You may wonder why the general public should care about how informed the homeless are about our political system, while you have more important issues to worry about for your own well-being.
Since we didn’t know how prevalent political ignorance was among the underprivileged in the latest presidential election, we are about to be ruled by this factor during the next 4 years. I hope that gives you the compelling reason to read this post further.
As I’ve conversed with a number of fellow homeless individuals at where I’ve dwelt for over a month, I’ve come to understand the dynamics of the presidential election in 2016. Among many of them at the shelter, I’ve come across exactly the same mentality as the white working class who were instrumental in elevating Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Some are proud supporters of him. Then, there are others who want a liberal figure with the identical level of swagger as Trump. It was quite alarming to confront such.
This revelation made me realize how useless the postmortem by the mainstream media and the political establishment turned out to be. All the published reports were based on superficial elements of the voter base, which led to no definitive conclusion. Based on my direct experience, the citizens’ educational spectrum was what ultimately mattered, which was never considered at all.
Let me highlight the levels of civic illiteracy I’ve encountered.
The first has to do with the highest level of oblivion. At my shelter, most of those who thought like Trump supporters didn’t graduate from high school. The typical question social workers ask a homeless individual is whether he or she has the GED, General Educational Development tests that give the certification of high school equivalency. Many of my fellow guests never bothered with such.
Just like the blue-collar White Americans who empowered Donald Trump, many of the homeless with this level of education jumped into the job market 2 or 3 decades ago as teenagers, especially in the manufacturing sector that required or trained specific skills for limited tasks. As this industry waned in the U.S. economy, these folks, in their middle-ages without transferable skills, had nowhere to turn to in the domestic market.
There are also those in their 20s, who’ve dropped out of high school as well. Yet, their understanding of our system was the same as that of the older men who were disenfranchised. It revealed just how poor and stagnant the quality of elementary education was among the underprivileged, no matter how much societal progress we thought we’d made.
What was the consistent reason for dropping out of the school? Many of them were already marginalized in their schools for various reasons. So, these individuals rushed into the adulthood to distinguish themselves from their peers, through financial means.
At this point, all those who are sidelined want is equality, at an expedited pace. As they’ve become powerless, their desire for such is quite intense through an almighty advocate.
The way they presume about the president of the United States is the sovereign of an ancient dynasty. If one were to head a nation, his or her command should be executed immediately, according to their expectation. What this constituent demand is a righteous dictator with the absolute power. For this segment of population, their scope of democracy is sovereignty by election instead of heritage. As Donald Trump fulfilled this expectation completely during the presidential campaign, he won the election.
I’ve gathered that the marginalized, starting with my fellow guests at the homeless shelter, don’t know that a democracy strives for equality by allocating limited power among the executive, judicial and legislative branches, with each of their mutual independence from others. I’ve also found that the hierarchy among the city or municipal, state and federal governments is a whole new territory they aren’t interested. For the less privileged, separation of power and self-reliance of each entity were nothing but the hindrance against equality they feel so entitled to deserve, which should simply be directed from the federal government.
The second level of political unawareness pinpoints to the unconditional worshipers of the U.S. Constitution. They think it is the ultimate savior that can correct all the ills of our system, if we access the legal system. Those who possess this train of thoughts happen to be schooled longer up to 12th grade, but are very few at the shelter.
They don’t realize that the U.S. Constitution is an organic entity that evolves with a constant examination of the rules against the founders’ intent. As a result, this minority doesn’t understand how vital the selection of the U.S. Supreme Court justices is, whose interpretations of the law can affect our lives for a minimum of a century. This constituent doesn’t know that it is the president who has the power to nominate each justice for a life-time appointment. It escapes their attention that this privilege is the ultimate route for the sitting president to leave his or her legacy way beyond one or two designated terms.
The first two groups make up the vast majority of the homeless population where I am. There are few college graduates. But, their degrees tend to be vocation-oriented. That means this faction, which is even tinier than the aforementioned two, tend not to comprehend why the U.S. Constitution has to be questioned constantly, either. These people aren’t equipped with the liberal art foundation that allows each individual to grasp the caveat of our system.
I couldn’t utter any of it at all, upon facing the magnitude of the conceptual gap.
Our economic principle, maximization of profits or self-interests at any cost, is what Americans need to abide by on a daily basis. It is the measure that our forefathers integrated into the U.S. Constitution to protect their self-interests, which wasn’t possible in an aristocracy. As this rule dominates our lives on a daily basis, all the wonderful qualities about our democracy form a pie in the sky in order to quiet the public.
The founding fathers might have founded a sound democracy by embedding checks and balances within the government. Unfortunately, this very government, as a whole, has no safeguarding mechanism against the wealthy, thereby allowing them to accumulate unlimited power over our entire societal structure. Intentionally or not, our forefathers ended up creating a plutocracy, a system that would benefit the rich. This paradigm goes against the goal of democracy, thereby equality.
In turn, the U.S. Constitution constantly clashes between our economic and political goals. It is the role of the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve each of the conflicts between the two issues at all times, without ever clarifying what our system was meant to be between a democracy or plutocracy. Just because one earned a college degree, it didn’t mean that he or she digested the duplicity of our system at all.
As I’ve seen the shades of ignorance among the homeless, I came to realize that I must have appeared like an alien in the Internet for the last 7 years. I operated under the assumption that the general public must have been equipped with the same level of academic and informational base as I have. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Most people probably had no idea what I was speaking about at all.
Here are the sobering lessons I’ve amassed out of my exposure at a homeless shelter.
Firstly, when the ruling class attempts to maintain a dysfunctional system, the mainstream can suppress the dissenting voice for so long. As we’ve just entered the phase, a retaliatory paradigm emerges to accommodate the underprivileged. Against our plutocracy, what white working class strove for was voluntary communism, in the conceptual term. The latter just won the presidential election, which proved that ignorance was more powerful than knowledge, cursory knowledge to be specific.
Secondly, voluntary communism is destined to continue if our economic and educational disparities broaden and deepen over time. That scenario has a great chance to be realized under Donald Trump’s leadership. And, as the president-elect has set a precedent with the underprivileged, future presidential candidates, regardless of their political bent, need to offer the same or even more to secure the votes of the less privileged.
If this ideology is to take a hold in the United States, we will never be able to have a leader with integrity. In a modern democracy, a leader has to risk his or her name and good will to get anything done for the society. Everything he or she attempts is an idea that has not been tested. Committing others to the uncertainty of the outcome and sharing the responsibility for the potential failure isn’t easy. In spite of these risks, followers can devote themselves to a noble cause only if they believe in the integrity of the commander-in-chief.
That isn’t the operating parameter between Donald Trump and white working class. Both assume that power alone is what makes everything happen. For this tool to work, fear is often the accompanying element into the equation. This conceptual complex doesn’t allow the exploration of potential paths. And, the underprivileged aren’t about to be loyal to the chosen idea, either, as they don’t risk anything of themselves.
Thirdly, it was harrowing to witness the consequence of the propaganda. To serve their own economic or political agenda, the mainstream media have exploited the underprivileged with such. For this constituent with the limited educational background, the mainstream media turned out to be the secular religion that constantly fed what people wanted to hear with no accountability whatsoever. These people hung onto every piece of information and news at face value.
In particular, the liberal propaganda was so corrosive yet potent, which is disseminated by the vast majority of the mainstream media. The homeless desperately held onto the notion of getting something from our system, without realizing that this self-pity eventually drove them to their rock bottom. Yet, they were so ready to take this idea all the way to their graves. In contrast, white working class were at least one step ahead by demanding more out of our system.
All in all, I urge the readers of this blog post to consider as follows: What level of knowledge do you possess about our system, regardless of your academic pedigrees? How have you acted on such so far? What level of your ignorance or laziness contributed to our collective destiny? Have you fallen for the media’s propaganda? If so, what makes you want to relinquish individual responsibility toward our system? Have you realized that our democracy is denigrated when you do so?
Both plutocracy and voluntary communism are equally erroneous and problematic. Most of all, neither of them is sustainable. What choice do you plan to make in this dilemma?
Do you have the courage to confront the flaw of our founding fathers and to devise the ideal course for our system? Will you be able to cooperate with others you don’t necessarily like for a higher purpose?