Bell, Carolyn Shaw. (1995). What Reaction Paper

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[. . .] Murray claims that because citizens have "contradictions in their daily lives" it is easier for them to "mask the ineffectiveness of solutions and the benefits some groups derive from the failure" (p. 15). Among those contradictions he brings to light: on the one hand, there (was in 1988) a booming economy that produces a "lavish" amount of consumer goods and provides "impressive opportunities for "cultural gratification" and fun recreational activities; on the other hand, there is "a growing anxiety about war and the survival of the species," a "chronically high level of poverty and unemployment" that hits minorities, young people and women especially hard (p. 15). So, what is his point here? He is saying that politicians benefit from the "contradictions" and ambivalence in the lives of the people because "contradictions in experience encourage contradictions in political action" (p. 15). In other words, politicians benefit from the confusion and conflicted values of the electorate.

Moreover, Murray posits that when there are specific reasons given for the root of a particular social problem, one side will likely agree with the government's assessment of that social problem and the other side will disagree. Hence, "polarization" occurs and the politicians remain aloof from the quarrel. To wit, any "affirmation of an origin for a problem is also an implicit rejection of alternative origins" (Murray, p. 18).

Looking at the United States today in political terms, Murray is absolutely right on the button about the how and why of polarization. Everything that happens at the national level is immediately broken down by ideology and affiliation with political positions and political parties. When President Barack Obama announced that the world's most notorious terrorist, bin Laden, had been killed, within a day or so the conservatives were lauding President George W. Bush for his acknowledged use of torture ("waterboarding"). If Bush hadn't waterboarded certain terrorists that were being held in secret prisons around the world, the right wing asserted, Obama would never have captured bin Laden. Political gadfly Sarah Palin gave loud and prominent praise to President Bush -- along with praise for the Navy SEALS -- and never mentioned Obama's administration, which had actually used clues from the past and forged a policy through high-tech surveillance and intelligence gathering and indeed had found and killed bin Laden within two years of Obama's administration, something Bush hadn't accomplished in 8 years of his administration. The nitpicking, backstabbing, and smears that have been launched at Obama are all just part of the polarization that plagues this country, and is decidedly pointed out by Murray.

On page 35 Murray points out that the "news" shown to citizens on television or in newspapers has little if anything to do with the experiences that make like "joyful, poignant, boring, or worrisome." The "news" rarely has anything to do with workplace issues, family, friends and other matters. The news about "public affairs" is constructed in a way that teaches citizens that 'influence should be exerted in the public realm" albeit the reality shown in news reports (economic issues, military issues, psychological needs and impulses) is designed to "teach people how impotent they are" against the above-mentioned developments (Murray, p. 35). The process encourages ordinary citizens to "accept the inequalities of their experiences," the author asserts (p. 35). This is a far more direct and impactful reading regarding social problems and how the public sees and identifies them than Manis has offered.

Kozol, Jonathan. (1988). Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America. New York:

Crown Publishers.

Kozol's book delves heavily into the pathos of homelessness and the unfairness of stereotypes. The injustice of life for a single mother named Kim, who was forced out of her apartment when the heating system failed in the middle of New York winter -- and the blundering of government hurt her chances to keep her job and her home -- makes a good story for an author to use as a jumping off point in a new chapter on "Stereotypes" (Kozol, 1988, pp. 93-95). Part of the point of this chapter in Kozol's book is to portray the hideous dangers lurking in homeless shelters in New York in the late 1980s. On page 94 Kim describes the Brooklyn Arms as a shelter (hotel) with "no heat and no hot water"; and people are "afraid to go outside" because of the violence and drug-related carnage on the streets. But wait, it gets worse: that facility is "so dangerous" that "welfare workers won't come to your room" and the guards paid to protect residents of the Brooklyn Arms "sell drugs" (Kozol, p. 94). The media does not describe the pathetic realities of the Brooklyn Arms until a fire "incinerates four children," Kozol explains on page 94.

Worse conditions than the Brooklyn Arms can be found at The Allerton, Kim goes on, because residents have to "beg for toilet paper in the lobby." And other homeless hotel / shelters fail to pay back taxes and are owned by criminals, the author continues on page 95. Not paying back taxes in most cases gets the landlord in trouble, and the city has the right to seize that property. But in the case of the Holland, the Bayview, and the Allerton, city officials won't budge towards shutting them down "…But they'll put a woman on the street because she owes $200 to her landlord" (Kozol, p. 95).

Adding to the pain for residents stuck in these awful conditions were the statements by the New York City Council (and the mayor) that when homelessness is made "too comfortable" those who have lost their homes or were on the street "will want to remain homeless" (Kozol, p. 96). Though such statements defy common sense and logic, they are politically motivated but this is where the mean stereotypes enter into the picture. By suggesting that homeless individuals won't try to better themselves if they are given decent, clean, save housing, the city was saying that the poor and homeless are lazy.

Another point of Kozol's chapter is that many of the unfortunate souls in these dreary hotel homeless shelters believe they are to blame, that it is "Some kind of punishment from God," Kim explains. The horrors of living in homeless hotel housing in New York City in the 1980s are endless, according to Kozol's book. One after another, the stories detail the misery that residents of these slummy, disgusting facilities. It becomes a grimly surreal reading after awhile, and Kozol has done such a good job with his descriptive narrative and quotes from homeless people in New York City, one wonders how much better it is today than it was in 1988, twenty-three years ago.

A quick look at the New York City's Department of Homeless Services (DHS) Web site (dated May, 2011) reveals that on May 11 the city dedicated a new "intake" facility with "213% more space than the original intake site" and it houses "more than 200 specialists from the DHS, Human Resources Services and other agencies dealing with children and human health in New York City. Mayor Bloomberg admits that his city has been lacking in the delivery of compassionate care for homeless people: "When I first saw the emergency Assistance Union in 2003, I was appalled, and I said we would make changes" (www.nyc.gov).

Hence, the headline for the press release (dated May 11, 2011): "City Keeps Promise and Creates a New State-of-the-Art Facility to Replace the Dilapidated and Inefficient Emergency Assistance Unit." That having been said, another DHS report reflects the recent survey by 2,800 volunteers that "fanned out" in January, 2011, and counted 2,648 homeless persons living in "unsheltered" conditions (read that, living on the streets of New York City). One also wonders if the deplorable conditions of squalor that Kozol depicted in 1988 remained sickeningly unhealthy until just recently. Meantime, on page 133, Kozol quotes then New York City Council President Andrew Stein, "…homeless is not an act of God. It is an act of man."

Kaufman, Leslie. (2007). Bloomberg Seeks New Way to Decide Who Is Poor. The New York

Times. Retrieved May 12, 2011, from http://www.nytimes.com.

Still on the subject of New York City, the poor, the homeless, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, an article in The New York Times (Kaufman, 2007) points to Bloomberg's decision to "better assess whether tens of millions of dollars" that his city planned at that time to spend on "anti-poverty programs." Bloomberg correctly wanted to be certain that those millions would actually improve the standard of living for those unfortunate folks living on the streets and in abject poverty in other environments.

Those bureaucrats and politicians that are smart and experienced always hope to know the potential outcomes of huge expenditures of taxpayers' funds, lest they are later criticized (and even lose elections) because the spending turned out to be wrong-headed. In the case of Bloomberg in this article, he was apparently… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Bell, Carolyn Shaw. (1995). What.  (2011, May 13).  Retrieved October 18, 2018, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/bell-carolyn-shaw-1995/74030

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