Desperate People

A desperate person is someone who does not have the resources to sustain either his or her own life or what might generally be considered an adequate way of life. Desperate people can be homeless, or suffering a terminal illness, or victims of a war. They do not know where to turn to help them out or else, like the people of Puerto Rico, they don't know why they have not been helped out. They are different from people who are caught up in a way of life that seems normal to them, rather than desperate, but which may have many of the same sequelae. Someone living in a gang infested neighborhood may think that is just the way things are, some people getting shot at random, however unfair that may be. Others living in the same neighborhood are truly desperate because they don’t think this is normal, not the conditions under which anyone should live, a definite privation rather than a culture. People who emphasize the idea of the culture of poverty portray gang violence in the first way, as the way life is, dysfunctional for the community as a whole, but not for the gang members who get money and excitement in exchange for their shortened lives, while people who emphasize the structure of poverty portray gang violence in the second way, as the way life doesn’t have to be except for the fact that gangs provide work (in the drug trade and other illegal ventures) as well as a sense of security to people who do not have other resources. We can begin to understand the nature of desperation better by focussing on the general phenomenon of a disaster rather than looking at the ongoing disaster that characterizes some American communities and which is confused with a normal way of life.



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