Freegans vs. Welfarers: The Art of Protest or Crimes of the Lazy?
In a consumer-based society such as the United States, the antipodal philosophies of Freegans and Welfarers offer a debatable view on which is more beneficial to society. On the one hand, freegans reject the ideology of consumerism and the wasteful practices of a capitalistic political system and have turned that protest into a new form of art. On the other hand, welfare recipients put their hand out to take everything they can get and offer very little in return which has created a criminal aura about the fraud within the system. While the image of a “dumpster diver” may offer a negative connotation for many middle-class Americans, it has a definite positive application in society which is similar to scavengers in the animal world. Freegans promote an alternative lifestyle which recognizes the “discards” of most consumers as a resource to be consumed. Freegans have created a new economic art form in constructing dwellings and using a barter system to conserve, reuse, and recycle resources that most others would consider to be garbage. This disdain for the “disposable” mindset behind the capitalists’ philosophy has guided freegans to establish alternatives to food consumption, transportation, land ownership, and work practices, many of which are connected to the environmentalist movement and the conservation of natural resources. It seems to radiate an earthy and artsy feel to the movement. Freegans also take an environmentalist’s approach to many of their beliefs and practices by saying “no” to corporate food production conglomerates such as ConAgra Foods or Kellogg’s Company and choose to grow all their consumables or even gather them from the wild. While not completely saying “no” to modern medicine, Freegans will substitute grown herbs and medicinal plants in an effort to reject the consumer-based pharmaceutical corporations. This does appear to be a return to nature. The objection to the application of many Freegan policies, especially with food foraging, include societal taboos, unsanitary practices and health/disease concerns. The more extreme Freegans have adopted a policy of squatting based on the idea of putting unused buildings to use by the homeless. Their belief seems like a very common sense approach: homeless people plus unoccupied building equals a good marriage. The only problem here is that it violates the established legal statues regarding property rights and ownership. Freegans see vacant buildings as counterproductive and a misuse of resources and tend to thumb their noses at the rights of landlords and corporate ownership of resources thereby inviting criminal prosecution for their acts. Finally, one thing that Freegans may have in common with Welfarers is a rationalized point of view about working. Freegans see that working for corporate America simply to accumulate material wealth is counterproductive. They claim this motivation for employment is not beneficial to the individual and/or society. Instead, work should be aimed at improving the common good, volunteering, or spending time with family. While this may seem a lazy-man’s philosophy to approaching life, Freegans do actually emphasize a positive and active approach to the environment and its preservation through maximizing the world’s resources. One might argue that this is a Taoist approach to life where all things are a balance of the yin and yang and one should engage in the principal of harmonious action where all work in a collaborative effort with nature to respect all elements including the lives of others. While Freegans at least give the appearance of being proactive in their own system of beliefs, is the diatribe circulated by those opposed to welfare merely a right-wing mythology or are Welfarers simply lazy and exploit the good will of people and their government? A major problem facing the welfare program is the continued and increasing amount of fraud and misappropriation of fund within the system. There is no concrete evidence that exists indicating that people on welfare are lazy. According to the New York Post, Welfarers perpetuate the concept of taking welfare, especially if welfare pays them more not to work than they can earn by working. Many will choose not to work (1). This opens the door to the abuse of the system and many fraudulent claims. Welfarers may benefit from government assistance in the short term, however it may actually hurt them in the long run. The most important step to removing oneself from poverty is a job. Only 2.6 percent of full-time workers are poor, vs. 23.9 percent of adults who don’t work (1). Even though many claim that low-paying jobs only foster the welfare state, starting at any job, even if it is minimum wage, can be a catalyst to breaking the poverty cycle. But simply paying people “generous” welfare payments promotes a non-participatory attitude on the part of the recipient. Why work when the individual can do nothing and, in many instances, receive more money than working an actual job. This is shown in 2013 labor statistics that indicate there were 11 states that have more people on welfare than working. This does not contribute to the general welfare of society and could be considered a waste of a natural resource – the productivity of a human being. Welfare was originally designed to be a hand up as opposed to a hand out and the system is constantly abused by unscrupulous individuals. In order to put an end to unwarranted welfare claims, many states have called for the tightening of the work requirements that will force recipients to document a legitimate source of income that can then be subsidized by government assistance. Is the mythology surrounding welfare recipients a conservative rant against the poor? Should able-bodied individuals receive compensation for sitting on their backsides and not contributing to the betterment of society? It is evident that this debate will continue with the current system maintaining the status quo including a wide range of criminal fraud. Whereas Freegans have turned their protest into a positive, economic cultural art form, welfarers have taken the opposite approach and turned an original, well-intended program into a bureaucratic nightmare that is rife with corruption and criminal violations. In both cases, there appears to be an “art” of opposing philosophies. Source: 1: http://nypost.com/2013/08/19/when-welfare-pays-better-than-work/