Saturday, October 17, 2009

"I see this every day. . ."

"This is the most amazing statement I believe you have ever made. Have you ever seen residents of a poor neighborhood make an annual trip to a surburb of perhaps $200,000 houses for a drive to "clean up" the community? I never have. On the other hand it is an annual event to go to a poor neighborhood and make a "clean sweep" of junk and old tires, old appliances tossed out the backdoor, etc. It takes dozens of people all day to do this, even serving lunch. So no, one will not find junk on the property of nicer neighborhoods at the same rate."

The statement above was posted as a comment in response to something I had written here not long ago about property values and urban redevelopment.  The comment comes from a regular reader who seldom, if ever, agrees with me. 

My daughter, Joanna, had an interesting comment about the statement. 

"Dad, I wanted to reply that I see this every day of the week in my neighborhood," she said.  "Poor, hard working people come into my neighborhood every week to clean the houses, to keep the landscape looking perfect and to haul off everything we throw away and waste.  We pay them to take care of all of the dirty work."

I like that.  I like that alot.  Thanks, Jo!

Many poor neighborhoods are filled with houses owned and ill-maintained by absentee landlords (i.e. slumlords).  Codes aren't enforced.  City services can become sub-standard.  Residents do the best they can with the resources available. 

I guess I'm like my daughter.  We've just seen the folks.  We just know the people.  Cheap judgment and knee-jerk hatred just doesn't get it.


Chris said...

We don't have maids in my neighborhood but few people mow their own grass anymore. It has become big business and the guys who do it are real entrepreneurs. They make a hundred dollars in less than an hour on my street alone. They all have nice trucks with trailers and I will guarantee you they live a middle class life.

If cheap judgement doesn't "get it" then why are you doing it?

Larry James said...

Look more closely, chris. Who has the "nice trucks with trailers"? The crew guys who are likely immigrants or the owner operators? They may be middle class, barely; but the workers who live in the parts of town that you feel need "cleaning up" by folks like you and me. Clearly, the housekeepers aren't middle class either. Both groups and others make careers out of cleaning up after the likes of us. Maybe you and I just see what we want to see.

Chris said...

The crew guys are the owners around here.

Anonymous said...

Our lawn guy - "Jose" - is third generation American. His English is fluent and he makes a nice living because he has 2-3 crews working for him. While he is a very nice guy, and does well for himself, I'm pretty sure he isn't abel to pay similar wages to his recent immigrant/Spanish only workers. Chris, I bet if you followed them home, maybe 1 in 5 of the lawn guys working your street do okay; the rest amke subsistence level wages.

Anyway, none of this should distract from Joanne's main point - we have the resources to pay others to take care of our property. Many do not.

Anonymous said...

Amen Larry!

When you have the resources to take care of more than just surviving, you can do alot more.

Maslow's Hierarcy of Needs says that as more of your needs are met, the things that are wants will become needs.

We have what we need, food, shelter and clothing. It changes the want of something to a need.
We wish we could affort Central Market instead of Save-A-Lot. Get a little more money and now Central Market is our need rather than our want.

We who can affort to just drive down to Lowe's or Home Depot and plop down the credit card to buy whatever we need to upgrade our house are beyond fortunate and are getting to be the minority.

We who want our yards mowed, our christmas lights put up and taken down, our leaves raked, our houses cleaned, our babies pushed through our nice neighborhoods in strollers by the "poor, ungrateful, lazy or any other label you want to put on them" had better open our eyes and see that our nice neighborhoods are taken care of by the poor!

Anonymous said...

Another great victimology sermon by LJ & Co. No one is responsible for their economic condition. The responsible must take care of those who are not responsible.
We should all receive the same pay regardless of the task or job - all live in the same moral equivallent houses, drive the same cars, and get the same care
Equality not Liberty

Steve said...

Wow! Anon @ 7:51...The entitlement dripping from your comments is striking.

OKAY..that was how I felt like responding, then I was struck with the fact that I may be assuming, and really do not know you or your situation, and have no right to assume.

I live in an "emerging/developing/third world (what is the current PC term?) country, and when I visit the states, I am continually amazed at the excesses, one being the care of lawns and gardens. It really does look beautiful. But when you consider the resources being used to keep it that way, whether it is the homeowner with multiple trips to the garden center, or a crew with big machines and trucks and just doesn't square with most of the rest of the world. Crops being fertilized and watered to then be cut weekly drives me crazy.

Yes, we have beautiful gardens like that here in Guatemala, but they are behind high walls, and guarded by men with guns, and so the distinction between the haves and have not's is much more tangible. The privilege is clear here. But because you don't (yet) have men with guns guarding the excesses, you just don't get it.

People in the states who are marginalized for various reasons might have a more realistic approach to the priorities of life. I always seem to have better conversations walking in "slums" in the states, than walking through the manicured suburbs. But that might be because I cannot tell the difference between fescue and bermuda.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:51:

Wow, I don't know whose blog or statements you're referring to. I haven't seen anything like what you describe in Larry's posts. But the bitterness is really unbecoming even if you think you see this stuff in what Larry's writing.

BTW: It's not necessarily all or nothing. It's not ALL personal responsibility OR ALL structural inequality. Personally, I'm for BOTH personal responsibility AND structural equity.

Steve said...


Unless you were born to a crack addict and made it through a slum school like the one Dario went to, to get that University degree with no family help, and little cultural background inclined in that direction, to get that well paying job that has put you in that nice neighborhood where you can afford to choose between spending your weekend on it or paying others to keep that lawn responsibly nice....

You might want to be a little more accurate and say "lucky", "fortunate"...or because we are all Christians here ... "Blessed" in place of "responsible"

Daniel said...

Well said, Steve.

Anon - Those of us who have frequent interactions with society's "rejects" understand it's not either/or, but both. Trust me, there's a lot of talk about responsibility in the nonprofit I work for. But there's a lot of discussion surrounding the structural barriers that prohibit people from moving to independence.

Larry James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.