If society can be judged by how we treat the least, then the death of ‘Blanket Man’ tells us we suck

Ghandi is credited with saying it first in a modern context, or at least an unknown variant of it, but the bible is probably one of the first places you can look to a way of being judged by how we treat the dregs of society.

Jesus said was speaking to two groups of people. One he was ‘thanking’ for looking after him and one he chastised for ignoring him.

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

They people were confused, they asked Jesus when they ever ignored or rejected him, he replied,

‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

Maybe a modern translation would be when you ‘ignore’ a Blanket Man, you ‘ignore’ anyone in need.

I heard an interview with Maxine Dixon this morning on the wireless. Dixon was Ben ‘Blanket Man‘ Hana’s lawyer and knew him better than most.

The interviewer made the statement, “Some people thought he was brilliant, other people thought he was a pain.” Dixon, stumbled markedly over her words upon hearing the ‘brilliant‘ tag and responded by saying, “He was an intelligent man…I don’t know if he was brilliant.

For the interviewer to have so little understanding of what this homeless man, and other homeless people around the country go though to describe him so flippantly as ‘brilliant‘ showed the gap between the haves and haves not and the disconnect that comes with money and privilege. This man was not, and should never be described as ‘brilliant‘. What he was was a sad indictment on our society, a tangible example of how we could care less about these kinds of people.

After being asked how Hana come to live like this Dixon responded by telling of how he moved from Tokoroa, where he lived in his car, to Wellington. After the move he was left homeless because “he could not afford both accommodation, food and his beloved [cannabis].” She went on to say that this man’s disposable income was about $60 a week.

The death of ‘Blanket Man’ and the media may-lay is disgusting. This is not a story, its an example of how we suck as human beings and how when push comes to shove we really don’t care about our fellow human being.

‘Blanket Man’ was a drug addict whose habit was large enough to keep him living on the streets…and he died from what appears to be malnutrition and exposure…how the hell can we flippantly laugh at cute little anecdotes about this man?

To be fair the interviewer in question probably has never knowingly spoken to a homeless person, never sat under a bridge and spoken with one, never visited an smelt their place under the Vic Park flyover, and before you ask…”Yes, I have”…so he cannot relate to this story…it’s a good yarn and filled a total of 2 mins and 38 seconds of the breakfast show I listened to today. Ben Hana’s life was worth 2 minutes and 38 seconds of ‘entertaining’ radio giving everyone a chuckle. It should have made you cry.

I don’t care what you think about the bible, but there is some pretty good advice there about how we treat homeless people. Here’s the challenge, next time you see someone sitting on the kerb outside a shop in your town or city. Buy them a pie, maybe even two. Buy them some milk…even a fizzy drink. If you really want to help contact an agency to come and check up on them…that’s their job. Do it, you’ll find it more rewarding than the person who receives the pie and drink. Feed, clothe and house those that cannot feed, clothe and house themselves.

I spoke with Diane Robertson from Auckland City Mission and she gave me some frightening statistics. Within 3kms of Auckland’s Sky Tower they estimates there are 100 people ‘sleeping rough‘, of those 100 people 2-4 die every year, normally in hospital having their lives shortened by the way they live and that’s just Auckland Central. Blanket Man is not alone in his sad demise.

Robertson made the point that she was “sad that a homeless person is an icon of Wellington.” That sat me back. All these people online today saying, “We’ll miss you Blanket Man” I’d ask where the hell were you in the middle of winter when he actually needed you. What about all the other ‘Blanket Men’ out there that you notice, the ones that don’t…and won’t get 2 minutes and 38 seconds of nationwide exposure on a breakfast radio show…what about them?

I’d rather hear ‘we will help you Blanket Man‘ any day as opposed to people now missing this sad story of a man that helped us see the worst of ourselves.

5 thoughts on “If society can be judged by how we treat the least, then the death of ‘Blanket Man’ tells us we suck

  1. Kellie Leaf January 16, 2012 / 18:20

    I hear what you’re saying and I agree that we should be helping those in need. But aren’t you implying that all of the homeless are not wanting to be there? We hear stories that some of them actually do have homes and money but choose to live on the street. They are not completely without options. Apparently the homeless are able to draw a benefit even without a home address and many are offered help by various agencies. But unfortunately many of them become dependent on alcohol and/or drugs. In order to be helped, they also need to want to be helped and need to be prepared to play a part in their recovery. Many choose to stay where they are. According to your fb comments from Wellingtonians, the blanket man was offered plenty of help…

  2. David Ewing January 16, 2012 / 20:13

    Independant of how one feels about Blanket Man, as a society we provided him the basic health support such that he died with dignity.

  3. Garth Stirrat January 17, 2012 / 10:17

    Pat, as a talk-back host your job was to present issues to listeners and then moderate the resulting discussion. I very rarely ever heard you provide any suggested solutions of your own. Now that you are branching into social media commentary and blogging, you have an ideal opportunity to provide your solutions. Unfortunately you have not taken up this valuable opportunity. So I ask the following questions:
    1. What support would YOU suggest for people who have chosen to decline offers of support from relevant agencies?
    2. Should people who make poor choices in life be “forced” to accept help on offer?
    3. Should such people be “herded” into incarceration, simply to remove them from the streets?

    • Pat Brittenden January 17, 2012 / 12:32

      I guess as you cut and pasted this in both FB and here I should do the same :o)

      From facebook.com/patbrittenden
      Few points here Garth. 1. if you think i never offered solutions you didn’t listen to me very much. 2. If you think I am now just ‘branching in social media’…you didn’t listen to me very much as I was the first at ZB, even before ZB as a station to use Twitter and Facebook on air. 3. If you think in this instance I haven’t offered ‘solutions’ then I assume you haven’t read the article attached to this thread (even though you have posted this exact thread in there as well) as one of the paragraphs talks specifically about what we can do to help an individual on the streets and finally when you use the past tense to refer to me as a talkback host, I think you should bookmark 9am, Monday the 13th Feb in your calendar as you might have to revisit that ‘tense’ ;o)

  4. Teri January 18, 2012 / 12:46

    The blanket man, some time ago, was offered accommodation but he refused it. Therefore, his decision to live on the streets should be no reflection on society.

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