Added Value and Harm
~from the Director
There has been a lot of press and outrage in SF around a Facebook post of George Gopman, AngelHack founding CEO. If you have not seen it, you can see quotes from the post here
. In it he derided those living on the streets, called them trash, saying that they 'added not one iota of value' and that they should act like other poor people who know their place and how to beg coyly.
I offer the following short observations to the dialogue on angles that I have not seen: value vs harm, and the pope.
Value vs Harm. It seems to me that all of us, each and every one of us, add some value and do some harm in the communities that we are a part of. A smile, a product produced, a compassionate ear, a vegetable grown, a paper well-written, a drink shared - all add value; ignoring others, stealing, being patronizing or sexist, unexamined privilege and racism all harm our community. But how do we judge overall value and harm? I would bet that most of us (not just Gopman) overestimate the value that we contribute and underestimate the harm that we do (because we don't really intend it, right?). Do the actions that Gopman references of
some of the folks who are living on the streets (like intoxication, rudeness, outbursts) cause more harm to the community than Gopman's (or our) attitudes and actions of arrogance, impatience, intolerance of inconvenience, and lack of compassion? They are more visible, yes; but more harmful to society as a whole? I find that a hard question to answer.
The Pope. When we talk about harm to communities, I wonder what it does to society as a whole to have people who are vulnerable in so many ways living on our streets day in and day out? Pope Francis reflects on this in his Exhortation under a section called "No to an Economy of Exclusion" when he writes about our present economy which creates a whole 'outcast' sector of humanity and a 'globalization of indifference:'
"Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people's pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else's responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us."
The pope's assessment seems 'spot on' when referencing the attitude behind Gopman's post and in pointing to the danger that faces us in our modern world.
This December, may you and I be more self-aware of how we are in the world, of the value that we can add by a smile, of the harm that we can cause by our indifference. And may we spend some time reflecting on, and then trying to create, what a 'Yes to an Economy of Inclusion' might look like.
Happy, holy, and compassionate holidays, everyone, from all of us at Gubbio!
~ Laura Slattery