McDonald’s! I need to use the bathroom!”

                • Incogneato

                  Are you actually so out of touch that you’re unaware that those bathrooms are for customers only?

              • Yes, in the sense that there are few public (you know, municipal) restrooms any more, except in some public parks.

                My favorites are hotels. Usually there’s a public rest room in/near the lobby/bar, & usually well maintained.

                • DiogenesOfRVA

                  Right, those are great, and they’re at the discretion of the hotel to let you use or not use.

                • Aaron Morrow

                  Upper class white guys can walk into upper class hotels with no problem and use their bathrooms: I agree!

                  Problem solved: I disagree!

                • Ithaqua

                  Almost anyone can walk into a McDonald’s with no problem and use their bathroom. And the original point here was Diogenes’ claim that there were no public restrooms in the U.S., which implied that Nominal’s comment was a lie. “Here is where your story falls apart” and all that.

                • Aaron Morrow

                  Nope, those bathrooms are often locked and for customers only.

                • Here in the big cities one often has to ask for a token to unlock the door.

                • Ithaqua

                  Ah… I mostly use them when driving long distances. And I don’t believe I’ve ever had to get a token to unlock the door, although I think I do at the Philly Cheese Steak place a few miles from my home.

                • Jon Hendry

                  When I lived in Chicago I occasionally used the bathrooms at the Marshall Fields department store if I was nearby in the Loop and had to go. I usually went to an upper floor, because those were cleaner. But there were no locks and they were multiple-stall bathrooms so a token or key for entry wouldn’t have made sense.

                  The upper floor bathrooms even had “no loitering” signs. IYKWIMAITYD

            • I think the city of L.A. passed a law requiring public restrooms in supermarkets sometime in the last 10 yrs., as there never used to be any, but now all supermarkets have public toilets.

            • Thirtyish

              I take it you aren’t familiar with New York. Even in most gas stations (or 7-11s and the like) here, using the restroom requires a code given only upon making a purchase. Guess which major metropolis has a large homeless population.

          • tde

            Warn her against international travel? You mean because the people in Japan, Italy, France, Britain, Iceland, Australia, Canada, etc. are inherently disgusting?

            What the fuck are you smoking?

          • So a restroom in a government building isn’t public?

        • RovingYouthPastor

          Are you disgusted by the event, or the person? If someone is mentally ill or financially destitute and shitting in a can because he has nowhere else to shit, you should be disgusted by the fact that that happens. But the person who does it in that case shouldn’t be the object of disgust.

          On the last point, there is a difference between aggressive panhandling and just asking “brother can you spare a dime”. I think it’s fine to be annoyed or upset or I guess frightened (I’m a pretty big guy, so I leave some room to admit it could be so for others) with anyone aggressively or persistently asking you for money. But I reserve my “disgust” for bigger problems.

        • Jon Hendry

          Yesterday I walked by a guy shittting in a can by the door to a 7-11. Can I feel disgusted by that?

          He used a can? Consider yourself lucky.

      • Ithaqua

        I think you’ve gone way, way past what Kevin said. He said “About half the homeless suffer from a mental illness” and that morphs to “my refusal to assume all homeless people are dangerous” in your somewhat intemperate reply. Just look at those two statements! How on earth do you get from “about half the homeless suffer from a mental illness” to “all homeless people are dangerous”? At this point, I won’t comment on your comment any more, because you evidently lost it somewhere while reading his post, so what’s the point?

        • He calls them potentially dangerous vagrants. Go away.

          • Ithaqua

            And, as someone who was attacked by a homeless person in a toy store, along with several other people, I fail to see why I should be the one who goes away.

            • Incogneato

              I was attacked by a white guy once, therefore it’s cool for me to be disgusted by white guys. Because that’s how it works I guess.

      • Sentient AI From The Future

        The fallacy of being a fucking shitheel?

    • McAllen

      Drum is not saying merely that some people have disgust reactions to homeless people but that you’d be crazy not to.

      • Sorry, not intended for you, McAllen.

      • Joe Paulson

        “You’d be crazy not to have a reflexive disgust of a population like that. Is that really so hard to get?” Maybe that is too much.

        But, after that reflex, you can have empathy. After all, “overcoming reflexive feelings is what makes us decent human beings in the first place.”

      • Alex

        He specifically says that people would be “crazy” not to feel disgust toward homeless people, partly because homeless people have a high rate of mental illness.

        This is a classic “You’re disgusting if you don’t share my feeling of disgust” statement, and a way that disgust spreads.

    • A clue: MENTAL ILLNESS!! These people are not wandering around experiencing hallucinations, smelling bad & so forth just because they think it disgusts you.

      The human reaction should be sympathy, empathy & understanding, not disgust.

      • Paul Thomas

        We evolved a disgust reaction (and not, by and large, a “sympathy, empathy & understanding” reaction) for a reason, and the reason sure as hell isn’t that nature is a moral force for good. Nature is a psychopathic bitch.

        Or, to be even more blunt, your ideas of how we “should” react are irrelevant to any real-world phenomena.

        • MarciKiser

          The reason people might react negatively to the homeless can be found in evolutionary psychology? That ‘ academic discipline’ really is a one-stop shop.

          • Paul Thomas

            I don’t doubt that evo-psych produces far more than its share of just-so stories, but when you’re literally discussing dominance hierarchies among members of a human group, it seems pretty squarely on point to me.

        • I’m not saying that some people don’t smell awful, nor am I saying I don’t have a gag reflex.. All you homeless-phobes are saying that they’re disgusting & therefore to hell w/ them. Again, they aren’t being “disgusting” just to piss you off.

          • Paul Thomas

            Where did this “and therefore to hell with them” inference come from? Because it sure isn’t either from anything I’ve written here (I threw out a policy proposal elsewhere on the thread which is a long way from saying “to hell with them,” though it’s yet to draw a critique) or from Drum’s post.

          • Jon Hendry

            “Again, they aren’t being “disgusting” just to piss you off.”

            Disgust isn’t really a reaction that depends on the intent of the perpetrator.

            I’m pretty sure a rotting, disemboweled roadkill raccoon isn’t doing it on purpose but it’s still fucking disgusting and I’m not about to sit down to eat lunch next to it.

          • Ithaqua

            This is simply false.

        • Yes, you “evolved” said reflex so you can condemn/ignore anyone who doesn’t fit your standards.

          • Paul Thomas

            Well, I didn’t evolve it MYSELF, but yes, I’d put money that that is exactly why the emotion of disgust evolved.

            The point you seem to be determinedly missing is that we live in a civilized society, not some kind of Hobbesian state of nature, and thus can actually do better than unthinkingly following through on whatever our visceral reactions tell us. The way to do better is through public policy, not pointing and shaming.

            • Then stop pointing at & shaming people who have little or no control over their condition.

          • Ithaqua

            We evolved it so that we wouldn’t engage in behaviors that might get us injured or killed with little return, like eating the rotting, disemboweled roadkill raccoon off the highway.

        • Tehanu

          “your ideas of how we “should” react are irrelevant to any real-world phenomena.”

          So human sympathy and empathy aren’t “real-world” phenomena? Only biologically evolved reactions like disgust are? In that case, what about the disgust your comment awoke in me?

      • NewishLawyer

        But what if people support subsidized housing because it is out of sight and out of mind?

      • Jon Hendry

        If we see a mentally ill homeless person masturbating in front of children do we have your permission to feel sympathy, empathy & understanding and also disgust?

        • Incogneato

          Not for an entire class of people you don’t.

          If I see a white person masturbating in front of children do I have your permission to feel that all white people are disgusting? That’s the real question at hand here.

    • pseudalicious

      I didn’t like how Drum wrote his column. That said, yeah, I mean… when I see someone moving or behaving in a way that seems erratic, I do automatically get nervous, it’s like a reflexive “Will this person hurt me?” response. But we control what we do after that reflexive feeling. However, the way Drum wrote it definitely felt a little… I don’t know if “smug” is the word, but I can easily see how people were put off by it.

      ETA: I should add, re: my use of “erratic” moving or behaving — I battle with mental illness. Luckily, I don’t have the kind where you hallucinate, I’m functioning well right now, and I have class privilege, so that mitigates it. Just flashing my “card,” I guess, in case I’m coming off like I’m just being a hater against those with MI.

      • RovingYouthPastor

        I think this is fair. My issue is with the “disgust”. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that’s a strong word with heavy moral connotations.

        I wouldn’t call my 2 month old nephew or my 90 year old grandma disgusting for shitting themselves; I would call a drunk frat guy such for doing the same.

        • pseudalicious

          Yeah, that was a mistake on his part, as someone with a wide platform.

          • bw

            The word “disgust” isn’t Drum’s: he’s just communicating the term that was used in the original paper he’s discussing – one which the authors went so far as to try to quantify each of their subjects’ relative sensitivity to.

            I can’t speak for the authors, but from the following passage, I would guess that their explanation for why we tend to find a 50-year-old intoxicated stranger covered in poop disgusting and a 1-year-old child of ours covered in poop less disgusting is that the latter does not look “atypical”: from experience, we expect that an infant of ours is going to crap themselves and need looking after, whereas we tend to compare middle-aged strangers against the baseline of most other middle-aged strangers we encounter, who tend not to crap themselves.

            We tend to perceive others who look atypical as potential sources of disease. Homeless people often lack access to proper health care and sanitation, and they are often covered by the media in ways that refer to disease. As a result, they may be perceived as pathogen threats.

            Disgust, then, prompts people to avoid its source, but it doesn’t necessarily cause people to dislike its source. Consider how you might feel about a sick person: you might want to help them while also keeping a careful distance.

            I think there are probably some legitimate criticisms of Drum’s word choice (“crazy” is the big one) and perhaps more legit substantive criticisms of the Clifford/Piston paper (they aren’t psychologists and their analysis of “disgust” might be shakier than they make it out to be) but…seems like an awful lot of commenters here are talking past both Drum and Clifford/Piston.

        • ExpatJK

          I agree with you on this, disgust is a problematic term for me here as well.

          Signed, parent of a toddler with the “child shits themself on a regular basis” age still fresh in my memory

        • Jon Hendry

          “I wouldn’t call my 2 month old nephew or my 90 year old grandma disgusting for shitting themselves”

          However, one should not lose sight of the fact that a shitty ass and diaper are in fact disgusting, so one shouldn’t change your toddler’s diaper on a restaurant table.

          • RovingYouthPastor

            The point is moral judgement requires more than the mere presence of things which are physically unpleasant. Drum did not do a good job of emphasizing that distinction. Is it natural to be disgusted by a smell, sure. But to say then it is innate that we are disgusted by the person whom the smell comes from is a jump, and one that has proven to lead to bad consequences.

            African Americans just after the end of slavery were often in a very poor place economically and education wise. A large number of white supremacists used this kind of reasoning: “Blacks are poor and uneducated. It’s natural to despise poverty and ignorance. Therefore, its natural to despise blacks.” Drum is playing with some rhetoric that feeds into bad things. I don’t think this was his direct intention, but in his position he should know better.

    • Alex

      >>he’s talking about visceral reactions (which nobody can help and honesty requires that we acknowledge)

      A couple recent-ish studies have shown that straight people have a disgust reaction to gay men, so this hits too close to home for me.

      I’d consider the cultural differences in disgust reactions proof enough that disgust is learned behavior on some level. Also too, look at little kids, who are just plain disgusting but don’t seem to know it, but eventually learn it and stop being so disgusting. In fact, kids as young as 5 months avoid toys if an adult makes a “disgust” face toward it, and seeing someone else using a disgust facial expression causes viewers to feel disgust themselves, even in adults.

      Saying “it’s innate and can be overcome” is assuming facts not in evidence. It could also be socially conditioned. “honesty requires that we acknowledge,” in this context, is the functional equivalent of “we should repeat it so that others learn it.”

  • The only fucking “disgust” I feel when seeing mentally ill people wandering the streets covered in their own filth is for this pig society that allows (forces) its citizens to live that way. Drum’s disgust priorities seem backward.

    And by the way, we’re going to be seeing a lot more homeless people very soon (already on the upswing in Los Angeles County) & most of them will be victims of the economy & cuts in housing subsidies, not the mentally ill & unemployable. What’ll Drum say then?

    • kaydenpat

      Drum will say that it’s awful how he is being inundated with nasty homeless people who reflexively repulse him. Somehow it’s all about him versus finding a solution to the problem of homelessness.

    • NewishLawyer

      The old response to the mentally ill was to lock them up and throw away the key. We don’t do this anymore but I am not sure how society has created a better response.

    • Asteroid_Strike_Brexit

      That is an extremely uncharitable reading of Drum’s article. Drum thinks the homeless should be helped, and everyone knows it.

      • They he should stop reacting like an eight-yr. old (“Eeeeew, gross!!”) & demonizing them, & start helping. Step one is to seize all rental housing from the landlords. Ball’s in your court, K.D.

      • I agree that Drum thinks that the homeless should be helped. I also agree that I know this. And yet, I think Drum’s article is very broken.

        Words matter. How we conceptualise things matter. Drum’s a writer and he should (and does!) know this.

        I’ll note that he seems to be misreading the blog post. Consider:

        We also showed that news coverage of homelessness can activate disgust sensitivity by referring to disease and uncleanliness. In an experiment embedded in our survey, respondents were randomly assigned to one of two groups, and each group read a short paragraph about homeless people. In the first (control) group, respondents read a paragraph with generic references to homelessness. In the second (treatment) group, respondents read a story that mentioned concerns about public urination, littering, and keeping communities clean and sanitary.

        In the control group, which omitted direct references to disease or sanitation, we found the pattern described above. People who were more sensitive to disgust were about 11 percentage points more likely to support banning panhandling than those less sensitive to disgust, and about 17 percentage points more likely to support banning sleeping in public.

        But the reactions shifted among those in the treatment group who read the paragraph with references to disease. Readers sensitive to disgust became 24 points more likely to say panhandling should be banned and 23 points more likely to support bans on sleeping in public. That’s a shift of 13 and 6 percentage points, respectively.

        Part of the key distinction they are exploring is between the more and less disgust sensitive. The disgust sensitive are much more likely to support criminalisation and bans. (Interestingly! they aren’t less likely to support positive policies…but perhaps some fraction for “out of sight” reasons (the blog post didn’t say) while others for compassion/justice reasons, I’d hope.)

        A striking result is how much the gap widens if you activate the disgust sensitives’ disgust.

        This shows how important it is to be very careful in our discussions. Drum’s not being careful

    • Tsotate

      Hopefully, what Drum will say then is “Excuse me, can you spare a dollar?”

      Why anyone employs that man to write, I have no idea.

  • Pretzelogic in Philly PA

    The issue of homelessness is MUCH larger than most people realize (apparently including Mr. Drum). The population which so disgusts him is merely the unsheltered portion of the homeless in America. Most of us (yes, us) are not camping outdoors.

    The total population of homeless in America includes millions more who, for various reasons, have like myself lost (hopefully only temporarily) the ability to afford/maintain a home of our own. Like myself, they wind up “couch surfing” with incredibly generous & patient friends and family. There are people who wouldn’t count me & the millions more in my predicament as “really” homeless (some feel more comfortable calling us “at risk”). Fuck those people. Without for an instant denying that the unsheltered population is a more emergent problem (I am, & will forever be, enormously grateful to those who have kept a roof over my head) the fact remains that I used to have my own home, & now I don’t. And I know the damn difference.

    • kaydenpat

      Well said. Drum’s stereotyping of the homeless populace isn’t helpful at all. It feels like a way to demonize them and encourage society to wash its hands of helping them.

  • efgoldman

    Drum lives in mostly warm, mostly sunny Southern California, where it’s relatively [RELATIVELY, people, not absolutely] easy to survive outdoors.
    For homeless people. or even inadequately housed people, here in New England, Chicago, Detroit, New York (especially upstate) where there is real winter, just surviving 4-6 months of winter is an unbelievable challenge.

    • In D.C. we have dangerously cold and dangerously hot weather. Sometimes within a few hours, it seems.

      • efgoldman

        In D.C. we have dangerously cold and dangerously hot weather.

        Of course you do. Generally the winters are fiercer in Northern cities. My point is, I think Drum is ignoring that because of where he lives.

        • It was mostly a joke about the weather. (But it is dangerous for people who can’t get out of it.)

          As for Drum, his complaints about the homeless are bog standard complaints about the homeless. I’ve heard the same thing from people here.

          • And we’re still hearing it from people here.

    • No sheet. Spent Jan to Sep’t. 2008 urban camping. When the shelters closed in March I slept under playground equipment in the park behind the Federal Bldg. in West L.A. Only rained once.

      And being “bi-polar” rather than schizophrenic, I managed to function, shower every few days, & not get in any trouble. Or panhandle.

      • I’m sorry for the shameful treatment you experienced by our society.

    • kaydenpat

      True because surviving cold winters indoors can be problematic for some Americans with the high cost of heating oil and electricity. Can’t imagine what it would be like to survive out in the elements.

  • Joe Paulson

    I was listening to a doctor on Fresh Air discussing her treatment of the mentally ill, including the homeless, and the question of odor arose. She explained she understood the homeless had no good opportunity to shower (rightly avoiding shelters as dangerous). The worst thing there was fungus.

    But, the average person, while understanding this, can still be “reflexively” disgusted, human reactions to odor not suddenly disappearing because we understand why. The same applies to aggressive panhandling or whatever.

    The article was in response to a finding that people supported helping the homeless, but opposed things that they had more chance of directly experiencing unfavorably (panhandling/sleeping in public). Drum says that we should have empathy for the homeless, not letting reflexive reactions to stop us. In the end, after that reflexive reaction, not just be disgusted. I think this is hurt by Drum’s one-side expression of the homeless in his brief comment. He does himself no favors there.

  • DiogenesOfRVA

    Homeless people aren’t snakes or spiders or heights – the idea that people have some sort of innate, uncontrollable repulsion to a class of their fellow humans just because they’re bad at capitalism is a bunch of shit.

    Yeah, some homeless people are dirty and are *forced* to defecate and urinate in public, but what the fuck do people think happens when you close public restrooms and leave restaurants and other businesses to fill the gap at their own discretion? Watching someone shit in public is sure gross, but it’s mighty uncommon because homeless people are still people and still feel shame and the vast majority have the decency to try to get out of public view, which is more than I can say for drunk college students and recent graduates who have no problem pissing wherever they please if they have to go after last call. Also, hey, someone’s pooping in a can, it’s a shame you don’t have muscles in your neck that allow for longitudinal motion of the head.

    The park bench thing is particularly galling – if there’s a demand problem then just install more benches! Don’t tear out the ones that exist and replace them with new benches that have dividers built into that prevent both homeless people from sleeping there and everyone else from sitting comfortably and enjoying themselves. And don’t run water sprinklers at nightfall to soak people into leaving, either.

    I stopped reading Drum years ago when I found other writers I liked more, but this is still really disappointing coming from him.

    PS: Obligatory reminder that the rest of society is more of a threat to the homeless than the homeless are to the rest of society: https://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2016/dec/23/homeless-crisis-report-attack-violence-sleeping-rough

    • Pretzelogic in Philly PA

      Thank you. I’d upvote more than once if I could.

    • pseudalicious

      I actually didn’t know there used to be public — actually public — restrooms. I always took this to mean “bathrooms that a business lets the public use and you don’t have to buy anything first”.

      • DiogenesOfRVA

        I don’t know if it’s an age thing – I’m 35 – or a function of where I grew up, but both the suburban parks of my childhood and the urban parks of my adulthood used to have freely available public restrooms that have since been shuttered.

        The year I worked at the Virginia Beach oceanfront was – in particular – an illuminating experience in just how public these “public” restrooms located in private businesses are.

        • pseudalicious

          Oh, that’s true, I guess there are the restrooms in parks and pools. If there have been restrooms in shopping districts of major cities that simply exist *as* restrooms and are only there because the city government put them there, it’s not something I’ve ever been aware of.

            • Paul Thomas

              Now THAT’s a motion I’ll second. There are all sorts of reasons why available public toilets are valuable– disability access is a big one, as is the somewhat obvious fact that people suffer avoidable pain and discomfort when they can’t use a bathroom.

          • If there have been restrooms in shopping districts of major cities that simply exist *as* restrooms and are only there because the city
            government put them there, it’s not something I’ve ever been aware of.

            Municipal (men’s) toilets were known, in some times and places, as locations for cruising, and on some accounts the (now, I think, rather dated) locution “tea-room” arose as much from “T-room”, for “t”oilets, as from the supposed effeminacy of any male who would patronize “a room in which tea is served in a refreshment-house, etc.” (other than, perhaps, “notably, that of the British House of Commons, the scene of numerous informal meetings of members;” both quotations from the OED, where, after that last semicolon, their lexicographers also give the “U.S. slang” definition “a public lavatory used as a meeting-place by homosexuals”). The elimination (heh) of municipal toilets in U.S. cities during my lifetime was often justified at the time (publicly, if not officially) by homosexual panic, though financial considerations were (I think) paramount; homelessness wasn’t even on the horizon (at least, as I remember things).

            P.S.: “restroom” is a vulgar euphemism for “toilets”, though I find both “lavatory” and the Canadianism “washroom” equally vulgar. (Of course an actual restroom equipped with a couch for the use of women workers who had come over all faint because of lady-problems, such as used to be mandated in—at least—Massachusetts, entirely deserves the name. But they too have been eliminated, and were never public.) Now, of course, “toilet(s)” is dysphemistic, and “privy” is entirely obsolete. I blame evolution.

            • Jon Hendry

              I used to use the bathrooms at Marshall Fields’ department store in Chicago. I’d go to an upper floor because those were less often used, so cleaner. There was a “no loitering” sign, because presumably people found the relative lack of traffic advantageous for other reasons.

            • Origami Isopod

              IIRC, the “tea” in “tearoom” refers to urine.

      • Jon Hendry

        Public libraries, being municipally owned, have public bathrooms. Also train stations like Philly’s 30th Street Station are typically public buildings.

    • Paul Thomas

      There seem to be some pretty basic reading-comprehension failures going on here. I read Drum to be saying that this reaction is innate but IS controllable, and that in fact we are morally obligated to control it. That’s… not remotely the same thing as you are ranting about.

      And it strikes me that we’d be better served putting our money into legitimate housing than building more park benches as extremely shitty ersatz housing, but whatever.

      • DiogenesOfRVA

        There seem to be some pretty basic reading-comprehension failures going on here.

        No, that’s occurring in the other place you responded to me, but as we’ll see later, you’re having that problem here as well.

        but IS controllable

        And now the punchline, per Drum…

        You’d be crazy not to have a reflexive disgust of a population like that.

        One more thing to address and then I’m done chewing on you.

        And it strikes me that we’d be better served putting our money into legitimate housing than building more park benches as extremely shitty ersatz housing, but whatever.

        Your moral posturing in a situation where doing one thing does not necessitate not doing another has been noted. Sure, we can build more park benches, we can build more houses, we can build more park benches AND more houses, but I was responding very directly to Drum’s lament about a lack of park bench space.

        But whatever.

        • Paul Thomas

          1. …yeah, no, I reread it and the piece still doesn’t say “uncontrollable.” That’s strictly your tinted-goggles reading of it.

          2. “doing one thing does not necessitate not doing another”: dafuq? Cities do not have unlimited budgets. Every expenditure pushes out some other expenditure at the margins. It’s literally the case that doing one thing necessitates not doing another.

          Granted, it may well be that you can build some number of both houses and park benches by looting the money from some other program– and in some instances, those programs might actually be crappy ones that ought to be looted– but that still doesn’t explain why you would be building park benches and not just more housing.

    • Jon Hendry

      “The park bench thing is particularly galling – if there’s a demand problem then just install more benches!”

      Or provide things that are better suited for what the homeless are using them for, for the homeless. More comfortable sleeping platforms with shelter from the elements, etc. Or, you know, actual homes.

  • DiogenesOfRVA

    Also, I’ve noticed panhandling bans are one of those places where the usual suspects involved in free speech fetishism and first amendment absolutism have decided to engage in a ceasefire. A student organization wants to set up a safe space? That’s the worst threat to human progress there ever was! A city wants to tell people they can’t ask their fellow citizens for money? *crickets riding tumbleweed*

  • Sentient AI from the Future

    Good lord, this is exactly the wrong topic to discuss for me right now when I’m in my feels.
    I spent half a decade houseless. And another decade working towards a social role that I thought would permit me to genuinely help people in similar straits. And once I got into [profession] school, my mission, which was clear as fucking day from both my application and my in-person pleadings, was completely ignored, and I would say deliberately avoided. Which became depression because history of depression and PTSD from a previous lifetime of similar abuse.

    I now have no degree and 400+k of student loans, largely because I didn’t avail myself of title ix protections soon enough in my educational process.

    And then trump got “elected”

    Incidentally, I’m looking for a job….

    • pseudalicious

      I”m really sorry. That fucking sucks.

    • My utmost sympathies.

    • Origami Isopod

      I’m so sorry.

  • RovingYouthPastor

    I really can’t see where he’s getting the “innate-ness” from. I mean, for about all of our evolutionary history we all lived and shitted outdoors and didn’t shower. Its hard to see how that gene for disgust crept up so quick.

    • Ithaqua

      It’s a question of “different”. If everyone smells bad, no-one smells bad. If a person smells a lot different than anyone else, that’s a signal. If everyone shouts threats at the top of the farmer’s market, no-one cares. If one person suddenly appears and does it, that’s a signal that something is wrong with that person. And “wrong”, in both cases, is “potentially dangerous”, as in disease, or maybe they have a knife (gee that’s never happened!)

  • Veleda_k

    Look, mentally ill people and addicts are inherently disgusting. I don't make the rules.

  • Steve LaBonne

    Forget it, Shake- it’s Drumtown.

    • Aaron Morrow

      Kevin “Liberals should probably ignore my racism and sexism” Drum has condescending opinions about people who aren’t like him?

      Do tell…

  • kaydenpat

    At least Drum didn’t advocate throwing the homeless in prison so that good, decent upstanding folk like him wouldn’t have to be reflexively nauseated by them all the dang time.

    I’ve yet to read where Jesus shared his reaction to the poor.

    • I find that a very fine hair less ominous than the people who just want some of their fellow citizens to go away.

      No explanation as to where they’ll go or how they’ll get there, just that they leave because eewww!

  • GroverGardner

    I have to speak up for Kevin as well. It’s a genuine dilemma. Here in Medford OR we had a large city park near our house that, over the ten years we’ve been here, devolved into a camp ground for the homeless. They recently renovated the park into a lovely facility, with playgrounds, a water park, tennis and basketball courts and a dog park. It isn’t for the elite, by any means. We live in a very mixed neighborhood with a lot of middle- and low-income housing. The park is now crowded with families every day of the week. It’s a much safer, more pleasant place to go. The neighborhood kids like to bike down there and hang out. We parents never would have allowed before the change.

    Since then, a lot of the homeless people have gravitated to a small park in the center of downtown that was recently refreshed with new planting, a gazebo, paths and benches. Naturally folks who work in the area and want to take a lunch break in the park aren’t happy. There’s a healthy debate about how to deal with the problem.

    Medford isn’t an elite town. It’s a mix of conservative and liberal. It’s no country club, I assure you. People here care about the homeless, but they bring their own set of problems with them, including drugs, alcoholism and, occasionally, violence. It’s not fair to tell people they’re “disgusting” for wanting to maintain a pleasant, safe environment while still desiring to solve a very intractable problem.

    • Sentient AI From The Future

      Dude, fuck you

      • GroverGardner

        No, I’m sorry, that’s a stupid response. Reply with something meaningful or fuck off yourself. I expect more from the commenters on this blog.

        • Dude, read Sentient’s other comments in this thread. The reply is very meaningful in context and if you read your comment while trying to see it from their perspective you might feel differently about your own.

          • GroverGardner

            Okay, I read his other comments and I see his point. Fair enough.

            • Thanks for checking out the other comments and reconsidering. It’s too rarely done.

        • Sentient AI From The Future

          You’re going to whine about this shit from fucking Medford? Seriously, fuck you.
          How’s that?

          • Ithaqua

            This seems to me to be getting close to bannable behavior.

          • GroverGardner

            Come to think of it, you’re right. That’s exactly what my comment deserved, a big “fuck you.”

    • It’s not fair to tell people they’re “disgusting” for wanting to
      maintain a pleasant, safe environment while still desiring to solve a
      very intractable problem.

      Sure it’s fair. Being unhappy because one has to share a park with less fortunate fellow citizens is disgusting. What’s not fair is that some people have to sleep outdoors.

      • GroverGardner

        I’m perfectly aware that it isn’t fair. Which is why I welcomed a low-income housing project in our neighborhood and support the “tiny house” initiative here, and donate food and clothing to the local shelter. Not that these things make me a saint. I’m also aware that I have reflexive feelings of, not disgust, but fear toward homeless people. I think a lot of people feel the same way. I’m sympathetic to that, but less sympathetic toward people who simply refuse to wrestle with the problem that exists on both sides.

    • Hondo

      So the city spent a couple hundred thousand sprucing up a couple parks? Great. Now you should tell them to spend some money helping the homeless by opening shelters, and providing food, medical care, and counseling. And tell them you’d be willing to have your taxes raised to pay for it.

      • GroverGardner

        We DO tell them to spend money–on low-income housing, “tiny houses,” showers and bathrooms for the homeless, food and shelter whenever possible, and medical clinics. I’m HAPPY to pay more taxes, and HAVE–Medford is tax-allergic but we’re better than Josephine County next door, which won’t even shell out for police and fire protection. Up in Curry County they just closed all the libraries. We SAVED ours with a tax initiative. My mortgage payment went up $50 a month. I’m not complaining. So don’t be so quick to scold, eh?

        • Hondo

          I don’t think I was scolding. You can’t have a thin skin around here.

          • GroverGardner

            I probably chose the wrong word. But your reply intimates that it never occured to me to commit to solutions. And I don’t think my skin is abnormally thin. That doesn’t mean I won’t push back.

    • Paul Thomas

      I think the dilemma stems largely from the fact that our political order has, in one of the many truly moronic insanities of “Our Federalism,” assigned primary responsibility for remedying homelessness to subnational bodies that have no power whatsoever to control movement across their borders.

      The only way to even attempt to actually fix the problem is through federal legislation. Even state-level attempted solutions will be defeated by internal migration; trying to fix it on a locality level is the epitome of futility.

      • GroverGardner

        I agree, to some extent. Medford residents are prone to “thank” Northern California for our homeless. (That’s a wry observation, lest it need be said.) We’re generally pretty kind to the homeless here. Nobody wants to lock them up. There’s a pretty strong movement here to cope with it and try to help.

        • Paul Thomas

          A discussion that might actually go somewhere meaningful is to ask what a progressive federal attack on homelessness might look like.

          I’ll throw out “massive expansion of Section 8 plus grants to localities for direct-intervention mental-health care for people who have difficulty making use of vouchers.”

    • Why is it so “intractable”? All it takes is money/affordable housing/simple human decency.

      • All it takes is money/affordable housing/simple human decency.

        A single answer to “Why is it so ‘intractable’?” would have sufficed; three is overkill.

    • Drew

      It’s tough because homeless people have just as much right to use a public park, or library. I don’t have any sympathy for middle class people who want to shelter their children and are shrieking harpies about “ew smelly homeless.” But to the extent that any of them are dangerous, that is a problem.

    • Incogneato

      But telling people they’re disgusting because they can’t afford a home is TOTALLY FINE, I guess.

  • MarciKiser

    “If you’ve ever disliked anything a homeless person said or did, you’re a disgusting, indecent human being.”

    Interesting thesis statement. I believe we call that the fallacy of the excluded middle.

    • I know we call this a strawman.

      • MarciKiser

        Gosh, we’re both so highly educated.

        While we’re on the subject of learned vocabularies, I assume you’d agree that denying the validity of another person’s experience with one or several homeless persons (say a small woman walking alone), just because it doesn’t match yours, is the very definition of the myopia of privilege, right?

        • Anecdote and appeal to emotion so soon?

          • MarciKiser

            I think that if we’re going to rightfully insist that people be allowed to express their own truth, that right shouldn’t be limited just to the people who are telling us the stories we want to hear.

            There are people who have lived different lives than you. Your righteous outrage doesn’t mean you get to declare their experiences and perceptions aren’t valid.

            • I might be more receptive to this comment about people expressing their own truths if this exchange hadn’t begun with a deliberately false characterization of my post.

              However, if Drum had said “I’m disgusted by homeless people …” he’d be a shitty person, but a different sort of shitty person. Instead he attempts to project his beliefs onto everyone and calls those who don’t agree with him crazy. That’s not expressing a truth. That’s attempting to rationalize a bias.

              • MarciKiser

                And your claim that “decent human beings aren’t disgusted by people who are extremely vulnerable,” states that any person whose ever experienced visceral disgust (which several readers have noted is the most likely interpretation of Drum’s usage) is an indecent human being.

                Even when you don’t know what may have triggered that visceral reaction.

                Even when that visceral reaction is completely sublimated.

                Even when that same visceral reaction might be provoked by someone who isn’t homeless.

                I’m shocked I have to lay out the case for not othering people just because their lives contain moments you wot not of.

                • Yes, being disgusted by people who are sick and incredibly unlucky is disgusting.

                  Even when someone proffers some vague hypotheticals about life experiences and mental state. Although suggesting it’s happening at some level the disgusted person isn’t aware of and so can’t analyze or articulate is a nice touch.

                  However, the use of the term othering to describe my response to a privileged member of society saying he is disgusted by the least privileged members of society is over the top. Next time stop with the psychotherapy stuff.

                • MarciKiser

                  I’m sorry, who is the privileged member of society here?

                  Or were your aspersions specifically meant to apply to Kevin Drum and no one else?

                  As I said before, your righteous outrage doesn’t give you the authority to ignore another person’s experiences just because they’re theoretically inconvenient, or just because you haven’t lived their lives and don’t seem interested in learning.

                • Alex

                  You’re saying that it’s Kevin Drum’s experience that all homeless people are disgusting and that every single person who is not disgusted by homeless people is crazy?

                  I don’t think he has actually met enough people that this qualifies as his experiences.

                  You can’t just label something “personal experience” just to avoid criticism. It has to actually be a personal experience.

            • RovingYouthPastor

              What if we don’t each get to have our “own truth” and there is just one truth that a class of people shouldn’t be labeled “disgusting” based on vague anecdotes and sloppy generalizations?

              • MarciKiser

                Can we also say that people shouldn’t be labeled indecent if they’ve ever had a visceral reaction? I’ll sign yours if you sign mine.

  • Linnaeus

    You’d be crazy not to have a reflexive disgust of a population like that.

    Call me crazy, but I’m far, far more disgusted by the folks in Congress who are trying to take away my health insurance than I am by the homeless man I saw a couple of hours ago.

    • Porkman

      Did he say he didn’t have a disgust for congress? Kevin Drum writes far more about Congress and their disgusting shenanigans than he ever does about the homeless

  • Chet Murthy

    I feel like perhaps you’re being a -wee- bit harsh towards Kevin. Three observations:

    (1) At my YMCA, there are homeless people. I recognize and am in nodding acquaintance with at least two of them. Neither disgusts me. They come to shower and stay clean.

    (2) Every time I see a homeless person, it angers me that in SF (of all places, with so much $$) we haven’t made sure they’re safely housed and (for the ill) cared for. Even in SF.

    (3) And yet, when a homeless person enters a subway car, and I literally can’t breathe thru my nose, it stinks so badly, yes, it’s disgusting. Do you think the stench of rotten food that’s been sitting out for days isn’t also disgusting? We’re talking about smells here, nothing else, so don’t try the argument that I’m comparing humans to food. B/c I’m not. I’m comparing the -stench-.

    And again: whenever I encounter a homeless person like that, I get angry b/c they don’t have a decent place to live. But that doesn’t change that in the moment, yes, it is disgusting and can be physically distressing to be confronted with that -wave- of stench.

    P.S. I don’t get disgusted by panhandlers. B/c there are gazillions of tablet-wielding Greenpeace, etc, etc, kids out there asking for money, too. But do I interact with each of these importunate (and sure, well-meaning, young, fresh-faced, trying to help a good cause, whatever) kids? NO. I don’t even shake my head. I wear my headphones and feckin’ ignore them. Because TOO MANY. TOO GODDAMN MANY. So why should people have any different reaction to panhandlers? Yes, both groups have a right to ask for money. And I have a right to be frustrated that I can’t seem to walk three blocks in my neighborhood without being accosted (by Amnesty International children) nor downtown (by panhandlers).

    P.P.S. just to be clear: even the amazingly odoriferous guy in the subway, he’s got a right to be there. No way I”m with the techbro who wrote to the Mayor complaining that these guys even exist. That techbro needs to be hung upside down by his genital until they break off, goddamn. But AGAIN: I can hold that thought in my head, and STILL find the stench disgusting to the point where I exit the train and wait for the next one.

    PPPS. And there’s another thing: How do we know someone is homeless? Typically, it’s because they display some external indicator. Like …. smell. As it turns out, the only way I know these two guys at the Y are homeless, is that one of them told me so, and the other carries his belongings in a cart. So part of what Kevin might be reacting to is the -subpopulation- of homeless people who ….. again, can fill a subway car with their stench. And AGAIN: this isn’t their fault, but it still doesn’t change that you can’t breathe, and need to get out of there.

    • ExpatJK

      But he’s not saying that. You are saying, in your specific example, that you find a strong smell disgusting. That is not the same thing as saying you find a group of people disgusting.

      This paragraph in particular is very problematic:

      About half the homeless suffer from a mental illness and a third abuse either alcohol or drugs. You’d be crazy not to have a reflexive disgust of a population like that.

      He is quite explicitly saying “reflexive disgust” of mentally ill people and people addicted to alcohol/drugs is the right reaction. I very strongly disagree with that, and do not think the reactions have been overly harsh considering the original statement.

      • Chet Murthy

        Yes, I noticed that., but you’re still right to point it out. Here’s the thing: YES, there’s a difference between being disgusted by the -person- and by their -stench-. There’s a difference between being disgusted by seeing a man peeing in public and by the man himself. But it’s hard to remember that difference, and that, I think, is going to be true for -most- people. I’m sure it’s true for me, too. Yeah yeah, we all like to tell ourselves that we can remember the difference. No, we can’t always, maybe not even most of the time.

        And so, sure I wish Kevin had said it differently. But given what he -did- say (specifically about overcoming reflexes, etc), I’m willing to cut him some slack on this. That’s really all I’m saying.

        Oh, something else: some mentally homeless ill people can be dangerous. I’ve seen it happen once or twice. Saw a homeless man walk up out of nowhere to a couple sitting at a cafe, take their paper cup of coffee and douse the woman. Thank goodness it wasn’t at serving temperature. It’s not unreasonable, after seeing that happen even -once- to shy away from anybody acting a little nutso. To worry that being near then might be dangerous. How many steps away is that, from being disgusted? Gee, Idunno. All I know is, it’s not as far as we’d all like to pretend.

        • ExpatJK

          I think it’s nice you are being charitable to him. But I think the issue is more that he is talking about a group of people. If I had a falling out with a person of a certain religious or ethnic background, and then held negative feelings toward others of that same background as a group as a result of this, it would be an issue. He feels that being disgusted with the homeless population, as a whole, is a normal reaction.

          I do agree that people can be dangerous, including mentally ill homeless people. I have also spent a lot of time travelling alone as a woman to different countries, and whilst most of my experiences were great, I also had some encounters that frightened me. All of these were with men. But in general, I am not worried that being around men is dangerous. I think there’s a difference between “taking precautions” and “being scared of someone because they are a member of X group,” and it is not one that Drum expressed, at least in the post covered by the OP.

      • Paul Thomas

        Again, no. I have to keep calling this fallacy out. Drum is saying that reflexive disgust is the NATURAL reaction. The only way to bridge the gap between “natural” and “right” is if you assume that anything natural is also moral, which is a massive logical error.

  • thebewilderness

    There are people who see the down and out and think there but for the grace of God go I and do what they can to help. Some towns even saved a ton of money and strife by doing the right thing, providing homes to the homeless.
    There are also people, I am told, who are disgusted by the down and out. I do not understand those people. People like Drum are beyond my understanding and I have decided not worth my trouble.

  • Thirtyish

    I was speechless after reading the original post by Drum today. Thanks, Shakes, for coming up with an apt response.

  • Thirtyish

    About half the homeless suffer from a mental illness and a third abuse
    either alcohol or drugs. You’d be crazy not to have a reflexive disgust
    of a population like that.

    Surely a “reflexive disgust” of individuals suffering from mental illness is a sign of good adjustment and something one should accept. I suppose we should also accept and embrace sexual harassment, since I’ve heard it argued that engaging in it has ancestrally given men an upper hand in mating and reproduction.

    And nice touch, Kevin, using the term “crazy” pejoratively in the same paragraph discussing disadvantaged people whom you admit are mentally ill.

  • Hondo

    I guess this means Kev won’t be taking any homeless dudes out for fancy Italian meat sandwiches.

    • Well, he might, as long as they have college degrees. Pro-tip (for Mr. Drum, should he decide to make that experiment): pin some nice garlicky lunchmeat to the wings of your shirtcollar, and you won’t be able to smell your guest’s stench!

  • jpgray

    Second, decent human beings aren’t disgusted by people who are extremely vulnerable.

    How far would I have to look on this blog to find disgust for rural ignorant whites, who are dirt poor, unhealthy, and have seen themselves increasingly strangered from hope and security for generations? They definitely are late aboard the despair and stagnation train compared to many, many other groups in this country, but that they are increasingly vulnerable is no less true for that.

    I think people with a lot of holy outrage for the disgust of experience toward any reflexively despised group should spare a thought for how difficult it is to love one’s neighbors – and I mean precisely one’s neighbors. Knowledge breeds contempt.

    It’s far easier for people to love the reflexively despised who are either (1) at a comfortable distance or (2) powerless to affect their lives. (2) is why a certain segment (ahem) of Bernie fans can’t understand why we don’t dump some identity politics to court the poor white working class. They feel secure from any harm in that tradeoff.

    Now the flipside is also true – a lack of experience can also enable ineradicable boogeyman hatred. You’ll often find your most morbid hotbeds of bigoted fear for poor/dangerous blanks far from where blanks actually live. Witness local legislation battling Sharia law thousands of miles from any significant concentration of Muslims.

    I’m not disgusted by the homeless, but I’ll take an honest disgust from experience over superficial fantasies of love/hate that may as well be coming from another universe. It’s in my view *less* likely to be stereotypical than middle mass universal love from afar.

    Do you know any shelter workers? Ask them if they’ve ever felt disgusted, because of course they have. That doesn’t mean they think all homeless people are disgusting, any more than their disgust is some sort of moral failure.

    • RovingYouthPastor

      Overall this is a fine comment. But the fact is that disgust for a population as people is a moral failure. Charitably, Drum is saying about as much, and isnt condoning that kind of disgust. But his choice of phrasing for a delicate subject is poor and can reinforce bad attitudes.

      • jpgray

        Honestly? You don’t get to choose what disgusts you, unless in a very marginal sense.

        Say there’s a trait some people find disgusting – make it loud, open-mouthed chewing, even. Mix in some confirmation bias – say there’s a group whose members are easily identifiable as part of said group from appearance alone. Now say even a significant minority of the group exhibit that trait that some people find disgusting. The careless among them will just say that group is disgusting, though the majority don’t exhibit the trait. The careful will self-examine over and over, will not generalize, and potentially see the disgust they feel for specific individuals as a moral failing, keeping it hidden.

        But they’ll still feel that disgust!

        And it’s extremely easy to slip into the careless behavior. Let’s say I’m tempted to say owners of a Macklemore haircut are all douches. This is very likely only because the Macklemore haircut and the douchiness are each remarkable and distinguishing, and that on noticing their conjunction once, the two become strongly associated in my mind, which then notes down every confirmation, making the association stronger and stronger.

        The less remarkably coiffed douches, or the unremarkably non-douchey among the Macklemore’d don’t activate the same machinery. The Macklemore’d douche rate could be even lower than average, but once you’re on the lookout for it….

        • GroverGardner

          Well, to be fair, a lot of “disgust” is cultural. I remember attending a Fourth of July picnic in Belgium and a Belgian woman literally threw up watching Americans eat corn on the cob. Wiping your ass with your hand? OMG. But huge numbers of people do it without even thinking about it.

          • Alex

            Corn on the cob is street food in at least my part of continental Europe (Paris), and I’ve seen it in other cities too. google says that you can buy corn on the cob in Belgium. Maybe everyone there removes the corn first, though.

            • GroverGardner

              This was 40 years ago, and at a certain social level. Apparently the sight of people gobbling food with their hands was disgusting to this person. I imagine things have changed.

          • Drew

            “a Belgian woman literally threw up watching Americans eat corn on the cob.”

            Good thing I wasn’t there, I’d have laughed my ass off.

        • Alex

          Traits aren’t just “innate” or a “choice.” They can also be socially conditioned.

          For example, those people who find loud, open-mouthed chewing disgusting probably did it themselves when they were little kids and they learned that it was disgusting at some point.

          When people learn that an entire class of people is disgusting, that’s not their fault. When they try to rationalize that disgust and spread it (since disgust spreads when people hear others say something is disgusting), I suppose you could say that that is just an extension of the social conditioning that isn’t their fault. Or you could say that someone with a large platform should be more responsible because that’s the only way this cycle is going to stop.

          • Porkman

            Disgust about things like feces and the smell of spoiled food aren’t learned. They are innate. (Some behaviors around said disgust are learned. For example, western people use toilet paper while in India they use little cups of water next to the toilet to clean themselves)

        • RovingYouthPastor

          I think the theory of morality that’s underpinning this is actually mistaken. It’s rooted in Adam Smith’s (yes, that Adam $$$mith) theory of moral sentiments. The things that irk me here specifically are:

          1. Moral qualities are only assumed to exist in conscious acts. As evidenced by your statement that it’s relevant that “You don’t get to choose what disgusts you”.

          I take that to mean that in any immediate experience, you don’t have control over your instantaneous reactions. So much is true. But the claim that this is morally exculpatory is problematic. And moral qualities have a continuity to them in the framework of a person’s life. They aren’t moral atoms adhering to individual conscious acts.

          2. There is also a very interesting two-step here. Moral sentiments are innate, but they are alterable by behaviorist psychology style repeated environmental exposure– there are some deep Pietistic roots to that kind of moral dynamic.

          But back to the problem of using the lack of immediate control to instantaneously appearing sentiments as a warrant for someone’s moral exculpation. If we admit that rational reflection and the ability to exercise meaningful control of personal habitat (where are habits are formed after all!) are live possibilities for the person in question, and we admit that a persons immediate moral reactions are strongly conditioned by their habitat, and people are capable of rationally ascertaining the effects that habitats can have on character, it’s hard to see how a functional adult isn’t morally culpable for their immediate moral revulsion or attraction.

          Sure, a child, or someone with strong mitigating circumstances (such as mental illness or geographical-social isolation), can’t be judged harshly on these kinds of criteria. But a full grown, well resourced, well educated adult–certainly. Drum’s that kind of person. His character and thus his reaction is a result of his choices and his decisions on how much to reflect on the experiences those choices have led to, and the environments he’s chosen to expose himself to . And I think that he should have thought this one through a good bit more and written the post differently, or written a different post.

          I can’t help but also connect this with the pass we as a society give to Trump –and especially Trump Jr.–at the moment. We’ve seen people use “they don’t know any better” as an effective excuse for unacceptable behavior again and again. But the “not knowing any better” isn’t an excuse, it’s a double-damnation. Not only did you commit malfeasance, but you’re best defense is that you also failed to even develop into the kind of person who can recognize malfeasance. It’s like a murderer using the fact that he felt nothing while strangling the victim as an excuse for why we should go easy on him.

          It’s so backwards.

          • I like your comments (are you new here, or merely renymed in consequence of the move to Disqus?). I hope the youth are fully appreciative of your roving pastorializations—and I say this despite my hereditary disgust at same.

            • RovingYouthPastor

              Thanks, I migrated to disqus and took my angry Randy Moss avatar with me.

              My handle is a mis-remembed Mystery Science Theater 3000 quote (“Wandering Youth Minister”, Jack Frost). I will not be retrieving any meandering ewes.

    • Origami Isopod

      How far would I have to look on this blog to find disgust for rural ignorant whites, who are dirt poor, unhealthy, and have seen themselves increasingly strangered from hope and security for generations?

      Awesome, what this thread really needed was “Won’t somebody think of the poor racist whites?!”

    • How far would I have to look on this blog to find disgust for rural ignorant whites, who are dirt poor, unhealthy, and have seen themselves increasingly strangered from hope and security for generations?

      I don’t know! It’s an interesting empirical question you could easily answer given the availability of the archives. (Though for comments you have to use cached pages since the migration of past comments isn’t, afaik, done yet.)

      Go for it. Show us. Don’t just make the rhetorical point.

  • catbirdman

    Kevin Drum brings a level of “Irvine mentality” to everything he writes, and this is an extreme example of this. Irvine is the prototypical SoCal planned community, straight out of the 70s. Clean, dull, and orderly. I graduated from UC Irvine in 1988, and since then have worked regularly in Irvine (and elsewhere around the region). Irvine updates itself regularly, like MS Office, but never really gets away from its clean, dull, and orderly core identity. My impression of how they deal with the homeless is by harrassing them and probably driving them somewhere outside the city limits — I don’t believe there are any homeless shelters in Irvine. Here’s a recent article in which the City Council holds their collective noses and “expresses concern” about the proposal of an Orange County supervisor to erect one of three new homeless centers on County land *near* the City limit. I predict it will never happen there, because the good folks of Irvine care about property values than they do about the downtrodden — that’s really someone else’s problem. That’s all Kevin’s trying to say.

    http://voiceofoc.org/2017/06/irvine-city-council-members-critical-of-homeless-shelter-plan-near-the-great-park/

  • tde

    The idea that normally hygienic people who have just done a Zumba workout smell anything at all like people who have not showered for weeks and who may have pissed on themselves is not a smart argument to make if you are concerned about credibility.

    • Fail better.

      • Ithaqua

        Sorry, your fail here. You really have lost all credibility with this sort of thing throughout the thread.

  • Drew

    “on the verge of leaping around shouting Outcast unclean!”

    OT but that reminds me, I never finished the Thomas Covenant series. Maybe I’ll have to pick it back up. Although at this point I don’t remember if I stopped for a reason or just ran out of time.

  • NewishLawyer

    I am going to try and wade into this as gingerly as possible and still mess up probably.

    I live in SF. We have a large homeless population consisting of different groups. One group are a large amount of street kids. There is a fierce debate how many of these kids are authentically homeless and how many are middle class kids pretending it is the summer of love all over again. Sometimes these kids can be aggressive and my female friends avoid Haight Street because of harassment.

    There was also a law suit about other cities busing their mentally ill and homeless to SF.

    No one should be homeless. But I don’t know what response people want. We used to just put the mentally ill out of sight and out of mind. Now we don’t but is just letting them be homeless sometimes or often the best response?

    • gwen

      That’s kind of how I feel about it in Austin. See plenty of kids with colored hair and piercings out begging.

      Still, on the other hand I am well aware that many of these kids have either been kicked out of home or failed by the system. Lots of LGBT kids. So with that in mind it’s kind of hard for me to scream “get a job, hippie.”

      The first openly transgender person I ever met ended up dying on the streets about 15 years ago. She was definitely eccentric… kept running for Congress, I think mostly for attention. But she certainly deserved better from life.

      • Alex

        Pointing out the high rates of homelessness among LGBT people – who are also often the targets of disgust – adds another dimension to Drum’s post.

    • There is a fierce debate how many of these kids are authentically homeless and how many are middle class kids pretending it is the summer of love all over again.

      If you think middle-class kids are leaving their comfortable middle-class houses to live on the streets in the Summer of Love II w/o a damn good reason to leave said middle-class houses, you’re delusional. Look at all the millennials who are still living w/ their parents.

      Most “street kids” you see are the victims of sexual & other abuse in their homes, or are, as gwen notes below, LGBT youth who have been abused or just kicked out of their homes.

      • Alex

        I hear people say things like that, and I usually just assume that they’re trying to rationalize not caring about homeless kids. “They could go back to their McMansion whenever they want to” is an enormous, counterintuitive assumption, but it’s great for alleviating guilt.

        • The rich kids playing at being homeless are the children of the millionaire panhandler who gets picked up by a limo at the end of the day.

          • Evolutionary Psychology has proved the adaptiveness of the gene for twisted lips!

          • twbb

            You’re misinformed. There are a nontrivial number of kids who really are doing it when they don’t need to, and tend to go back home when it gets too cold. It’s a particularly obnoxious subculture, and as can be imagined, the people who are homeless unwillingly are not fans of them. It’s not in the category of the “millionaire panhandler” myth.

            From a policy perspective, of course, it’s extremely difficult to differentiate them from the kids who really are making the best choice out of a lot of bad choices by not going back to their parents.

      • RovingYouthPastor

        In my experience, the true “crusties” (word in Richmond we used for homeless < 25-year-olds who came from well off families) have their share of mental and drug, let alone family problems.

    • We used to just put the mentally ill out of sight and out of mind. Now we don’t but is just letting them be homeless sometimes or often the best response?

      I just want to emphasise that Drum’s framing has infected the entire discourse. People with mental illness are quite diverse and we certainly didn’t institutionalise all such people. Lots of homeless people aren’t mentally ill (though being homeless is a big big stressor).

      Putting people with serious illnesses on the street is obviously monstrous but the converse isn’t putting them “out of sight and out of mind”. It’s giving them appropriate treatment and support.

      • anon1

        Thank you for getting it right.

      • Origami Isopod

        Seriously – we do not need to go back to the days when any parent or husband could just have someone committed because they weren’t being obedient, gender-conforming, or “happy” enough.

  • NewishLawyer

    I think what can be scary about the mentally ill is that they can be largely harmless until they are not.

    Sometimes when going to work there is a middle aged white guy in black cargo pants and a t-shirt who constantly mutters to himself in very angry tones and often about being wronged/slighted me/or demons. Maybe he just has PTSD and just deserves our sympathy but he also seems like the kind of guy to be a mass shooter.

    Should I not be on guard when this guy is on the bus?

    • gwen

      One of the hardest cases I had during my brief stint on the misdemeanor appointed counsel wheel, was when I had a client who had stopped taking his meds, broke into a house, taken a chair, put it in the middle of the road, and then just sat there.

      The lady who owned the chair was obviously frightened, and called the cops. Not blaming her for that.

      Still, to this day I honestly believe my client was harmless. I tried talking to him when he was in the tank (he babbled about numbers and about how he had every right to do what he did under some protocol of the Versailles Treaty, or something).

      The sheriff’s department made sure he got his meds and the psych eval came back that he was competent to stand trial. I really wanted to fight that, but he didn’t. He just wanted out of jail. So I honored his wishes and we plead out.

      Still, very upset and conflicted about that.

      • anon1

        “…on the misdemeanor appointed counsel wheel….”

        Did you understand your “client” was a chronic schizophrenic?

        “who had stopped taking his meds, broke into a house, taken a chair, put it in the middle of the road, and then just sat there.”

        The assumption being that on his meds he would not have engaged in this action.

        “The lady who owned the chair was obviously frightened, and called the cops. Not blaming her for that…”

        Getting through life with only three chairs is a sacrifice.

        “Still, to this day I honestly believe my client was harmless.”

        He was harmless, but so is jay-walking.

        “I tried talking to him when he was in the tank (he babbled about numbers and about how he had every right to do what he did under some protocol of the Versailles Treaty, or something).”

        What happened to the penguins ?

        “The sheriff’s department made sure he got his meds and the psych eval came back that he was competent to stand trial. I really wanted to fight that, but he didn’t. He just wanted out of jail. So I honored his wishes and we plead out.”

        Everyone made money off of this and the taxpayer picked up the tab. A victimless crime.

        “Still, very upset and conflicted about that.”

        Why conflicted? Did you rush out and purchase a copy of “Crazy” ? (He had to make up a Hollywood ending to have it published!!!)
        You went in knowing nothing and you came out still knowing nothing, but, your law firm met its obligation and social service tax writ-off.

        • Origami Isopod

          Uh, no. This guy broke into someone’s house. The owner had no way of knowing he was harmless. Are you a man or a woman? Because I’d freak the fuck out if there were a strange man in my house, or even if there’d been a strange man in my house who was now outside sitting on one of my chairs.

          And, yes, taking anti-schizophrenic medication usually does help with delusions.

    • I feel the same way about men except the vast majority of mentally ill people aren’t dangerous to others.

      • MarciKiser

        And what if you’ve been assaulted by a mentally ill person? I have been – schizophrenic, and had bones broken in the process.

        Fact: most mentally ill people aren’t dangerous
        Fact: it’s irrational to be afraid around a mentally ill person
        Fact: I was assaulted by a mentally ill person
        Fact: Ever since, I’m terrified every time I see an obviously mentally ill person

        Your unyielding righteous outrage has decided I’m an indecent person, because you reject the notion that someone whose had their face smashed in might have had different experiences than your own, and those experiences might inform their perspectives. Instead you just throw smug dismissive shade at anyone who suggests that, perhaps, you haven’t fully thought your condemnations through.

        I truly don’t understand how you’re not ashamed of denying that there might be perspectives you haven’t considered that complicate the “decent/indecent” duality you want to force on the world.

        • How you get “Being afraid of certain people is disgusting” out of anything I’ve written is a mystery that doesn’t much interest me.

          • MarciKiser

            Yes, I know other people’s experiences don’t interest you when they fail to accord with your thinking. You’ve made that abundantly clear.

            Direct quote: “Second, decent human beings aren’t disgusted by people who are extremely vulnerable.”

            I used your word, “decent”. How you got “disgusting” isn’t a mystery; it’s the inevitable level of sloppiness that comes with throwing smug dismissive shade while you preemptively dismiss another human being because their experiences complicate the simplicity of your righteous outrage.

            • Credit were due: Decent and Disgusting both came from Drum’s post.

              The “righteous” “outrage” I feel towards him and and people who share his attitude comes from my personal experiences, but apparently such thoughts/opinions are automatically disqualified because they fall into the category of smug sloppy shade rather than Lived Truth. [Shrug emoticon]

              • MarciKiser

                And since when did anyone claim to share Drum’s specific attitude?

                Reading your responses to people here, I’m not seeing much in the way of empathy or understanding for others, and certainly none in your responses to me. Just a lot of sarcasm and snark.

                Reading your blog post, though, it definitely does the job of virtue signaling that you have loads of hypothetical empathy and understanding for others.

                I guess that’s almost as good as the real thing.

                • Why should I show you empathy? You’ve sprinkled fallacies through the comments, attempted make a post denouncing Drum’s attitudes towards the homeless about you, and this last post is so ridiculous I’m forced to conclude I’ve been trolled.
                  Hat tip?

                • MarciKiser

                  Decent people don’t have to ask another human being “why should I show you empathy?”

                  You’re the one who generalized from Drum’s post to some universal truth that you hadn’t thought through.

                  Go back through your responses to people. Do you not find it odd that your reaction to someone who doesn’t agree with you 100% is to dismiss them outright, usually with some snarky comment?

                  By calling anyone who disagrees with you a troll, all you’ve done is create another clot of stereotypes, albeit a stereotype that is useful to you personally.

                • Decent people don’t attempt to derail posts about serious social issues with fallacies and tone policing.

                • MarciKiser

                  … says the person who stereotypes anyone who disagrees with them as “trolls”, which then justifies dismissing them with derision and sarcasm. The person who demands of other human beings “why should I show you empathy?”, because apparently the answer isn’t obvious.

                • I believe you and one other commenter are the only ones I called trolls. But like the more general derision and sarcasm, it’s earned. I don’t hand it out to just anyone.

                • MarciKiser

                  You still elide your lack of empathy or that your default reaction to any disagreement is to treat it with hostility and sarcasm.

                  The parallels are fascinating.

                  Drum suggests that considering a homeless person to be “disgusting” is at the very least a comprehensible response, but that a decent human being overcomes that and doesn’t act accordingly.

                  You get defensive when anyone disagrees with you and want to immediately reply with dismissive snark, but you choose not to overcome that and then act accordingly.

                • After laying out a number of stereotypes about the scariness of homeless people, Drum said a [non-homeless] person who wasn’t disgusted by the homeless must be crazy.

                  There are in the comments any number of people who are fucking around.

                  They’re claiming Drum said something else, or yeahbut he deserves credit for saying homeless people are disgusting but we should show empathy to them anyway, or talking about how much the homeless smell and other appeals to emotion. It’s not just bullshit, it’s boring and poorly executed bullshit that is spread around whenever the conversation turns to homelessness. The most it deserves is sarcasm and derision. Suggesting anyone should overcome their distaste for clumsy bullshitters and treat bullshitters like people who deserve a serious response is more bullshit.

                • MarciKiser

                  So, to recap that “fucking around in the comments”:

                  “…and this last post is so ridiculous I’m forced to conclude I’ve been trolled.”

                  This seems like a good encapsulation of your privileged myopia. Someone said something you personally don’t understand, and they’re not worth the empathy required to try, therefore they’re a troll. This follows your initial post in which you appeal to the common humanity in all of us to hypothetically empathize with even the most unfortunate, and then say downthread to an actual person: “Why should I show you empathy?”

                  Apparently, you think that Kevin Drum is the only person who should be held responsible for what they write.

                  Then, when people point out that you reply to every person who disagrees with you with dismissive snark, you not only agree but actively justify it. Which I’ll admit is a new one on me. I have never seen someone told they are being unreasonably dismissive and hostile who then shrieks “true, but stop TONE POLICING me!” Apparently “tone policing” has now been appropriated to excuse any bad behavior whatsoever.

                • Ithaqua

                  This is mere abuse. Address the points made by the commenters, or just stop.

                • Paul Thomas

                  This entire post (and your trollarific comments, even more so) consists of derailing DRUM’S argument about a serious social issue with fallacies and tone policing.

                • I don’t yet have the power to derail posts on another website, but once I get it I promise not to abuse it.

                • This really is false.

                  You can claim that what Drum wrote is inapt and he failed to correctly express his intent, but he wrote what he wrong. His whole post is a botch of the blog post he linked too.

                  And it’s really not the case that it’s just random verbal fail…I mean, just thinking about how it would sound if you put in other marginalised groups and substituted associated negative traits rates.

                • Ithaqua

                  I simply cannot fathom this response. You manage to cram three false statements and two “I am a jerk and a fool” statements into just two sentences. Do you actually pause to think about what people are writing or do you reflexively start hitting the keyboard along about the second sentence?

    • DiogenesOfRVA

      I’ve been reading this blog long enough to know you’re smarter than this response…no one is saying that your guard shouldn’t go up if someone is angrily making noises in an enclosed space. The response is to Drum’s move from the specific incidents – some homeless people make angry noises – to the general statement – that any person would be mentally ill themselves not to be repulsed by homeless people broadly and that because a percentage of the homeless are mentally ill that makes all homeless people potentially dangerous (as opposed to just being dangerous because humans are dangerous and ignoring the fact that the homeless are more often the victims of violent crimes than the perpetrators).

      Also, being scared of an individual and recognizing that person may be suffering and in need of sympathy and care are not mutually exclusive. Just having consistent housing helps add a level of stability that can take the edge off of a lot of reactive behaviors from the mentally ill, and having supportive housing helps even more (https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/supportive-housing-helps-vulnerable-people-live-and-thrive-in-the-community).

      But this is a response I see frequently from people in relative positions of privilege – that when someone brings up that it’s wrong to discriminate against a marginalized *group* they retreat to, “But what about individual members?” as if those two are the same thing. It’s like:

      Person A: Man, it’s really messed up the way we treat Latinx people in this country right now, we should do better.
      Privileged Person: Are you saying I’m wrong to cross the street when a guy with an MS-13 tattoo on his neck and a gun in his waistband is walking my way?!
      A: …how did we get here exactly?

  • gwen

    I’ve stated elsewhere (and fairly certain that I got reamed for it) that I’m not a big fan of panhandling, if only because I have a distrust of people who spend all day asking for money. I’m not sure you can outright ban it without stepping on the First Amendment, though.

    With that said, though, I don’t find the homeless to be disgusting. I recall the homeless folks sitting down and reading for hours on end at my local library, when I was a kid (I know they were homeless because I’d see them over at the Salvation Army breadline). They certainly were literate and never threatening to the other patrons.

    Fixing homelessness would really not be that difficult, nor expensive. It boggles my mind why the “powers that be” are so apathetic toward doing anything real (aside from nonsense like banning public meal-sharing, ostensibly for “health reasons”).

    I went to a Houston Astros ballgame back in April. Walking from the parking lot to Minute Maid Field, I had to walk around several people who were sleeping on the sidewalk underneath Interstate 69. I was befuddled and heartbroken; I didn’t want to condescend to them by asking if they needed help but at the same time felt very awkward just walking on by. If the Astros make it to the World Series this year — and it’s entirely likely they will — I think that the fact that homeless folks sleep across the street from the ballpark will be a bit of a blot.

    • Oh, if it’s a big event with national attention, they usually remove the homeless to a less visible place, so you don’t have to worry! /s /sad :(

    • Drew

      Well, I am sure there are some grifters, but I’m also sure some people spend all day asking for money because they have no other options.

      In many ways I prefer a subway panhandler to the subway buskers. I know they’re first amendment protected but I really don’t want to listen to a mariachi band or watch breakdancing on my way to work. Plus you’re a captive audience which irritates me greatly.

  • Paul Thomas

    The fundamental fallacy of this post, and it’s repeated over and over in the comments, is that it conflates “morally problematic” with “irrational.”

    A prejudice is just a mental heuristic– a decisionmaking shortcut. It seems to me that a heuristic is irrational when it makes THE DECISIONMAKER’s decisions worse. It’s morally problematic when it inflicts harm on OTHER PEOPLE. Any given prejudice can be one, both, or neither.

    I read Drum’s post as saying, in a nutshell, “prejudice against the homeless is rational, but it’s also morally problematic.”** You seem to be deeply offended by the first part of that sentence– because you think that it necessarily implies that prejudice against the homeless is morally okay– and consequently to utterly ignore the second.

    **I’m not necessarily convinced that prejudice against the homeless is actually rational, but that’s beside the point here.

    • Drum pulls a number of stunts to support his assertion that homeless people are disgusting including stating those who disagree with his assertion are crazy. That’s morally problematic.

      The fact that at the very end he makes some noises about how of course we should have empathy for the disgusting crazy drunk homeless strawpeople he cobbled together – because that shows we’re good people – is meaningless.

      • Paul Thomas

        Okay, whatever. It’s clear that you’re not interested in an actual discussion and merely wish to burnish your credentials as a Defender of the Downtrodden by blowing some probably-not-that-well-thought-out verbiage in a blogpost wildly out of context and arbitrarily picking and choosing which parts of said blogpost are “meaningful” and “meaningless.”

        Gee, isn’t it easy to feel morally superior when you assume bad faith on the part of what you’ve defined as the opposition?

        • Aaron Morrow

          When does an actual discussion mean we need to pretend that bigotries and biases don’t exist? Is that part of YOUR attempt to win an argument based on morality by assuming superiority?

          • Paul Thomas

            I see nobody, anywhere, “pretend[ing] that bigotries and biases don’t exist.” Literally the point of Drum’s post is “bigotries and biases exist, and maybe are even narrowly rational, but we have to overcome them anyway because failing to do so makes us assholes.”

            • Ithaqua

              Absolutely. Seems rather unobjectionable to me, frankly.

        • ;_;

        • Origami Isopod

          blowing some probably-not-that-well-thought-out verbiage in a blogpost wildly out of context

          Drum has a long, undignified track record of probably-not-that-well-thought-out verbiage, displaying his underlying assumptions, in the service of liberal ideas. He also has a very large soapbox.

  • mongolia

    this entire controversy appears to hinge on how you interpret the term “disgust”. it was prompted to me by shakez’s statement in the edit:

    Every day when I take the train home, there are always a few passengers who have gone to the gym after work. Normally, they smell bad. When the train car is warm, they fucking reek. The smell of post-Zoomba armpit, foot and groin is disgusting. But I would not say people who exercise after work are disgusting. That would be ridiculous.

    and my response to this is that those people who go into a train/bus/store etc. without cleaning up after their workout *are* disgusting. not as people, but they are, at that given time, physically disgusting – as am i, for example, when i go to the store after the gym on the way home if i haven’t showered.

    because of this, i’m personally not sure what’s so awful with what was written, since if you told me that there’s this population where 30-35% are alcoholics or drug addicts, i’d assume that there was a lot of bad hygiene and lack of respect for personal boundaries, regardless of if those people are homeless or not.

    • McAllen

      Do you want to ban people from riding the bus after working out? Because what started this discussion was a scientific study which stated:

      On the other, a majority supports banning panhandling (52 percent) and a plurality supports banning sleeping in public (46 percent) — while only about a quarter of the public opposes these policies, by 23 and 30 percent, respectively.

      So you can’t just chalk this down to an annoyance of everyday life. Disgust for the homeless has policy consequences.

      • Human consequences too.

      • mongolia

        the entire post is about the divergence between responses for “giving aid to homeless people in theory” – generally very popular – and “dislike for the types of hustles certain homeless people do in order to survive” – generally unpopular. “disgust” is posited as the mechanism for this divergence, and drum says that this make sense. my comment is about interpretation of the term disgust. if you interpret the term in that way, that may help to deal with the divergence that appears in the public’s views on the homeless and actions they may undertake. and drum’s point is that that disgust is bad, and we should overcome it. so we don’t make bad policy decisions

        • Alex

          FWIW, the divergence in the study is about 10 to 20% when comparing the views to disgust-prone to not-disgust-prone people, it’s just one study that made a bundle of methodological assumptions that might be wrong and should be tested from multiple angles, and a study that says “disgust influences a minority of the population’s views” is not proof that “people who do not share this disgust are crazy.”

          • mongolia

            FWIW, the divergence in the study is about 10 to 20% when comparing the views to disgust-prone to not-disgust-prone people,

            (1) you’re reading the study wrong. on average in the study, people go from being their views on providing benefits for homeless people at 60-65 in favor vs 15-20 against providing benefits, to their views on letting homeless people be free to do things they need to survive at 25-30% in favor to 45-50% against allow them those freedoms, which turns out to be a ~35% drop in favorability and a ~30% increase in unfavorability.

            (2) i’d be careful using “disgust-prone” and “not-disgust-prone” in reference to the findings in the study. i personally am for providing (significantly) more benefits for homeless and other downtrodden peoples, am against bans on panhandling/sleeping in public/etc., but also find the types of homeless people who would end up sleeping on the sidewalk to be quite disgusting going by the definition i provide upthread. so i would argue that a number of people who are against bans on panhandling and the like would still be “disgust-prone,” contra your framing.

            it’s just one study that made a bundle of methodological assumptions that might be wrong and should be tested from multiple angles

            drum’s entire point is a comment on the mechanism the authors of this specific study posited, so i’m not sure why this is a problem. specifically since it appears that this is the mechanism the authors posit, so any complaints should probably be directed there.

            and a study that says “disgust influences a minority of the population’s views” is not proof that “people who do not share this disgust are crazy.”

            this again gets back to the definition of disgust, and whether this is a disgust of physical conditions that a person may find themselves in, or whether it’s disgust of that person regardless of physical conditions. if you read it the former way, i’m not sure how this sentence: “You’d be crazy not to have a reflexive disgust of a population like that,” is problematic. most people who don’t have homes, panhandle, and/or sleep on park benches are going to have poor hygiene, and thus are fairly physically disgusting.

            now, i have no way of knowing if this was what drum was thinking, but regardless – it’s fairly easy to read that sentence in the way i read it, and through this lens i’m not sure how the post is problematic

            • i’d be careful using “disgust-prone” and “not-disgust-prone” in reference to the findings in the study.

              The study explicitly broke out “disgust sensitive” and “non-disgust sensitive” and even used them as two groups in an experiment.

              (I don’t think disgust *prone* is the same as *disgust sensitive* but I’m not clear that that his is the point you’re making.)

  • anon1

    Have any of you had interactions with the homeless? You are knowledgeable about people on the mental spectrum? You know who is a schizophrenic and who is a drug addict?

    Is it possible that you know absolutely NOTHING about the homeless?

    • I’ve been homeless, Mr. Know-It-All. In shelters, & in places where support is provided for the homeless.

      You know who is a schizophrenic and who is a drug addict?

      Hardly two exclusive groups. Often schizophrenics self-medicate w/ illegal drugs or w/ America’s Legal Choice, booze!

      But do share your voluminous knowledge.

      • anon1

        Sorry, but I found the commentary and most of the responses lite. And no, War and Peace can not be summarized in three paragraphs. A lengthy detailed book sounds better.

  • Jordan

    Very good post. Holy shit, these commenters who come out of the woodwork.

    Everyone here is a good, nice liberal when nothing is really required of them. Vote for the Dems? Sure! Maybe even through some money there? Sure! Volunteer for some good cause? you got it.

    Then the rubber hits the road. This actually inconveniences my personal construction of my good life. So …. RAMP UP THE APOLOGETICS!

    fuckers.

    • RedSonja

      So many of these arguments sound like the ones you see when guys want to rules lawyer what rape is, and how they knew a guy who knew a guy whose girlfriend made a false rape accusation, so bitches be crazy, man!

      • Jordan

        Yup, you hit the nail on the head, its very much like that.

  • Perkniticky

    What about the disgust at a rich society that somehow can’t manage to do something about homelessness? And the sense of horror I get imaging myself reduced to such a situation? I would guess he doesn’t mention those types of reactions.

    • Ithaqua

      One does not preclude the other, you know.

  • JamesWimberley

    In practice, can homeless citizens vote? Anywhere?

  • About half the homeless suffer from a mental illness and a third abuse either alcohol or drugs. You’d be crazy not to have a reflexive disgust of a population like that. Is that really so hard to get?

    Let’s consider some examples:
    PhD students:

    A brand new study by a team of international researchers has underscored just how common such conditions crop up in this very specific demographic. Writing in the journal Research Policy, it’s concluded that one-in-two PhD students experience psychological distress, and one-in-three are at risk of experiencing a psychiatric disorder, either over the short or long-term – particularly depression

    So, feel any disgust at PhD students? Maybe they’re not drinking and drugging enough?

    How about law students:

    More than 3,300 law students at 15 law schools of different sizes and geographic locations responded to the survey, which included screening questions for depression and anxiety. The study, the Survey of Law Student Well-Being, also found:
    • Seventeen percent of the respondents screened positive for depression, and 18 percent said they had been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives.
    • Twenty-three percent of the respondents screened positive for mild to moderate anxiety, and 14 percent screened positive for severe anxiety. Twenty-one percent said they had been diagnosed with anxiety at some point in their lives.
    • Forty-three percent reported binge drinking at least once in the prior two weeks, and 22 percent reported binge drinking two or more times in the prior two weeks. (Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks in a row for men and four or more drinks in a row for women.)
    • Fourteen percent had used marijuana in the last 30 days and 2.5 percent had used cocaine in the last 30 days.

    Gross, amiright? I mean barrrrrf.

    Again, Drum is naturalising and justifying a reaction on clearly specious grounds in a way that’s trivial to refute. This is reinforcing very bad attitudes toward the homeless as well as people with mental illness or various substance abuse problems.

    • Ithaqua

      Wow, a severely anxious grad student who had too much to drink last Friday is someone to be nervous around in the same way as the crazy person yelling threats at the top of the farmer’s market is. If this is the best you can do, you got nothing.

      • RovingYouthPastor

        I believe a mentally ill student at Virginia Tech warranted a lot more nervousness than any disheveled, loud man at a farmer’s market ever has.

        Judging groups by actions of individuals is a fool’s game.

        • Ithaqua

          No, it’s called “generalization”, and is a very useful survival trait, although not always accurate. “We killed the bear, but it killed four hunters and broke Ooog’s leg. Maybe we shouldn’t hunt bears any more, they don’t run away and give you clear shots at their butts” and that sort of thing.

          • RovingYouthPastor

            Generalizing based on relevant qualities is a survival trait. Generalizing based in irrelevant qualities is the exact opposite.

            Disregarding that fact, social Darwinism hasn’t proven to have a good track record when it comes to matters of justice and morality.

            • Ithaqua

              This is hardly social Darwinism, which is about who rises to the top in societies. Everyone generalizes, and it’s abundantly clear why this is an evolutionarily beneficial thing to do. Cats generalize, fish generalize, probably even flatworms generalize. It’s also called “learning about the world around you.” (Otherwise it would be “learning about this specific thing, and that specific thing, and this other specific thing…”) And… the loss due to generalizing on an irrelevant quality is likely very small relative to the loss of missing out on bear behavior vs. deer behavior. Overgeneralization would seem to be far preferable to undergeneralization.

              Having said that, the world is certainly different than throughout essentially all of our evolutionary history, but we don’t (yet) have the option of taking a virus that will tamp down the genes that direct the building of the brain structures that generalize things. As a math person, not clear to me that we would want to, given how useful that is in math thinking.

          • RovingYouthPastor

            I was responding to a post that seems to have disappeared and Diquis locked it out. Posting here:

            The important notion here is that we are using generalization as a moral mechanism. Here it is bad. At best, we are using a tool developed to condition us to run away from bears (and run towards deer with a sharp stick in hand. If we just ran away from all 4 -legged hairy woodland animals >100lbs, we’d be worse off) to make judgement which have a significant moral bearing on our society. That’s proven to be a bad strategy morally. Maybe the Spartans and Nazis were right and it isn’t bad “survival” wise. But then, so much worse for survivability as a criteria of judgment.

            For all its successes in helping us decide what berries are poisonous and figuring out that some instances groups of permutations are isomorphic to roots of polynomials and thus there is no closed form solution to the rational quintic (Math MS here), it has shown itself to be a horrid strategy for moral reasoning.

            • Ithaqua

              I don’t think we are using generalization as a strategy for moral reasoning. I think, and possibly I’ve missed something in the thread, that we are using it to explain why people who have had unpleasant experiences of one sort or another with homeless people tend to avoid / dislike / have negative feelings towards other homeless people with whom they have had no interaction whatsoever. Purely mechanistic, if you will. The moral part, which is present in Kevin’s post and throughout this thread, is saying “there’s more to life than that. We can overcome those negative feelings and do better.” In this case, moral reasoning is leading us to act in ways contrary to those which exclusively generalization-driven behavior would.

              • RovingYouthPastor

                Down thread (or up? Disqus can be confusing). I laid out some of the problems I have with it in a longer post, both in terms of the “moral mechanism” way of thinking and the specific issue here with Drum’s rhetoric.

                Kevin’s walking into a mode of rhetoric, if not reasoning, that is subtle fertile ground for some of worse aspects of the current milieu.

                • Ithaqua

                  Yeah, I’ve noticed that a couple of my replies in places get rearranged and make no sense if you read that part of the thread linearly. Ultimately, though, it seems to me important to remember that he’s trying to explain the findings in a study that he had no part in. He’s not proposing a new theory of attitudes towards homelessness, he’s explaining why people can feel both personally disgusted (the original paper’s word) by the homeless yet still feel they should be helped out a lot. Given the study findings, it seems quite a plausible explanation, and I have yet to see anyone on the thread propose a better.

      • You got part of the point but. It the whole of the point. Indeed, my point relies on the fact that we don’t find these two social groups disgusting even though, as a population, they come close to the features Drum said only the “crazy” wouldn’t find disgusting.

        Before you respond with “he meant a DIFFERENT KIND of mental illness and a DIFFERENT KIND of substance abuse” consider how such reverse synecdoches (is there a term for this?) function to stigmatize and delegitimise groups.

        Finally, note that you appealed to a specific behavior but not an analogous one nor a population trait. It’s worth thinking this through.

  • randykhan

    I just saw the update, and it reminded me of what I wanted to say last night: All of this stuff is an excuse. The underlying problems cause the odors, and the odors are not a sign one way or another of what the people who have them are like. Or, put differently, babies and elderly parents often smell bad, but that doesn’t stop us from loving them.

    I live in the D.C. area, and the by-far most significant reason for homelessness here is a lack of adequate housing for people with low incomes. A lot of the time, homelessness contributes to difficulty in getting kids to school and maintaining jobs, even for people who get shelter space. Hardly anyone actually wants to live on the streets or in shelters; doing so is a last option. (The stories of people who’ve couch surfed for months or even years before ending up on the streets are legion.) Fix that – not easy, but largely a matter of enough money and other resources – and you greatly reduce homelessness.

    • Paul Thomas

      I mean, of course it’s an excuse. Height isn’t a sign one way or another of the fitness for leadership of the person who has it, but damned if it isn’t relevant to how actual people vote in the real world.

      More generally, it’s a pervasive sociological fallacy that people who look good are morally good, and that the inverse is also true. Policymakers ignore that fallacy at their peril. Of course, it’s a delicate dance between trying to recognize and account for prejudices without nakedly pandering to them.

    • Joe Paulson

      Sounds like we should have empathy once we get past our reflexive reactions.

  • firefall

    I would not say people who exercise after work are disgusting.

    why would you deny this obvious truth?

  • cat butler

    It’s too easy to forget that these are people—human beings in tragic situations. I think we try to dehumanize them for a variety of reasons and then try to make it their fault instead of the massive societal failure it really is. So, great, some people smell. I can be turned off by that without making judgments about someone’s underlying humanity.

    • Paul Thomas

      This is such a bizarre discussion. Like, is there some kind of history I don’t know about of Drum writing things like “homelessness is the result of individual moral failure” and “the homeless are inhuman cockroaches who should just be stamped out”? Because that’s the sort of thing I’d expect to read on Stormfront, not Mother Jones. And neither of those statements are even remotely plausible readings of THIS post.

    • Ithaqua

      Are you referring to the homeless or the people who exercise after work but don’t shower?

      • cat butler

        Yes, I’m trying to address the massive societal problem of shaming sweaty people on public transportation instead of the absolute failure of our safety net.

  • Joe Paulson

    Regarding the update.

    Kevin Drum was responding to a finding where people supported certain homeless policies but not others (involving something people will directly experience). Drum says: “researchers solved their conundrum by suggesting that most people are disgusted by the homeless.”

    I myself looked at the whole thing he said, including that general statement. Thus, e.g., I cited a mental health professional who referenced the odor and how she understood why it was there. Drum himself provided facts and than stated opinion — it is sort of his thing. We can look at the whole picture, and disagree with some of his reactions and opinions. As I said, I think his summary of the homeless was one-sided and did him no favors. But, he supported policies to help them and empathy, which one might not get from some of the replies I saw here and elsewhere.

    (He focused on mental illness and drug abuse. Drug abuse will disgust people and not just how it will make them look and smell on the street. And, yes, only a small number of mentally ill are dangerous. I think again he is open to criticism. But, a small number are — people have been harassed by mentally ill homeless. One would not be “crazy” to reflexively be disgusted, even if human empathy would warrant you to understand.)

    Anyway, as shown, if he did reference odor alone, it wouldn’t have helped much given the rest of the update. He said we should look past “reflexive” reactions and have empathy. You know, since they don’t have homes, there are tragic reasons for that, and it is humane to have empathy. Finally, don’t understand the dishonest part. First, people are repeatedly disgusted at other people who are sweaty. And, this does result in generalizations. But, like here, we should move past reflexes. Second, yes, the panhandling, dirt and grime etc. that won’t be present from those who are coming from the gym factor in there. It’s not just the odor. Not that the odor is quite the same either.

    Good replies — strong feelings that show unlike some issues here that more than one type of reply is quite reasonable.

  • GroverGardner

    So I slept on it and a little light crept through. My main comment was embarassing and stupid. I’ll leave it up as reminder to myself. My apologies to Sentient Al.

    • Sentient AI From The Future

      I genuinely appreciate that. Especially so given that I appear to be going through a bit of a mental health crisis at the moment, the little things matter.

      • GroverGardner

        And I appreciate your reply. Let’s just say I owe you one.

        • Origami Isopod

          Good on you for this follow-up.

          • GroverGardner

            Thank you. It was a monument to thoughtlessness.

  • sigaba

    I live in a gentrifying neighborhood (lotsa lofts for $70/sqft) on the edge of Los Angeles Skid Row. There’s a 5×5 or 5×6 square block region just west of me where you simply can’t walk on the sidewalk to downtown, because the tents are three or four deep. I have tents on my block, there’s a set of regulars on my street, it’s a thing.

    Most of them don’t panhandle, frankly most of them are just completely gone, mentally. There’s a guy who’s been bouncing from corner to corner, has a cat in a carrier. Seems lie a nice cat, my girlfriend bought him some catfood for it, and he immediately launched into a very friendly tirade about heading back to Chicago and the salvation of the holy blood of the lamb and whatever for about 20 minutes and just. wouldn’t. stop. As far as the homeless crisis from my neighborhood is concerned, it’s not fundamentally economic, it’s medical.

    I wish I didn’t have to see homeless people or hear them, but frankly I wish the same thing of signature gatherers and telemarketers. I don’t hate homeless people, I hate people. I get the police blotters for my area and there are assaults every week, occasional muggings, lots of car breakins.

    There are some services for the homeless but the biggest presence in the neighborhood are the religious missions, and frankly these just reek of grift. They raise money off of an image of down-on-their-luck Dust Bowl migrant workers, take the money and then warehouse. The private charity system seems completely dysfunctional. (I exclude from this certain charities, like Homeboy Industries, which seem to work exactly because they help people who didn’t walk out of a Frank Capra movie: recovering gangsters, people who speak Spanish.)

    • Origami Isopod

      The private charity system seems completely dysfunctional.

      Feature, not bug.

  • mongolia

    replied yesterday about this, but this entire controversy to me hinges on how you interpret the word “disgust”. most people who are outraged appear to hear it “disgusting” as “despicable.” if you hear it that way, then the controversy makes sense. however, if you don’t hear the term as “despicable,” but instead as say “physically revolting,” then i don’t see what’s wrong. and then if you think of the examples provided, say of a child shitting their pants: yes, someone who shit’s their pants is disguting. and they aren’t once they’ve been cleaned. but that child should not be despised. someone who has been sleeping outside and has not showered in 2 weeks is also disgusting. once they have cleaned themselves and put on laundered clothing, they are not disgusting anymore. they should not be despised

  • Spot Letton

    Every jurisdiction in the U.S., including my own beloved SF, has repeatedly made affirmative decisions to create homelessness, by tearing down the buildings that poor and damaged people can afford to live in and not replacing the lost housing. Those office buildings and condos where you have to walk by repugnant homeless people to get in and out — you put them there.

  • I began wondering about Drum’s claim about illness rates. From The Prevalence of Mental Disorders among the Homeless in Western Countries. (Out of order):

    This systematic review of serious mental disorders in homeless persons identified 29 surveys including 5,684 individuals. There are three main findings. First, the most common mental disorders appeared to be alcohol and drug dependence, with random effects pooled prevalence estimates of 37.9% (95% CI 27.8%–48.0%) and 24.4% (95% CI 13.2%–35.6%), respectively.

    Psychotic illness was reported in 28 surveys with a random effects pooled prevalence of 12.7% (95% CI 10.2%–15.2%) [6–10,38–56,60,61]. Estimates ranged from 2.8% to 42.3% with substantial heterogeneity among the estimates (χ2 = 237.7, p < 0.001, I2 = 88.6%, 95% CI 84.8%–91.5%).

    We identified 19 surveys that reported major depression with a random effects pooled prevalence estimate of 11.4% (95% CI 8.4%–14.4%) (Figure 4) [8–10,38–41,43,47–49,51–53,55–58,61]. The prevalence estimates ranged from 0.0% to 40.9% and there was substantial heterogeneity among those estimates (χ2 = 160.6, p < 0.001, I2 = 88.8%, 95% CI 84.0%–92.2%).

    We identified 14 surveys that reported personality disorder diagnoses in 2,413 homeless persons (Figure 4) [6–10,38,39,41,48,51,54,55,61]. The prevalence estimates ranged from 2.2% to 71.0%. The random effects pooled prevalence estimate was 23.1% (95% CI 15.5%–30.8%)

    This doesn’t quite refute Drum, but does add some detail.

    • Oh, even Drum’s source distinguishes between “any mental illness” (50%) and “serious mental illness (30 something %) yet he picks the larger number as part of the grounds of population level disgust which makes you non crazy. C’mon.

  • Asano Sokato

    what’s really disgusting is some people can’t bathe regularly because they don’t have homes

    This just made me laugh. Certainly not because it is funny (it is not). But because it is so true. So simple. So clear. I laugh with joy to hear such truth simply spoken. If only we could just start there at this simple fact.

    Thank you.

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