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Living for the city

"Living for the city" Continued...

Issue: "Save our cities," April 19, 2008

There was a story in those days of one housing project in which people ate their dinner sitting on the floor so that they wouldn't be in the trajectory of bullets fired from the courtyard of the project. This is life really becoming solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

WORLD: You don't minimize the material but you emphasize the psychological and the spiritual.

MAGNET: I believe strongly that what's in your mind and heart allows you to take advantage of such opportunities as exist if you have an open society. And that if what fills your mind and heart is, "I'm a victim of society," "society is to blame," "there is no way I can get ahead, it's all stacked against me," "getting married is stupid," "women are horrible," then you are defeated from the start.

WORLD: What do you think of media depictions of homelessness during the 1980s?

MAGNET: I can't tell you what it was like to live for those 10 years when homelessness was the No. 1 domestic problem, and to read the mainstream media that were lying all the time. They said that these were all good, middle- and working-class people who've lost jobs in deindustrialization, they're victims of a heartless economy-when, in fact, the homeless were either mentally ill people who had been chucked out of the mental institutions due to the failed policy of deinstitutionalization, or users of drugs and alcohol. I remember thinking, it's been over a hundred years since this society was so cruel as not to try to take care of the true victims, people who are incapacitated by mental illness and really can't take care of themselves. It became the height of liberal compassion to let them live in the cold and the dirt, and die, which they did, or course, by the hundreds.

WORLD: Is there a political solution to our problems?

MAGNET: The most important thing we can do in our politics, after making sure that we have a strong defense, is keeping back the encroachment of public functionaries who actually do not do help to their clients but in the case of welfare, in the case of so much social work, in the case of so much homeless outreach services, actually do harm to those clients.

WORLD: You argue that churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations should step up.

MAGNET: And stop being a part of the problem. I mean, if you're preaching from the pulpit the gospel of social justice-which, translated, means society is unjust-and we need to have a written redistribution of income, that also is part of the problem. If from the pulpit people are preaching that God loves you and you're important because you're a human being and God puts into your hands the ability to help yourself and God is willing to forgive . . . that's the right message to preach.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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