Let’s Be Kind to the Poor and Weak

Mental Illness Is Not ContagiousI know that we Americans love stories about people who do stupid things. It apparently makes us feel better about ourselves. It’s sad though. The popularity of shows like Cops do indicate that America is filled with a lot of stupid people, but they are mostly sitting in front of the TV. So it is with this context that I present to you the easily mocked Evelyn Hamilton, “A Texas woman who complained to police that a drug dealer sold her a bad batch of marijuana.”

I guess in a winner-take-all society like our own, the prols have to feel good about something and so they are left with, “At least I know not to get the police involved in my drug deals!” But this gets to the very heart of what is wrong with the underground economy. Undocumented workers can’t complain about employer mistreatment. Prostitutes can’t complain about being brutalized by pimps and johns. And drug users can’t complain about being ripped off by dealers.

Having policies that create these underground economies takes the weakest members of our society and steals even more power away from them. Look at Hamilton. The very next day, the police arrested her again for public intoxication. She was allegedly in the street shouting. Given that she doesn’t seem to know that cannabis purchase is illegal and she shouts at no one in particular in the streets, I think we can conclude that this woman has some problems. My guess: minor schizophrenia.

But do we help her? No. We’ve already closed down most mental health facilities because giving billion dollar tax cuts to oil companies is more important than taking care of our poor and sick. So we just throw her in jail when she has a bad day. And then we mock her in the press, because our callous disregard isn’t fulfilling enough.

If you want to know why the United States keeps more people in cages than any other country in the history of the world, this story tells most of what you need to know. First, we vigorously criminalize all kinds of behavior that is voluntary. In the case of undocumented work, it’s particularly bad because we actively promote it at the same time that we actively prosecute it. It’s the absolute best possible system for the elites. But drug users and prostitutes are arguably abused even more. The second part of our prison problem is that we do very little to help people. Even apart from drug users (who I think we abuse as much with medicalization as we do with criminal justice), our prisons are overflowing with people who are simply the troublesome mentally ill.

I don’t see this changing anytime soon. It’s not an issue that affects the power elite so in a political sense, it isn’t even an issue. But the least that we, the non-power non-elites, could do is take pity on the likes of Evelyn Hamilton. Quite literally, because of the vagaries of genetics and environment, any of us could have been her.

H/T: FARK (who I love but who are also one of the worst offenders)

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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