'Help' for Hoarders
Ronald Reagan knew the progressive rationale so well that he could sum it up in one pithy phrase: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"
Progressives usually wrap their agenda in pretty packages topped with a big bow of "helpfulness." Worse, they may even use the word "love."
The tiny state of Delaware, which is where I live, is overwhelmingly liberal in composition, so the state, which seems to be a sort of testing ground for every notion the current federal administration comes up with, is filled with "helpful" and "loving" progressive initiatives.
But it appears the state has now hit the jackpot when it comes to "helpfulness."
According to Delawareonline, Delaware's biggest and most progressive newspaper, the state is creating a "hoarding task force" designed to address the mental health problems of the estimated 45,000 hoarders living in the state. Supposedly the task force is "about the social, physical and emotional isolation their hoarding behaviors cause. It's about safety, not just for the hoarder but for those who live near them as well."
According to Cory Chalmers, who is described on the A&E website as a hoarding remediation expert, "[t]his isn't just someone who is dirty and lazy. It's a mental disorder[.] ... To a person who doesn't suffer, you may think, 'Why is that such a struggle to get rid of what you don't need?' But to them, just to make a decision, their brain is complete chaos. They're not thinking clearly like us." (Italics mine.)
Not only are hoarders not "thinking clearly like us" rational folk who are better organized; according to the article, it seems "patients with hoarding disorders typically need to address the other issues in their lives that may be causing the hoarding, whether it's depression, anxiety or some kind of trauma."
So what could possibly go wrong with a task force assigned to deal with hoarders, who appear to be America's newest version of witches?
First, just what is the exact definition of "hoarding"? (This is to say nothing about the definition of "mental health.")
As is usual with liberal initiatives, the word has a very vague definition -- and, as is also usual with progressives, very vague language means that the initiative to rid the state of hoarders could be infinitely expandable, capturing huge numbers of people in the net. After all, neighbors may be guilty of not identifying the culprits, so shouldn't they be regarded as guilty of enabling hoarding?
Next, just who is to determine what manageable clutter is and what isn't? Your basement may be a total disaster; my attic may be stuffed with clutter; someone else's outdoor storage shack may be filled to the rooftop. Has anyone noticed the cluttered and "unmanageable" offices run by very busy people who might file the junk in their offices about once a year? Are such folks partial hoarders, afflicted with symptoms that will break out in full-blown hoarding? Are they perhaps already possessed by an unmanageable dark spirit? Should they be fined, or their goods confiscated by the State?
Which brings us to another issue: how does and will the state know who the offending 45,000 hoarders are? What are the definitive criteria for identifying a hoarder? Do we begin with noting a wart on the nose or a pustulent abscess near a nipple?
Has the state already identified the hoarders, or is the task force prepared to go house to house to inspect clutter and to identify suspects? Just who is going to enforce actions against hoarders, partial or total? Further, who came up with the numbers? Are they actual or a guesstimate?
Perhaps Americans have forgotten how political dissidents and others considered abnormal by the powers of the former Soviet Union were given the "chemical straitjacket" treatment in order to clear up their "confused thinking." Does anyone recall how mental "hospitals" were actually prisons? (Even American mental institutions have been guilty of the practice of "chemical straitjacketing.")
The fact is that after Stalin's death, while executions lessened, political dissidents, along with "hooligans," "social parasites," and those who were felt to suffer from "progressing schizophrenia" -- whatever that was supposed to mean -- were labeled mentally ill and sent to "hospitals." The number of people who were kept under surveillance because they were considered "mentally ill" is incalculable. Needless to say, targeting people as mentally ill -- as dangerous to themselves, to their neighbors, and to the State -- proved to be the perfect vehicle for completely stripping citizens of their rights.
Don't think it can't happen right here in Delaware.
What, then, is the solution to the hoarding problem?
First, laws concerning endangerment to animals, children, and adults are already on the books. If people's or animals' lives are actually at risk, then enforcement of present laws is all that is necessary.
The fact is that hoarding cuts across all classes. Some hoarders are poor and collect trash. Some hoarders have moderate incomes and load their houses up with junk found at garage sales. Some hoarders are rich. But they are seldom, if ever, accused of hoarding. Instead, they are called "collectors."
The hoarder's real problem is lack of love in his or her life. All hoarders substitute things for people as the objects of their affection. Objects can never love back, so hoarders add more and more stuff in a vain attempt to assuage their starvation for human love.
No matter what the income group or class, law is not the answer. A task force is not the answer. Bureaucracy is not the answer. None of those can provide the answer. Sterile institutions cannot provide love.
Personal love is the cure for hoarding, including for those who hoard out of fear.
Christmastime is the perfect time to demonstrate love toward the lonely, the depressed, and the isolated, no matter who they are, and no matter how much stuff they have or don't have.
Family members, friends, and neighbors, as well as churches and other charitable organizations, can and should reach out to supply the love and friendship isolated hoarders almost universally lack.
Love is the answer.
Fay Voshell may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.