Human spillage by Trevor Plumbly

Growing pains

Over recent years I’ve noticed an increase in the number of ‘street people’ in my area of Auckland. Most (including me) either avoid them where possible or buy our way out with a couple of coins.

In one form or another they’ve always been with us, but the recent increase in numbers should raise greater concern. In the past, they were dismissed as ‘deadbeats’, ‘addicts’ and ‘alkies’; thus the authors of their own misfortune, best left to the Salvation Army or, if things got out of hand, the Police. The judicial system then ‘processed’ them before referring them to any charitable body willing to provide accommodation and temporary stability.

Headaches

Sadly, dealing with those afflicted with mental disorders isn’t quite so simplistic. In the not-to-distant past, confinement offered a security blanket for sufferers, plus the opportunity for experimental ‘treatment’ involving a diet of shock therapy with a range of drugs that rendered them half-catatonic, but ‘manageable’. It is almost beyond belief that reducing human beings to lab rat status could have been considered clinically beneficial. Blessedly, the asylums have gone, but the casualties are still there, just as wounded as the lame or blind, but lacking the visual aids to attract social interaction.

Talk’s cheap

Those that assume the wisdom of labelling society’s ills have given us words like ‘disconnected’ to intellectually ice a pretty bad cake and, ironically enough, they may have a point. We live in a disconnected age: I for one find it annoying and insulting to be told by a machine that my call is important to the human being I’m trying to contact and would I leave a message. Sadly, it seems that we are going to great lengths to avoid speaking to each other, texting has morphed into ingrained anti-social behaviour, why bother to speak when it’s easier to press a few buttons?   Small wonder there’s a ‘disconnect’. We need to involve ourselves more rather than hide behind electronic barriers. Lack of direct communication leads to isolation and mistrust, both of which further isolate the vulnerable on our streets. A smile and a kind word won’t turn their life around but it might brighten their day a bit, so stop staring at your smart phone and start smiling and talking.

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