Photo of a Homeless woman sleeping on a mattress on Haight Street in San Francisco, November 22, 2016

Being Alive is Not the Same as Having a Life

A homeless young man is confused and responding to hallucinations on Market Street,  San Francisco.

He loudly threatens those around him until he collapses in an intersection.

The police arrive.

An officer asks him to sit on the curb.

The young man is so distracted by hallucinations the officer has to help him find the curb.

The officer asks him if he is going to hurt himself or anyone else.

The young man distractedly says no.

The police drive off and the young man rolls back into the intersection.

He suffers from the lie that mental illness is a choice and those who have it deserve to suffer.

Where have I seen this kind of ignorance before?

Oh, that’s right! Gays–

50 years ago, the people of the United States universally believed homosexuality was a mental illness and homosexuals deserved shame and incarceration.

When asked why someone would “choose” to be homosexual in such a punitive culture the response of many prominent psychiatrists was “masochism.”

Their reasoning was that only a masochist would “choose” to be homosexual in a world that hates them.

Therefore, the homosexual derived masochistic pleasure from the reactions of others to the choice of his “disgusting” sickness.

Jump forward fifty years and now we have a society that tortures people with Schizophrenia and other chronic mental illnesses.

Being alive is not the same as having a life.

To have a life one must have a brain that can reason.

Homelessness is unfair and inexcusable in a nation as rich as the United States.

Conservative assertion: Life is unfair.

Reasoned rebuttal: That’s why we make civilization.


Meme found o0n Twitter regarding mental illness
1 in 4 people suffer from a mental illness


(c) Rob Goldstein 2014-2017


13 thoughts on “Being Alive is Not the Same as Having a Life

      1. I do see a shift public perception.

        Prior to Reagan the homelessness that we’ve normalized was considered unthinkable.

        If we can restore a measure of the pride that Americans once took in being citizens of nation that fights poverty and gives everyone a fair chance we will go a long way toward regaining the moral credibility so essential to our National security.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Well–the point is that if you don’t have a life you may be too ill to know it.

      One can have a life without a fully functioning body. One can have a life with severe learning disabilities. One can even be paraplegic and have a life
      as we saw with Christopher Reeve who said this:

      “I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
      So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.
      Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.”

      But one cannot have a life if the brain is so deranged that it can make no sense of the World.

      This is when reasonable people step in to provide the structure and treatments that restore the brains ability to reason and survive and thrive.

      I have never met a person who regretted mandatory treatment.



  1. The long diatribe poem today of mine was on this subject also. We don’t talk about it and if we do it’s always couched in negativity, like ‘she had a history’ rather than ‘she needed help’ I think of the recent actress who died, homeless, she obviously had mental issues, we hear about her because she was once famous, but what of the many, many hidden who die every day? I think I read that people with severe mental illness die 25yrs earlier than others, for those who go about their lives finding it really easy to get out of bed, brush their hair and teeth and go to the gym and not stop off and take drugs to take away the pain, they condemn those who do – have – to do this because there is no other option. I trained and became a therapist but I was told with my license I couldn’t work for the VA I couldn’t work with social workers there were so many closed doors, poor paid over worked jobs, and I burned out, so even those who want to make a difference usually cannot because the entire system is corrupted. It is not much better in so-called socialized healthcare countries though, the UK and Canada for example. It’s because people still think mental health is a ‘choice’ just like they think being gay is a choice. As long as people believe it’s a choice (how could anyone believe someone would wish to live like that??) they feel those who ‘succumb’ are ‘weak’ whilst they are ‘strong’ sad that we have so many in society who A. Judge B. Like to be superior to others C. Love putting others down and D. Condemn those they feel inferior to awful lives. Horrible. Thank you for always being a voice in the darkness you go VERY far in that reach my friend Rob.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Homelessness reduces life span by about 25 years. Obviously people who are already ill and unable to care for themselves will not get well and will die. Add to this the absurdity of a medical system that provides people with walkers and wheel-chairs before sending them to live on the streets and we end up living in a culture that covertly executes it’s disabled while maximizing profit. (Medicare covers essential medical hardware.) Not only do our doctors betray their oath to do no harm, they collude with a political/economic system that kills their patients.


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