The real shame of American culture

August 17, 2014
Stacey Warde

Stacey Warde


A woman at the thrift shop today asked me if I was homeless.

I had just pulled a pair of Levi jeans off the rack, and a book on writing I’d discovered off the shelf and placed them before her.

“Do you take credit or debit cards?” I asked.

“No, I’m sorry,” she said, “We only take cash. We’ve just had too many problems with cards. That’ll be four dollars.”

I didn’t have any cash on me. I thought my card would do the trick.

Then, she asked: “Are you homeless?”

“Um, no,” I replied. I wore a uniform T-shirt with the company logo of the landscape outfit I work for and sported a pair of pruners in a holster on my belt. I’m a laborer but I’m not homeless, I said.

We just made a quick stop between jobs so that I could find a cheap pair of work pants.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she responded. “I thought you might be homeless. We sometimes can give items free to customers who are homeless.”

This is a church-run outfit in Los Osos, one that provides income for the church and opportunities to serve the poor.

“Well, I’m not homeless,” I said, “but thanks for asking.”

“I’d be offended if someone had asked me if I was homeless,” she said apologetically.

“Really?” I said quickly, incredulous. “Why be offended? Especially in this economy. No, there’s no need to feel ashamed, not for being homeless” I added, the fires burning, “the people who need to feel ashamed are the Wall Street bankers who’ve robbed this country blind for the last ten years.”

She wouldn’t look at me, refused to engage further in my fulmination against the real shame of American culture: it isn’t homelessness but greed. That’s why this country is so fucked up.

That’s why a church woman intending to do well, to serve the poor, would feel offended if someone had asked her if she were homeless.

The more homelessness and child poverty, the more shame to those who hoard their wealth. The real crux of shame in American culture is greed, not poverty.

All that comes to mind, when I think of it, are the French Revolution and peasants who tear down the ramparts and bring to ruin the elite, the effete aristocracy, who would let the poor eat cake rather than deign to show compassion; and the biblical lament, “Woe to you who hoard your riches and refuse to hear the cry of the poor!”

Stacey Warde is a long time Cayucos resident and the publisher of The Rogue Voice which is now available online.

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Well, it’s good to see Stacy touching a nerve among those who so blindly believe that good old American capitalism is the best thing going; facts, be damned.

We had a strong, vibrant economy, growth happening in almost every single area, and everyone was doing well; then we had the oil crisis in the 70s, because of greed by those in charge of the oil producing nations other than the USA. The economic turmoil that resulted enabled Ronald Reagan to challenge President Carter, and the race was going to be a squeaker, up until negotiations with Iran concerning the American hostages were illegally interrupted by those serving on Reagan’s campaign. Once Reagan was elected, the full, frontal assault on the middle class, the unions, and anyone who wasn’t a cheerleader for the rich began, resulting finally in the totally f’d up economy we have today.

Capitalism isn’t to blame for our plight currently, it has just been the tool that serves those with the most money and power; what has happened in the last 12 years is a complete shift towards an Oligarchy where the rich and powerful control almost every aspect of society. As those in power sought to curry favor with those with the money, laws have been passed, laws have been dismantled and every aspect of how our government functions as snapped to attention to serve those with the money. Citizen’s United? Benefits the rich. Striking down the Glass-Stiegal Act? Again, benefitting the rich. It goes on and on; like the famous quote, if you really want to see why something is happening, who is benefitting, “follow the money”.

Politicians may run on promises of serving the needs of the citizens, but once elected they have to face the reality of how to get re-elected, so they do start to smooze with the rich, and by doing so, they vote for laws that benefit the wealthy.

As for Stacy or myself being labeled as “socialists” or communists; please educate yourself what those terms really mean before throwing them around loosely, or even making the grave mistake of equating them with each other. Norway, Sweden, Denmark and other countries operate with a much more “democratic socialistic” model than most, and by most accounts, they do not have a huge problem with homelessness, and unemployment.

America could do better, if we had the political will to serve the majority of citizens, not just the wealthy.

Many of my closest friends are Danish (still living there, we speak daily) and you are quite a bit off on the “do not have a huge problem with homelessness and unemployment” – mostly because they are paid to go to school, so most are just “professional students” getting government subsidies.

Subsidies that exist because of the largess of larger, wealthier nations that consume their products (a lot of windmills and cheese). Pointing to very small populations as an example of how the U.S. should do it is disingenuous at best, and downright ignorant at worst.

How is that “democratic socialistic” model working out for Venezuela? Cuba? North Korea? Does China really still follow that model? Does Russia? What rock have you been under for the last 40 years? I suppose the rock of the democrat party. Shed your party loyalty and join the only race that matters: the Human race. Thank you.

This is the best post I have EVER seen on Cal Coast News!!!! Love it—-more of this PLEASE!!!

Yes, very enjoyable if you read his writings on The Rogue Voice with frequent F-bombs and t***s (female breasts). Very elegant, pleasant and classy. What a great writer!

It’s a common trap: people often mistake “edgy” and angry for witty and artistic.

People are just so thin skinned, everything is about feelings. So the lady made a mistake and thought you might be homeless, she is probably a very kind (but lacking in diplomacy) lady.

You should have taken the jeans and book if you really needed them, and the next day stopped by with the cash…. end of story.

Any Country you live in you will find the divide of rich and poor it is a fact of life.

Don’t know how much you have travelled, but Americans are the most generous people you would ever meet. You don’t have to go far just cross the Mexican boarder and see how those poor people are treated, that is why they are crossing into OUR Country by the thousands. Americans do not hoard our money….. the Government makes sure of that.

The screaming problem here as I see it, is; If you would be offended by someone asking you a question, why would you ask anyone that same question. It’s not that people are thin skinned, they just don’t think before they speak.

Let’s limit these ponderous missives from Stacey to maybe once a year. Those looking for more basic class warfare can find it at his site. Spare us ccn. Give an outlet to someone we haven’t heard whine for over a decade now.

More liberal opinion tripe from a two-time Obama voter.

Reading this stuff and seeing many thumbs-down a proper sensible capitalist response grieves me, as does the rioting in Missouri by agitators and common thieves hiding amidst emotional and mostly misguided protesters.

Then everybody learns the thug deceased strong arming bullyied and shoved a victim ON FLIPPING CAMERA just before he was shot by a VERY likely justified police officer.

THEN they claim the cop roughed himself up to feign injuries to justify a cold blooded shooting, which it most likely was not. Really stretched out opinions, there.

I fought the bankers too, Stacey, but 60 hour work weeks overwhelmed their negative efforts and I still somehow managed a tidy sum. I both donate and shop Goodwill, cousin.

I didn’t like your writing, Stacey.

You are right-on about greed, there is no reason for it. We are a country that thrives on buying new, spending and consuming. People don’t think of it as being greedy, I don’t think!

I am wondering if the woman behind the thrift shop counter was thinking about ‘asking her if she is homeless’ in regard to the way she would ‘look’? If she were mistaken for someone who is homeless did she mean she would look a certain way?

Homelessness must is terrible. I don’t know how people live without a home. To never know where to ‘go’ to sleep, what you will be eating and endlessly wandering the streets. People stare at homeless people or ignore them like they aren’t really there. We have shelters where people can take a bath and sleep and have a hot meal and receive some comfort, but do we have enough to offer this to all of those who need it? I worry about the homeless, the children of the homeless and what will become of them.

All of us need to be compassionate, help out as much as we can, contribute to the shelters and give money and food when we can. This is an interesting topic and I think I know the thrift shop you are talking about. Wonderful people work there and help out and offer ‘goods’ at a reasonable price and give their time. Maybe there was a misunderstanding about what she said. I don’t know.

Misunderstanding? She was trying to help. She said……………oh if you where homeless I could give it to you for free. Um that sounds like help in my book. I don’t think from the conversation he spelled out that there was anything nefarious on the woman’s part. Maybe wording or approach could have been better.

You must understand: we consume new because the moment we stop, we’re ALL homeless. Like it or not, we’re a SERVICE industry now. Service for the goods made elsewhere. What, we’re all going to go back to our farms? Simple living by doing what? Consumption is the only thing driving the economy, without it we fail.

Stacey, there are better words used for description instead of the F-bomb. Why would assume that nobody would be offended?

Two words: Target Audience

How about envy- greed’s ugly cousin.

How about Pride?

What the hell are you smoking?

NOTHING stops you from being as successful as you want to be. NOTHING.

The ENTIRE purpose of being in business and owning your own company, is to make as much money as you can. In America, however, this “greed” is cushioned by capitalism, which ensures only those with a product or service that consumers actually want or need, will succeed.

Any other attitude about the wealth of others, is petty, ignorant, and just plain stupid.

Well….unless you are a socialist like this writer, and have no intention of actually taking care of yourself by your own means.

Then why did so many bankers and wall st. people get indited, convicted and given jail terms for fleecing us out of BILLIONS of dollars?

The same reason so many poor and/or homeless people get arrested, convicted and sentenced. We are not a perfect species. We lie. We cheat. We steal. No matter the income bracket. Next question.

By chance are you a car sale man?

Not all businesses are in it to make as much money as they can. A lot of people work hard , take what they need and be able to take care of their families, but not rip off everyone insight!! There is a difference between ‘greed’ and working for what you get. Everyone knows the difference!!

Name one business that is not “in it” to make as much money as they can! If someone did not want to make as much as they can, they would not go into business.

What is HE smoking? As a proud capitalist let me tell you that “In America” capitalism does NOT ensure only those with a product or service that consumers actually want or need will succeed. This does not happen because of a number of anti-free-market practices. Among these are policies in which the government picking winners and losers (everything from bailouts to tax subsidies to the manner in which the Federal Reserve operates), policies which have implemented pay-to-play restrictions against accessing the market, a terrible implementation of intellectual property rights, and even the structure of the limited liability corporation (as opposed to a corporate structure which allows for accountability for things other than shareholder return).

That being said, I believe that you can succeed pretty much anywhere in the world, if you put your mind to it and are persistent. But your description of our current economic system is wildly inaccurate and although as individuals we have to be responsible for our own actions, in terms of policy and analysis it is fair to discuss the corruption, collusion, and greater advantage enjoyed by some.

Nice word salad. I think you left out “arugula”. This piece was good. I’m so pleased to find it here. Thanks Karen.

Are you replying to me or commenting on Stacey’s piece?

Messikt, Do please enlighten us all with your definition of “socialism”; I’m afraid your ignorance is showing…

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