… how long it had been since we engaged in one of life’s urgent necessities. Here is the wonderful Barbara Ehrenreich:
As anyone knows who has ever had to set up a military encampment or build a village from the ground up, occupations pose staggering logistical problems. Large numbers of people must be fed and kept reasonably warm and dry. Trash has to be removed; medical care and rudimentary security provided—to which ends a dozen or more committees may toil night and day. But for the individual occupier, one problem often overshadows everything else, including job loss, the destruction of the middle class, and the reign of the 1 percent. And that is the single question: Where am I going to pee?
Ehrenreich is writing about participants in Occupy movements almost everywhere, but she draws the connection between the presumably temporary plight of those participants and the effectively permanent suffering of the chronically homeless. Unlike the Occupy protesters, the homeless frequently find their very day-to-day existence and minimal basic activity criminalized by city after city. Ehrenreich, in a nutshell, on the matter of urination:
… Public restrooms are sparse in American cities—“as if the need to go to the bathroom does not exist,” travel expert Arthur Frommer once observed. And yet to yield to bladder pressure is to risk arrest. …
I remember a sign in the public library down the street from me. The sign (since removed, I believe) had a list of no fewer than a dozen activities prohibited in the library. Among them were sleeping or even putting your head down on a library table, and washing or shaving your face in the library restroom. The clear intent… they didn’t have to spell it out… was NO HOMELESS PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED USE OF THIS LIBRARY. But I can’t help asking: if there have to be homeless people, where is a better place for a non-disruptive homeless person? City councils, however many GOPers occupy their chambers, might as well get over the fact that criminalizing homelessness without offering effective alternatives just doesn’t work. And hence the Occupy movement, willingly (I’m sure) or otherwise (I doubt), has homelessness as one of its issues. Good. It’s about time someone gave a damn!
AFTERTHOUGHT: I am reminded that I, despite having never been homeless, have probably changed clothes and groomed myself a couple hundred times in public restrooms; it is the common lot of all active performing musicians who work elsewhere than in concert halls. All I can say is that it’s a damned inconvenience, not something anyone would undertake without a good reason. My heart goes out to people who have to do it every single time they clean and groom themselves. Our society owes them better.