It was reported today that a government official in Detroit, U.S. bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes, has decided that water isn’t a right, and that if people can’t pay for it, the government is obligated to shut them off. Basically, the argument is that government has been keeping the water on too long, and if you can’t pay, you don’t get to drink, or bathe, or do anything else that involves the most abundance substance on the planet.
What people should get from this story is not that water is not a right, but that when it comes down to basic survival, your government doesn’t give a rat’s ass about you, even though they will say the opposite in hopes of getting your cooperation, or votes.
I learned this myself this month when I moved to Texas. I moved into an apartment that was kind of nice, but over this first month, let’s just say that I’ve had EVERY utility that is owned by government somehow blow up in my face, and then some uncaring civil servant has sat across from me (or sat on the phone with me) and basically said: “It’s not my problem, so why are you bothering me?” Well, they didn’t say exactly that, but they could have and it wouldn’t have changed the outcome whatsoever.
As we’re talking about water, let’s talk about water. I was fine when I moved to my new apartment, but the person who lived in my apartment before me decided to cut off ALL utilities when she moved. And the way the government did it was quite unique. It didn’t matter that I was now the person on record as paying the bills, EVERY utility treated that original cut off notice as more important than the person who was now living in the building and actually paying for the service. So, for one week, I lost electricity. The next week, I lost gas (which meant hot water). After those were re-established (keeping in mind that NONE of these companies will do this at night or on a weekend, and almost always they shut me off at five o’clock on Friday (yep, each of them did it one weekend after another), meaning I went without electricity first, then without hot water (or the ability to cook)…well, that was followed up last week with several days of absolutely no water whatsoever. The people at the water company were “wow, that sucks, but sorry, we can’t have someone out there to turn it back on, even though he’s probably a few yards from where you’re at now because he just freaking turned the water off, so you’ll have to wait a day or two until we can pencil you in for our next turning on the water guy to show up.”
So, the other day, I got to take a shower with bottles of water from Wal Mart because I had no water in the apartment. And of course, it was cold water, because I couldn’t exactly heat up a plastic bottle of water for a shower (it just wasn’t really an easy proposition).
So, when I see people protesting out in Detroit over the government being a meanie, well, that’s just what government is. They don’t care about the common person because they’re not a common person, nor do they know any. They see someone who doesn’t pay as a delinquent, and if you happen to be one of them, expect them to respond with extra fees to turn back on your water because you’re inconveniencing them for their trouble.
For those in Detroit, keep in mind that when they turned off someone’s water, getting it back on isn’t just a matter of calling up and saying, yeah, I’ll pay the next bill. Instead, they’ll charge “administration” fees to turn it back on, which quite often are more than the water ever would have cost in the first place. And more importantly, they don’t care.
That’s life in the big world. And quite often, it sucks.