On Inspiration Porn

‚ÄčI just came across this video.

This is what they call “inspiration porn.” In the video a guy apparently named Johal leaves a backpack containing a bunch of cash next to a sleeping man presumed to be homeless. The man, excited by the discovery, makes immediate use of his good fortune with a trip to Target for blankets, a pillow, a sleeping bag, and the like. Then Johal comes by pretending (poorly) to be on the phone, complaining about being broke while he needs medicine for his sick daughter. The homeless guy then returns everything to Target and brings the cash back to Johal claiming that Johal seemed to have greater need of it, demonstrating his “humanity”, an essential goodness involving a healthy set of priorities, generosity, and integrity. Johal then exposes his lie, gives the money back to the man, with an extra $500… apparently as a reward for good behavior. 

This is what they call “inspiration porn.” Yeah, it’s nice, but notice that it’s using a homeless guy for entertainment purposes. This requires viewing the man from a place of separation, thus this inspirational piece is only meaningful because kindness came from an “underpriveleged” person – in a social experiment (which is probably fake anyway) that essentially objectifies the “underpriveleged” man as merely that label: “undeprivileged,” or perhaps “unfortunate,” or maybe simply “homeless.” That this experiment, this video, was set up to test this man’s integrity is actually demeaning and disrespects that integrity, especially using it as it does for entertainment purposes, so that we “privileged” people can feel all warm and fuzzy about the inherent goodness of humanity while these people still die every day, cold and hungry on the streets, totally rejected by society except for the few minutes that someone with a camera and a wad of cash wants to make a viral video for a little hit of inspiration. Inspiration porn. Like an addiction, used to cover up feelings we don’t want to feel, just like an alcoholic.

We got our warm fuzzies, yes, but at the expense of regarding a decent man as “other”, as lesser. It requires us to be impressed by integrity, generosity, goodness, as though the opposite were the default assumption; we must assume things about human nature, and therefore ourselves, that are unflattering, negative, cynical… so that we can then counter the pain of those assumptions with a bit of evidence that the opposite is true, that people are essentially good. This is like the pain of constant withdrawal the cigarette smoker tries to smoke away. This is like the sexual frustration created by porn that the porn addict searches the internet to solve.

Inspiration porn. An apt description.

If we truly believe the homeless man is our equal and that people are inherently good by nature, would we experience the shock that we call “inspiration” upon watching these videos? 

And how much worse that we probably figure the entire scene is set up as fake! This reinforces our subconscious assumptions even as we assert the opposite.

Why do we have homeless people in the first place? Before we get our hit of the fuzzies, can we ponder on this question first?