Peter “Spike” Chippalone, 49, of no fixed abode, feels aggrieved that he cannot claim the status of victim.
Spike assures The Sunday Age he has put his 22-year drug addiction behind him and is using knowledge gained from an arts degree and a community development diploma to champion the cause of the homeless. He says:
People that are gay, bisexual, greenies, bank users, public transport users – they all have their voice but there is nothing for the homeless.
Spike has a point but sadly it is inevitable that in dividing people into oppressors and victims, some unfortunates find themselves caught on the wrong side of a the ledger.
It suggests the Gillard Government’s Homelessness Bill 2013 missed the mark. The Bill, former homelessness and housing minister Mark Butler told us, was aimed “at increasing recognition and awareness of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.”
Labor ran out of parliamentary time before it was able to pass the Bill, but presumably Spike feels as I do that:
If you’re looking for hand-wringing symbolism, a statement that says merely, “I feel your pain”, it is hard to beat the Homelessness Bill 2013. Indeed “law” may be putting it a little strongly, for this is an instrument with no legislative purpose, other than to proclaim that the government’s heart is in the right place.
Roger Scruton sees “an aggressive sentimentality” at work in the modern charade of victims and oppressors:
I call this sentimentality “totalitarian” since — like totalitarian government — it seeks out opposition and carefully extinguishes it, in all the places where opposition might form. Its goal is to “solve” our social problems, by imposing burdens on responsible citizens, and lifting burdens from the “victims,” who have a “right” to state support. The result is to replace old social problems, which might have been relieved by private charity, with the new and intransigent problems fostered by the state.
I’m not sure if Scruton’s words will be any comfort to Spike, but neither apparently was Kevin Rudd’s pledge in 2008 that Labor would half the number of homeless by 2020.
Last year a report by the federal Auditor-General found despite governments committing $1.1 billion since 2008 to tackling homelessness, the number of homeless people increased from almost 90,000 in 2006 to more than 105,000 people by 2011.