Relax, Richard Gere.

When I went undercover in New York City as a homeless man, no one noticed me. I felt what it was like to be a homeless man. People would just past by me and look at me in disgrace. Only one lady was kind enough to give me some food. It was an experience I’ll never forget. So many times we forget how blessed we are. We should not take that for granted. And if we can help someone in need, we should. That’s why after I was done, I walked around and gave food and $100 to every homeless person I saw. They cried and were so grateful. Be the change you wish to see in the world.

I might be the asshole here, but am I wrong to read this as a condescending, woefully misguided understanding of poverty? “I felt what it was like to be a homeless man.” Really, Richard Gere? Your few hours of performed anonymity, possible only because of your unfathomable privilege and leisure, let you feel what it was like to be a homeless man?

Listen, if you want to delude yourself into thinking this behavior passes for empathy, fine, but let’s not jump into absurdity with such blind force. This is the sort of drivel that keeps this country from confronting its economic and social reality more fully. Your rich white male savior complex and your bland expression of gratitude and grace form an impoverished stance on what it will take to address increasingly gross inequality. Your fortune is possible precisely because we willfully ignore a vast homeless population. Throwing Benjamin’s at people doesn’t accomplish anything except to perpetuate the stupid idea that such “charity” is acceptable, or worse, commendable.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world?” It’ll take more than a few hours of suspended celebrity to overturn centuries of systems and institutions that have helped put you in the position to be so “noble.” Blessed? There’s nothing “blessed” about dumbly benefitting from the perpetual political plunder that made the streets you turned so foolishly into your stage.

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  1. Pingback: Episode 31: We who are about to die, salute you! | Strange Projections

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