Today I witnessed the time honored tradition of a father teaching his son some important life skills. Often times this can range anything from using hand tools, to barbecuing, to shaving. Today's lesson was quite a bit different, though.
While waiting at the laundromat, I happened to see a father show his son howto effectively "dumpster dive". For those that have never heard the term, Dumpster Diving is the art of going through a garbage bin in search of usable goods, sometimes food.
Today's lesson seemed to focus on recyclable metals such as aluminum and copper.
Witnessing homeless or poverty-stricken individuals going through garbageis hardly new to me. In Vancouver, the cost of living is ridiculously higher than in other parts of Canada. Because of this, and the difficulty in finding well paying jobs, many people find it necessary to root through the refuse of others in search of something that can be exchanged for money at the local recycling center, or the things they cannot afford.
Most large cities around the world have a problem with homelessness and those living below the poverty line. At rallies here in BC, many of the participants (mostly students who should be studying, rather than pissing away their parents' money) seem to think that raising the minimum working wage from $8 to $12 will solve the problem. Unfortunately, this would only make it worse.
Wages have to come from somewhere. Nobody should think that increasing wages by such a large amount wouldn't have dire consequences elsewhere. The cost of food would rise as employees at processing plants and grocery stores get the increased rate. Gas prices would rise as attendants would have higher wages. Department stores would have to recoup their costs, also. Every sector would be affected by this change, and it would only make the high costs we deal with that much higher.
At 90% of all businesses, payroll is the highest monthly cost. Many small and medium sized businesses would be forced to either close down because they could no longer compete, or they would need to lay off 40% of their staff just to afford the other 60%. And that's assuming it's even a viable option.
Then comes the problem with the wages for skilled people who earn less than $12 an hour now. Will they be happy earning the same as someone at McDonald's? Probably not.
The lessons that child learned today with his father will likely have a lasting impact on his life. He'll be able to tell the difference between usable and unusable refuse with a very quick glance. People throw away useful materials all the time without any idea of their true value. It's up to people who are desperate enough to sort through the trash to keep these useful materials out of our landfills.
One of the most positive things I witnessed about this lesson today was that the father never once said anything bad about another person, or group of people. Often times, people who are very poor or homeless blame others for their condition. In BC, most of the homeless people I overhear will complain about Asians, and how they ruined everything by bringing their money when immigrating. In Ontario, I would hear people blame Italians and black-skinned people. There was not one racial or ethnic slur uttered in the 10 minutes I witnessed.
I really hope that child can do more in their life than root through garbage. If they're taught that where we come from or what we look like does not warrant our futures or our enemies, then he could do just fine.
Giving money to those who need it most will not solve their problems. Changing the core concepts of society and dependency will.