Deus Ex Machina

"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

The “Undeserving Poor” of Los Angeles

There was something I witnessed in my stint in America which I’ve been thinking about for some time. I was far away in the south-east side of Los Angeles city waiting for a bus at the bus stop when there was a couple of people who approached the bus stop carrying bags labelled “Jesus Saves”. I assumed that they had just come out of a non-denominational church nearby.

So they were talking about and asking each other what’s in their bags: clothes, blankets or toiletries and stuff (it was winter after all) and thus one can infer that they had just received a short of charity package from the church.

Eventually, they got on the same bus as me and they were talking so loudly that I can’t help overhearing them (Americans and their boisterousness…). One of the guy with these bags was talking about how he had some weed on him and there was a sort of check or something and he had to hide the weed in his soup or drink or something, along with his experience of doing it.

I am not a puritan nor do I think that doing weed or smoking is inherently sinful. However, as a good middleclass Victorian (Victorian, not puritan!), I can’t help but think of the concept of the “undeserving poor” and the highly imprudent and impractical decision of this man. Should not one take the aid one has been given to improve yourself and not squander it on weed? Smoking and drinking alcohol is fine, but when you’ve got starving children and a family to feed and you don’t earn enough to cover even for basic necessities, what justification is there for one to waste it on cigarettes and stuff?

Perhaps this is simply my highly practical Asian mindset, it is generally considered shameful to beg in Chinese culture, and the idea of not only receiving aid but squandering it seems outrageous.

However, when I consider how old some of them looked, I think to myself, well, to what end the improvement of their rapidly diminishing life? Their lives are now quite frankly so pathetic and miserable, with little to look forward to, that there is nothing more for them than to get high on weed. Should we begrudge them whatever little comforts which may ease their way through their miserable lives before death mercifully relieves them of that burden?

Maybe there is some deep background or facts I’m missing there, but there was a time when I would be sure and certain in my opinion about socio-economic policies and that there is a good solution in every case. But now I am uncertain and lost in a multitude of irreconcilable considerations, and increasingly, I have ceased to care about socio-economic conditions which I personally have very little control over.

I guess there is only the example and command of Christ to give and heal indiscriminately, just as Christ healed ten of which only one returned to thank him, and exercise one’s limited prudence when and where one can, and commend everything else outside the scope of one’s agency to God in prayer and hope.

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This entry was posted on January 6, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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