The New Yorker has an article titled 'Forced Out'. It's subtitled 'For many poor Americans, eviction never ends'. It's not a bad article as such things go, pointing out the reality of hardship that faces far too many people in our affluent society today. However, it completely ignores many of the factors that put them in such a position in the first place. They include, but are not limited to:
- The ongoing breakdown of the nuclear family in inner-city environments, meaning there's no strong, cohesive social unit to provide mutual support in the face of hardship.
- The lack of focus on personal responsibility in schools and our education system, so that far too many people grow up with an expectation of entitlement; "Someone else must do it for me - I can't do it on my own." Students aren't taught the life skills they can no longer learn at home, because the majority of them no longer live in families where such skills are practiced.
- The lack of focus on personal goals and priorities. The article has some examples of this, such as the renter who asked for some of her November rent back so she could buy Christmas presents for her kids. The landlord's reply: "You’ve been knowing Christmas was coming eleven months ago." Sadly, that's not inappropriate. Living day-to-day has become a way of life, with no effort to plan for the future.
- The breakdown of social welfare systems that were intended to help those down on their luck until they could get back on their feet, but have become 'revolving door' bureaucracies that often merely perpetuate the problems they were originally created to solve.
There's also what some (including myself) call 'the unacceptable face of capitalism': the urge to derive maximum profit from one's investment even if that's at the expense of causing misery to others. That's what many slumlords do, in a lower-level version of the societal extortion practiced by the banksters. They charge exorbitant rentals for properties that are run-down, grimy, dilapidated, and in some cases actually dangerous to health, but they never plow back any of that money into improving the properties. They pocket it, or use it as seed money to fund other investments elsewhere. They appear to have no sense that the right thing to do would be to put something back into the communities where they make their money. That's in the grand tradition of the 'robber barons' of the 19th century, of course; but it's in stark contrast to others, such as Robert Owen or Henry Ford. I'm not arguing for socialism or anything like that, but a more welfare-oriented capitalism isn't out of place, IMHO - particularly for those who claim to be Christian. Not all the blame for the eviction crisis can be laid at the feet of deadbeat renters.
Be that as it may, the article is a useful look at the root of what's wrong in our inner cities. Given that reality, it's no wonder that urban despair finds an outlet in rage, crime and gang violence, as evidenced in so many cities around the country. The problem is, I don't see any solution to those root causes. No-one's willing to tackle the issues I outlined above, and no-one's willing to take responsibility for fixing them. What sort of future can there be for such suburbs and those who live in them? And how can we prevent that future spreading out to engulf entire cities? Your guess is as good as mine.
That's one reason among many why I no longer live in a big metropolis, and hopefully never will again. I'll do my best to stick to smaller cities and towns where the problems are more manageable, and things are local enough that people still care.