Antenarratives of Social Welfare and its Solicitudes of Indifference in New Mexico – Aug 13 David Boje

In the social welfare agencies I have been participating with, I am encountering a strange antenarrative which (Heidegger, 1962: #122) calls positive, yet deficient solicitude.  Solicitude has two positive extreme modes.

  1. TYPE ONE SOLICITUDE: A solicitude that takes away ‘care’ from the homeless, because their care “it can leap in for him” and disempower (IBID.). This kind of antenarrative Being-in-the-world, takes over for the homeless, and the homeless are thrown out of their own position of care.  I have observed this form of domination “dominated and dependent, even if this domination is a tacit one and remains hidden from him” (the homeless and and the welfare agency staff or cadre) (IBID.). It is rather obvious in the weekly meeting of homeless, staff (including cadre who were once homeless and now paid by the agency), volunteers, and sometimes donors. There are encounters in the dialogue that take away care from the homeless, and do for them, and to them, and on behalf of them. An example is Indifference to long wait times in a social welfare agency, such as the VA, a topic of our first Veterans Theater play.
  2. TYPE TWO SOLICITUDE: Another kind of solicitude that will “leap ahead of him” not the “take-away ‘his’ care” as in type one, but authentically get care back to the homeless, “fore the first time” (IBID.). Rather, care is freed up, from TYPE ONE, inventory of Things or Equipment (tents, bedding, clothing, food, etc.). The leap ahead in TYPE TWO is towards a potentiality-for-Being, give back care, not a what of homeless, but rather to affirm Being free to care for one’s own freedom for him or herself.

Concern for the homeless (solicitude) has many kinds, and the TYPE ONE and TYPE TWO kinds are ready-to-hand in the weekly gatherings, in many encounters between Homeless and Social Welfare Agencies, volunteers, donors, and so on.

STORYTELLING HOMELESSNESS

When Others’ storytelling is encountered, it is not the case that one’s own storytelling is present-at-hand, or the rest of storytelling gets discriminated beforehand and apprehended (Heidegger, 1962: #119). Rather the varied kinds of storytelling entities (narrative mythic, living story, antenarrative) are encountered out of the world, “concernfully circumspective” where antenarrative dwells (IBID.).

In storytelling, antenarrative is encountered environmentally, spatially, but “Experience” is the the “center of its activity”, but rather antenarrative is “what it does, uses, expects, avoids – in these things envionmentally ready-to-hand with which it is proximally concerned” spatially (IBID.).  Antenarrative is therefore “authentically spatiality” not a categorical nor theoretical spatial, not a calculation of measurement or metric distance, but rather a spatiality that desevers and gives directionality such as yonder, hither, thither (Heidegger, 1962: #120). Thither is toward that place, distant, and deseverance brings that yonder hither. I am summoned hither, to encounter the social welfare agencies dealing with the homeless, in their solicitude ways. The antenarrative is “authentically spatial” giving deseverance and directionality (IBID.), absorbed in the yonder, hither, tither of Homeless, each ready-to-hand in spatiality, what it is ready-to-hand be it shelter (dorm, a tent, a cabin, apartment section 8), food, water, clothing, a voucher for Department of Veterans Affairs transportation, an appointment with a doctor, nurse, or social worker, within-the-Homeless-worldhood all the many antenarratives are at-work, pragmatically dealing with the homeless. 

The social welfare agencies are “tarrying alongside, everything and nothing” they are in readiness-to-hand to the homeless (IBID.)

Several Assumptions

  1. Antenarrative is authentically spatial, desevering and giving directionality.
  2. Antenarrative is co-existent with mythic-narrative and living story, Being-with them not in the sense of present-at-hand, but rather encountered environmentally, spatially, ready-to-hand something in circumspective concernful ways. Circumspective means watchful, cautious, observant, not taking big risks.
  3. Antenarrative is anticipations, uses, avoidance, “the kind of care administered by welfare agencies” doing “welfare work” and “social welfare”  in “solicitude: where personal becomes an affair fo the welfare agency (food, clothes, bodily care, etc.) and is “grounded-in” “Being-with” in our case the homeless (Heidegger, 1962: #121, and footnote 4, p 157).

Here we have social welfare agencies not only Being for homeless, but Being against homeless who are not “mattering” to the agency, and they are therefore Indifferent to Being-with-Some-Homeless characters. It is naive to think that a social welfare agency (non-profit or governmental) is serving every kind of homeless, every homeless person.  There is a weeding out, a wait listing, even a banning to a black listing phenomenon that is part of the de-severance and directionality of what is NOT ready-to-hand to homeless. There is discrimination, perhaps all homeless can get water and food at the soup kitchen, but not all homeless can get other services such as dwelling (a bed in a mission dorm, or a tent in a tent city, or a cabin on a ranch), an appointment with a housing counselor.

The social welfare agencies I observe, are Indifferent to Homeless, in ways easily missed in ethnographic work,or interpretations of the mythic-narrative.

MYTHIC-NARRATIVE – 

The volunteer work I do, my work in Veterans Theater Foundation, affords me privileged entry into the Homeless Worldhood, and into the solicitudes of social welfare agencies, some of which becomes matter for our theater group. I keep encountering the Mythic Narrative of the social welfare agency, what Bakhtin would call a monologic, not at all polyphonic (many voice) and in a mythic that not only characterizes homeless persons, but also speaks for them in a TYPE ONE SOLICITUDE.

In antenarrative, it is important not to live in the narrative-mythic abstraction about the past, the future. In antenarrative, the monologic, the one belief fits all homeless, is problematic. There are so many kinds of homeless. Not to betray the antenarrative moment of encounter, for some narrative-mythic abstraction up ahead means staying in the here, there, yonder, hither, and tither of deseverance and directionality.

It is just too easy and too common for social welfare agencies to develop a organization-narrative of care for the homeless, when the everyday behavior is one of Indifference to many or even most homeless, or a discriminations of some services for particular homeless characters, and none at all for Others.

Ontologically the distance between I and the homeless, and the social welfare agencies does “matter” (Heidegger, 1962: #122).  The positive and Indifferent modes of solicitude do matter. For example, Gospel Rescue Mission (GRM), is widely reported to have a bad case of bed bug infestation, yet the official narrative (mythic) is care and concern for all homeless. The bedding gets laundered, which kills bed bugs in the sheets, but to actually kill the nests, in the wood crevices of the bed itself, takes a kind o care, where beds and bedding get heated to 180 degrees, the kill point of bed bugs. Yet, this is not done, not in Las Cruces, New Mexico, from what data I am hearing. GRM takes 10% of any and all income the homeless earn, and those who cannot earn or pay the 10% are sent along ‘yonder’ and ‘tither’ after a short stay.

At the cities day shelters, temporary shelters, resides a different mythic-narrative, not about bed bugs, but rather all about who gets admitted to a tent, who is eligible for Section 8 HUD housing, and how a score (metric) on the HUD homelessness survey (National Coalition for the Homeless, local in Albuquerque determines who does or does not get what services at a shelter).  At the weekly Great Conversation one observes both TYPE ONE and TYPE TWO solicitude, both TYPE ONE taking care away from the homeless characters in a kind of leaping in to chastise and speak for the homeless, and a TYPE TWO leaping ahead of the homeless character, of which I stand guilty as charge, in-order-to- hand back care authentically in antenarrative potentiality-for-Being in charge of one’s own care. To give care back and to take care over from is the weekly dialogic contention at the Great Conversation.  The ‘what’ stuff and ‘what’ are the policies of shelters, get into contention with the Being Free to self-govern care by the homeless themselves. Meanwhile the mythic-narrative tag line is that shelters have the homeless in self-governance, whereas, homeless free for themselves encounters the TYPE ONE solicitude, where only a few agenda to liberate a TYPE TWO solicitude.

You can see in both missions and shelters a ‘considerateness” and “forbearance” (Heidegger, 1962: #123), but also an Indifferent modes of concern, an inconsiderateness, a refusal to listen to the homeless character tell their own story, to lead the way to their own care, to be freed up environmentally to get space for home among the home-full.

also observe the clash of considerateness and Indifference among the homeless themselves. There is wide considerateness for the veteran homeless, less so to general homeless, none at all for the Spice-Head, and Meth-Head, and others who are into perverts are the lepers of the homeless worldhood. Fighting, cheating, stealing from Other homeless are grounds for movement to the periphery of the Homeless Worldhood. To be forever banned from shelters is not a permanent condition. I hear-tell and have seen first hand, a Spice-head with an attack Pitt Bull can be feared, and sometimes banned, then other times given space in either social welfare agency.

What I care about today is the deficit and Indifferent modes of acre in the social welfare agencies, how the mythic-narrative is a hiding away an aloofness (Heidegger, 1962: #124).

More to come on ways the mythic-narrative of an organization covers over the modes of solicitude that donors are not seeing, perhaps do not want to see.

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