And I agree with most of what you've said.
I still hesitate to align myself with those who say that society(meaning organized government systems) need to take care of the problems.
I have also read "Man's Search for Meaning" and it was a revelation to me. Now I understand how people can stand to go through these kinds of experiences, where there is no more beauty or goodness left in the world, and there seems to be nothing to live for.
I agree with what you said about art. We need to continue to celebrate life, or else evil has won.
I will pick up the Dorothy Day you mentioned, and read it.
What you said about there being no rehab for poor people ... is that true? We had a homeless alcoholic living in our neighborhood for a while. Everyone was pitching in trying to find a place for him to go. It's true that when I looked on the internet, most of the good places required payment. But there were many charitable/religious oriented alcohol rehabs that would have taken him in. The best one I found had a long waiting list. But there were others, and we knew, because one of the women in the neighborhood worked in social services, and had arranged an opening for him, that there were options. He simply kept bouncing back from these institutions on the pretext that they were too Jesus-oriented for him. I can understand his frustration with that, but on the other hand, if I were in his place, I would have swallowed my irritation, and gone along, in my own way, in order to get through the addiction.
I had a cab driver friend who had once been in similar circumstances. He'd spent years in prison, and more years as an alcoholic and homeless person. To get out of his rut, that is what he had to do. And he did it. That must have been very hard for an atheist, who had been raised as an Orthodox Jew. Nevertheless, he swallowed the bullshit to get to the good stuff, and once he was free of his addiction, he went on to lead his own kind of life. He even counselled the other homeless guy in the above paragraph and advised him to do the same thing.
This is the kind of frustration that I have experienced. Both these individuals were intelligent. Both were equally capable of leading productive lives. They had the same addictions, and plenty of idiosyncrasies that marginalized them, socially. In Bear's case, once you could see past the alcoholism, there was a really good person there. In Miko's case, even WITHOUT the alcoholism, it was easy to see how he could rub people the wrong way. Yet, Miko rose above his circumstances, and Bear fell down. I don't know what it was inside Miko that made him keep trying, or what it was inside Bear that made him give up.
A lot of it seems to me to be a question of personal choice. And, what are you going to do with a person who has all the reasonable gifts of personality, intelligence, looks and health, but refuses to lift one finger to rise to the occasion? This guy had compassion poured on him from every corner of our little neighborhoood, yet ... it wasn't enough. Unlike you, I find it hard to feel sympathy for these people, after I see where they are headed, and that, for some reason, they simply cannot or will not attempt to change.
And I can't help comparing them to the people like Miko, who had NO help, NO sympathy, who stands about five foot nothing, who decided, pretty much on his own, that his life deserved improvement. He did it. Is the life he's living now a really great one? Well, he's a CAB driver. How good is that? Nevertheless, it is something, and he struggles daily with that something. He manages to keep his head above water. What an incredible human being. I wish I had half his determination.
I lean toward Judaism, myself, but modern day Judaism is not so much about retribution as it about self-examination and living a life that is praiseworthy to God. Where do you find the balance beween judgement and forgiveness? That is an ongoing struggle for me, and for most of us. I can be very harsh, so in order to keep from doing harm, I try to stay away from the people that you try to help. I would not be a help. For the time being, I have found my "level" with animals. I have thought that, perhaps at a later point in my life, I might join the Peace Corps and work with people in truly poverty-stricken areas. I know I would find that a lot more rewarding than dealing with the disenfranchised folks living in this wealthy nation.
Thanks for following up. Sometimes the threads you most want to continue get buried under all political bickering.