Sunday, January 24, 2016

Phil Collins: Another Day In Paradise


Although both homelessness and mental illness are complex, modern ideas, we have fallen into the habit of using phrases such as ‘housing the homeless’ and ‘treating the mentally ill’ as if we knew what counts as housing a homeless person or what it means to treat mental illness. But we do not. We have deceived ourselves that having a home and being mentally healthy are our natural conditions, and that we become homeless or mentally ill as a result of “losing” our homes or our minds. The opposite is the case. We are born without a home and without reason, and have to exert ourselves and are fortunate if we succeed in building a secure home and a sound mind.”
Thomas Stephen Szasz
Cruel Compassion: Psychiatric Control of Society’s Unwanted (1994)

Phil Collins and band perform “Another Day In Paradise,” which is the first track on the flip side of the album, ...But Seriously (1989). It is clear from watching this video what this song is about. The homeless, as is the case with the poor, are seen but are not visible. There are more than 500,000 people in the U.S. who have no permanent place to call home; the chief cause is a lack of affordable housing, which is especially problematic in major cities like New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

True, a good number (about 33%) are mentally ill, or abuse drugs or alcohol (about 40%), or have some physical disability (38%). Among the homeless are military vets (about 8%) and young people under the age of 18, many of then running away from abusive homes. The large majority of homeless are males under the age of 40; this is true not only in the U.S., but also in other western nations.

The numbers are as follows: Canada (30,000 homeless), Britain (52,000 families), France (142,000 homeless), Germany (860,000 homeless) and so go the numbers in so many other “wealthy” nations of the world. It is hard to get an accurate figure, but there are an estimated 100-million homeless people in the world. All have, for a number of reasons, fallen through the cracks of a caring and wealthy society. This stands beside another sobering figure: some 60 million persons worldwide have been forcibly displaced from their homes as a result of wars, conflicts and persecutions.

Such are the numbers, the statistics. One wonders whether it a matter of satisfying the cruel and capricious gods of statistical probability that a percentage of society must be homeless or poor, which often go together. These are the unlucky ones, the unfortunates, winners of the lottery of the forsaken and the forgotten.

Is there a reason for this? Some have made poor choices, no doubt, and the results are tragically evident. Some have not (e.g., mental illness, domestic abuse, poverty, etc.), and the results are also tragically evident. Some have jobs, but they are low-paying and insufficient to pay for housing. Do these men and women belong on the street? I do not think any healthy caring person believes these men and women do.

The song evokes an emotion of sadness, and much more. It is a song of comparisons; if you have a permanent place of your own to call home, when some do not, you are “living in paradise.” A hyperbolic statement? Perhaps. but it is a matter of perception? of awareness of your surroundings and of others? Is this not true? I am also aware of the criticism levied at Collins, who is wealthy, writing about a subject that he does not “own.”

I understand, and yet I disagree with this view in the same way that I disagree with the idea that someone can’t write about cancer if he hasn't had cancer or about poverty if he hasn’t experienced it. An artist can go beyond his experiences, which is what makes him an artist. The song and the imagery speak to me.

Another Day In Paradise
By Phil Collins

She calls out to the man on the street
“Sir, can you help me?
It’s cold and I’ve nowhere to sleep,
Is there somewhere you can tell me?”

He walks on, doesn’t look back
He pretends he can’t hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there

Oh think twice, it’s another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, ’cause it's just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, think about it

She calls out to the man on the street
He can see she’s been crying
She’s got blisters on the soles of her feet
She can’t walk but she’s trying

Oh think twice, ’cause it’s another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, think about it

Oh Lord, is there nothing more anybody can do
Oh Lord, there must be something you can say

You can tell from the lines on her face
You can see that she’s been there
Probably been moved on from every place
’Cause she didn’t fit in there

Oh think twice, ’cause it’s another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, just think about it, think about it

It’s just another day for you and me in paradise
It’s just another day for you and me in paradise, paradise
Just think about it, paradise, just think about it
Paradise, paradise, paradise

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