Friday, March 23, 2007

let them eat grapes

“One man, one family driven from the land; this rusty car creaking along the highway to the west. I lost my land, a single tractor took my land. I am alone and I am bewildered. And in the night one family camps in a ditch and another family pulls in and the tents come out. The two men squat on their hams and the women and children listen. Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other. Here is the anlage of the thing you fear. This is the zygote. For here ‘I lost my land’ is changed; a cell is split and from its splitting grows the thing you hate – ‘WE lost OUR land.’ The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one. And from this first ‘we’ there grows a still more dangerous thing: ‘I have a little food’ plus ‘I have none.’ If from this problem the sum is ‘We have a little food,’ the thing is on its way, the movement has direction. Only a little multiplication now, and this land, this tractor are ours. The two men squatting in a ditch, the little fire, the side-meat stewing in a single pot, the silent, stone-eyed women; behind, the children listening with their souls to words their minds do not understand. The night draws down. The baby has a cold. Here, take this blanket. It’s wool. It was my mother’s blanket – take it for the baby. This is the thing to bomb. This is the beginning – from ‘I’ to ‘we.’"
-John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

Everything you wanted to know about America's failure to end homelessness. The link to the report Without Housing will break your heart and infuriate your soul. It's a very long read, but an important one. If you check it out, let me know.


slouching mom said...

I've not yet looked at the report, but my goodness, I think I might have to find me some Steinbeck. I had forgotten.

hel said...

I scanned through it and it is heartbreaking.

I get so frustrated when I read about the stupid decisions made by people who have too much money and too little empathy.

How can they not care???


Deezee said...

I, too, scanned. I wonder if all these decisions and our country's view on homelessness just falls back on the pull yourself up by your own bootstraps mentality. In other words, if you can't help yourself, why should we help you? If so, how do you unteach such a philosophy?

hel said...

What dezee said echoes my thoughts on my drive home.

Each of us has to take responsibility for the poverty and sadness around us. It is only through the grace of our upbringing and accidents of birth that we are not in the same situations.

I used to make excuses. Can't help everyone. How can you help those who won't help themselves etc.

But the more I realise that we are human and the more my heart aches about all the sadness and quite desperation out there the more I think.

"Act now. In small ways. Start by looking at our similarities, not our differences. See the humanness in all of us. And allow my heart to ache"

Because it is the sadest thing in the world that we can't all be everything we can be. For whatever reason

Thailand Gal said...

The Steinbeck quote sums it up rather well. I'd forgotten that book. It's far more revolutionary than most people realize.

I scanned the article. Truthfully? I hate .pdf. The print is always too small for my eyes.. but I got the gist of it.

It's no longer speculation in my mind that the federal government couldn't give a hang less about this issue. It will only be solved at a community level with a concerned population who will solve it when it becomes socially unacceptable to allow other human beings to live on the streets like soi dogs.

That will only come when there is a level of acceptance in this society that not everyone can make it in a hyper-competitive, fiercely individualist environment. It's going to take a revolution of values.

Those are root changes that will unlikely take place in my lifetime .. if ever.

This is all off the top of my head of course.. but I believe the solution will never be political. It's cultural.



Deezee said...

(Chani, most programs that open pdf files have a zoom option to enlarge the print... :) )

mamatulip said...

Jen, I'll bookmark this post and return to read the report when I have a bit more time.

Thanks. I don't want to read it, but I should. And I will.

Lucia said...

I am perpetually PO'd that the gov't doesn't give a flying f*$k about homelessness. In some areas, we're so not civilized.

kristen said...

I'll come back later tonight, I'm solo parenting this weekend and have some time.

Blog Antagonist said...

I love Steinbeck. Of Mice and Men is my favorite, but Grapes of Wrath is wonderful too. Coincidentally, I have just begun re-reading it. It's been years since I read it, and I find now that my perspective has changed, it's affecting me on a much deeper level.

I too have bookmarked the link for further reading. I live in a large Metropolitan area and homelessness is a very prevailant issue here.

I live in an area where people have sanitized themselves from the realities faced by those less privileged, and I think there is a very pervasive mentality that those who work hard reap the rewards and those who do not get what they deserve. It's shameful, really.

QT said...

None of it makes any sense, except the Steinbeck. I too had forgotten about Grapes of Wrath - that's what they get for making me digest that at age 15.

It is not a priority because they are powerless. That is really the root of the problem - lack of compassion. It is certainly not lack of money - we are shipping that to Iraq as fast as you can blink an eye.

Penny said...


lol! I hadn't scrolled enough to see Steinbeck and hadn't been exposed to this previously.. I almost fell in completely in love with you! Excellent piece, Jen! Thanks for posting! ;)

meno said...

It's an eerie coincidence that you would post this particular piece today. My Em and i were talking about The Grapes of Wrath just yesterday as she has been assigned to read it in school. I was waxing philosophical about the book.

Her response was, "but it's just so sad, and even sadder because it's true."


carrie said...

It is amazing how really, really great writing can change things or prespectives entirely.

Keep it up.


crazymumma said...

funny...I just read your comment over chez moi right after I semi successfully attempted to download all 88 pages of the paper. Then for some reason it would not let me in...must come back later. I did however get to see the incredible raw and powerful artwork (in pieces, computer is acting nuts).

I can hear your anger and frustration in your words in your tone. And rightfully so.

I wish for a simple and straightforward fix, homes, food, education,jobs and a retrieval of dignity. In whatever order is best. And I wonder why there is not a simple way to solve all these problems. An attitude shift, a change in paradigm of popular thinking is so needed. Our society is so greedy, so grasping, and our children are taught by the ever present media to keep on filling that unfillable hole of need want desire. And it is so easy to tip in that direction. But a slight turn, a minor shift in thinking can move mountains.

Fucking governmental administrations. 'scuse my language...but a gal has to let it rip on occasion ya know?

Alice said...

Thanks for the link to the report. I have already passed it on to a few friends. The quote is truly inspiring. The answer to our social ills will come when we start thinking collectively and stop living our lives driven only by our individual desire to amass stuff for ourselves.

flutter said...

I'm just so heartbroken and infuriated.

Oh, The Joys said...

Truly the perfect quote. You may have to find a way to leave it in your sidebar!

urban-urchin said...

thanks for the link and tying it in so brilliantly to steinbeck.

it is SO frustrating and heartbreaking.

Marymurtz said...

Holy crap, how could I have lived to be almost 40 and not have read Steinbeck?????????????????????????

I'm off to read the report. I am so f***ing clueless.

scribbit said...

The Joads can always make me cry. That last scene with Rose of Sharon is heart breaking.

Sandra said...

I had looked at the report at work this week. Makes me crazy. WE don't do much better up here often.

Her Bad Mother said...

Oh, argh. Depressing, in spades.

Bob said...

my ancient computer at home can't handle the version of adobe that's needed for me to read it. I will do so soon.

Thanks for the link, I will come back and comment when I've read it.

Tabba said...

I've started reading it & haven't gotten very far in...yet. But it's on my immediate list to do.

I loved the lable for this: goddamned feds.

Ruth Dynamite said...

Jen, I'm on my knees, bowing before you.

Your words - your mission - help make the world a better place.

I support you and your mission. Oprah? Are you listening?

Anonymous said...

I read quite a bit of it and something (can't remember exactly what) sent me off on a search, and I found so much going on here locally, I haven't gotten back to finish the report! But it's OK because I found connections to things that are being done and are working that I had NO IDEA about. I certainly know there is no reason for me to wonder what to do with my available time (should there be any!). Thanks for broadening my world.