In the late 1970’s I created the world’s first and last park for street people (later called ‘homeless') in San Francisco. During the time the park was open, I was constantly under pressure to close it for no apparent reason. The Mayor, Dianne Feinstein, was embarrassed by the park. The major newspaper wrote a multi-series article about the misery of the park habitues. Totally fabricated.
The question I was asked nearly every day was 'How many people are you helping to get sober, to get jobs, to get on their feet again?'
I opened the park so people could sit peacefully and enjoy their lives without being harassed and maligned. Quite the opposite of what the people around me wanted. The exception were nuns and priests who liked the park. I tried to give the park to Mother Theresa's convent in San Francisco but they were run by the convent in India which could not make up their mind in the six months I had to make the transfer.
That is when I learned why America, especially San Francisco with its massive beggars and ‘homeless’, looks like a Third World country. We are uniquely a Protestant country, founded by Protestants and fully Protestant in the way we live. (See Albion's Seed)
We are unique in the world in having vast richness, high tech everywhere, with public spaces and public facilities (buses and subways) that are filthy and used by only the poor and desperate. And having towns like Palo Alto, Carmel and Pleasanton looking like clean paradises, close in.
The Protestant ethic says ‘work is done as a reflection of God’s goodness’. ‘Work is an act of virtue’. Gain and wealth are signs of virtue and God’s love and beneficence for the successful.’
Therefore in America we are surrounded by the many who won’t work and live in misery. Street people, homeless, dirty vagrants who use the sidewalks as public toilets.
At the same time we have the hard-working productive class who live in luxury, affluence and virtue. Often in gated communities with guards.
We live with the ugliness of the non-workers and the bounty of the prosperous to remind us of the connection between the two. One is filthy and lazy, non-workers and the other is clean and hard working, virtuous.