Collaborate2011

Interview with Dark 2 – Melody Nixon

In Melody Nixon, nonfiction on July 28, 2011 at 11:56 pm

Dark and I have been in contact to hash out some follow-up questions from our first interview. Dark provides a refreshing point of view that almost fits the idealized version I used to have of homelessness – that is, that homelessness is a choice, a political statement, a way of rebelling from mainstream monotony and choosing to live outside of society. Embodying the statement that ‘society might serve you, but it doesn’t serve me.’ Until about 6 or 7 years ago I thought many homeless people had made a similar choice to rebel, live freely, outside. Now I’ve come to believe that the reasons for homelessness are as multiple and varied as people, and that the circumstances which lead up to life on the streets can sometimes make the descriptor ‘choice’ seem greatly inadequate.

 

But not so, I think, with Dark. He’s an old-skool squatter and street-sleeper, interested in the fact that homelessness is synonymous with poverty these days because while ‘life on the streets is a heck of a lot cheaper than paying bills’ he doesn’t seem to associate it with destitution, pity or heart-ache. In fact I get the sense that he thinks people living within the system are sometimes a lot worse off. Yesterday he sent me this quote, which he particularly loves:

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry , naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is
the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”

*

 

Here’s our latest interview, follow-up questions included.

 

*

 

MN: Can you tell me about benefit options available from the Government in the UK?

DF: The benefits available to society’s misfits in the UK, are many and varied… Although the UK government is working on a new system they’re naming “universal credit” which they’re saying will be based on what you can give to society… Not benefits, “universal credit” – sounds like government spin.

 

MN: Is this generally enough to cover rent?

DF: The benefit that helps with that need?… In the UK there is the “housing benefit,” most of the time this covers the rent… Unless you’re lucky/unlucky enough to live in an area which has become rental popular in which case you’ll need to top up the housing benefit or move to a cheaper area.

Mind you, many landlords in Oxford have a NOT! on benefits policy… Silly really, [since] some of the top benefit-earners are making working for a living look like a less than wise choice.

 

MN: You mentioned in one blog post that you prefer not to receive benefits. Is this still the case for you?

DF: A lot of people I know say I’m mad for the time I’ve spent off benefits, after all most of them see it as free money… My problem is, I see it’s not! I’m on JSA [Job Seeker’s Allowance] which is the UK’s looking for work benefit… Strange that homelessness is such a big charity fund-raiser, but there’s no direct UK government benefit for people who are homeless.

 

MN: Do you meet a full range of homeless types on the street there, or is there one ‘typical’ kind of homeless person?

DF: That made me smile… what is “full range” homeless… Oxford has them all from trolley pushers,  insane drug addicts, and those who just like the life.

 

MN: Yes, I guess that’s a pretty broad statement! I asked this question because the stereotype that ‘homed’ people might have about homeless people is that they are all “lazy” people who have ‘chosen’ to live on the streets.

DF: You’ll like this, it’s from the Urban Dictionary on the homeless… “They understand that being lazy is something that is actually sought out for and not something to be ashamed of.”

 

MN: But from what I’ve seen in NYC, there is such a wide range of people and reasons for being homeless.

DF: This also from the Urban Dictionary on the same subject… “[A homeless person is a] human being who is shocked by the Holocaustal attitudes present in other contributors to this definition.”

 

MN: In NYC there are, to name just a few examples, families with children (without addicted parents), people out of work, people who’ve been evicted unfairly, people from a foster care backgrounds. They defy the traditional stereotype, but because all ‘we’ see are people who look bedraggled and tired and exhausted, it’s easy to assume they fall into the alcoholic/drug addict type.

DF: Yep, losing your housing can happen to anyone…like the once rich, now bankrupt, also a lot start using alcohol/drugs to deal with the situation… I’ve noticed a lot don’t think they were/are the problem that caused their homelessness, or that finding somewhere else to live will need a lifestyle/attitude change… there seems to be a high number of homeless stuck in the someone’s-to-blame, not-my-fault cycle.

 

MN: What stereotypes do you have to deal with?

DF: Strange one for me to answer… it’s not the first thing people notice about me, a lot say something like me looking like an Old Hippy… or pot head.

 

MN: You say “the homeless are not just the un-housed.” I am curious to hear more of your thoughts on this. How can someone have a house, yet still be homeless?

DF: Sorry bad quote… homelessness is not housing issue, for most people its keeping the house you get… I know many people who are just unable to be housed, like chronic hoarders, pyromaniac fire [users] etc.

 

MN: Are there any services out there that could assist these people to deal with their obsessions?

DF: Yes, lots but… getting people like this to recognize their behavior as a problem, is next to impossible… OCD is problem that seems to be growing in the UK.

 

MN: What do you think about people who travel full-time, living in campervans or camping on the beach? I mean, people who are wanderers. Do you think they are homeless too?

DF: I think it depends if they enjoy the lifestyle they have, a campervan-liver who likes the life it gives is different from someone desperate for a flat forced to live in a van… It’s being happy with the life their accommodation provides.

 

MN: Good point. Do you think, though, that a person can be “emotionally homeless?” And how about “spiritually homeless”? (I’m not sure how I would define spiritually homeless, so whatever this means to you… if you have any thoughts on it.)

DF: That all comes down to what you seeking from your life… can bad housing ever be called home?… Spiritually homeless? If your belief is affected by your housing, you must have the wrong God, or are you talking about the misery sub-standard housing brings to those forced to live there?

 

MN: Yes, partly this. And also, I’m thinking about someone who might have an apartment, and money to pay all the bills, but they still feel adrift, and ‘homeless.’ Like they don’t have a home. So maybe they move houses every 4, 5 months, and move states or countries if they can, still looking for somewhere to call home…

DF: I think this stems from an unhappiness within the self… which makes you restless in whatever environment you live, moving just freshens the mind with new inputs, but ends in the same restless cycle.

 

MN: In all your time on the streets, have you ever felt “at home?”

DF: Me I’m at home every where… some say Dark was born homeless.

 

MN: So, is this your ideal way of living then?

DF: No just the only way of living I can afford at the moment.

 

MN: If there was anything you could change about your life, what would it be?

DF: There’s many things I should do now, most would cost – like, a net-book with an ultra long battery life would give me the ability to blog without using centers like this one… But then self-improvement is free and the way I should go… Maybe become more of an activist… Find my sister’s adopted first-born…

 

MN: Do you think you need a house now, to feel at home, or do you think that something else makes up a home for you?

DF: I squat empty houses sometimes… usually winter, a house of my own differs by having bills I’d never pay.

 

MN: How do you think living on the streets has changed your identity?

DF: Yes the experience has changed me… but were all just products of life experience, did travelling change you?

 

MN: Yes, it certainly did. It had more of an effect on me that any other experience in my life. I learned how to define myself according to my own ideals and rules, and forget about how my ‘society’ back home viewed me. That revelation has lasted me through the rest of my life so far. How has living on the streets changed you?

DF: Yes Melody nothing opens the mind like traveling, well it used to, now much of the developed world is becoming so multicultural, many places are losing their identity… I’d be interested on how you think your ideals and rules differ from the mainstream?  I think the basics of human morality have not changed much in 2400 years (read
Edward de Bono)… And I really think one of the important things is [to] never let another’s view of you or life affect you in any negative way – mind you if they have a good view, milk it for the free ego-boost.

Has the streets changed me? Or have I just changed as I’ve gotten older?  I know I see deeper into the problems caused by poverty now, and how the belief in personal freedom seems to limit the freedom of us all…

 

MN: Hmmm, I’ll have to mull those points over. I wouldn’t say my ideals or ‘rules’ are spectacularly unique or different; rather that in travelling I learned to recognize which of the ideals that my native society (also largely Occidental, & Americanized society) promoted were right for me, and which I could pass on. I found a lot of power in realizing I could leave parts of what society offered, while retaining the feeling that I was part of society. Mind you, it took a while to begin to feel like that… it’s a tricky balance, still.

… Can you tell me what “home” really means to you?

DF: Nothing really never had roots so deep it would cause me pain to leave… but for most happiness-safety and home should never be apart.

 

MN: Could you expand on this last part? Do you mean that for most people, home is happiness and safety?

DF: No, just the way we would like to live our lives… then again, some people are not happy unless their making someone’s life a misery… and of course the thrill of risking your safety drives many.

 

MN: You say that “Nothing really never had roots so deep it would cause me pain to leave.” Do you think that is partly why you live on the streets, because it has never been hard for you to leave attachments behind?

DF: Attachments left?… Don’t think I really have, just moved to something new… Most people who know me well, would agree that at times the best place for the world and its problems is as far away from (Vic)[Dark] as possible.

 

*

 

 

Edward de Bono coined the term “lateral thinking.” His key concept was that “logical, linear and critical thinking” is limited by its reductive nature, constrained by argumentation. “The traditional critical thinking processes of Plato, Aristotle and Socrates are reductive, designed to eliminate all but the truth.” De Bono forwards there is an important need for creative thinking; a constructive (rather than reductive) thought process.

Poetry is an example of lateral thinking. 



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