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Somewhere in Miami, a bookie is drawing up long odds on Chris Delamo living out the week. That's because this college dropout with a penchant for political pranks has decided to take to the mean streets of Miami for a week to see what it's really like to be homeless. He's taking nothing but the clothes on his back — oh, and his $800 camera, tripod, and laptop computer.
"It's going to be like Urban Survivor Man. I'm going to force myself into ragged situations like begging strangers for money and sleeping on the streets," Delamo tells Riptide. "My only concern is of being mugged or some crazy, random person attacking me."
Delamo says he's always been "pretty much a normal guy who for some reason always had a greater tendency to question social norms." The G. Holmes Braddock Senior High School grad tried taking classes to become an air traffic controller like his dad, but he found them too boring. Instead, he dropped out and founded a blog called Red Pill Philosophy (motto: "One pill a day keeps the falsehoods at bay"). Much of the website is devoted to "voluntaryism," which Delamo describes as the belief that "nobody should ever be forced to do anything against their will."
He also began making short man-on-the-street videos in which he challenges passersby to debate political philosophy. In one clip from the last Election Day, Delamo points a plastic revolver at voters and asks them how taxation is any different from armed robbery. "The government should not have the right to point a gun to our heads and force us to give up our money," he says.
Delamo's latest stunt is decidedly more dangerous than playing with toy guns, however. A British journalist who tried doing the same thing — albeit in freezing-cold Newcastle — died last month of hypothermia. In Miami, Delamo is more likely to be attacked, robbed of his gear, and left for dead. "None of my family or my friends want to drop me off in a downtown ghetto because I guess they are afraid of getting shot," he says. But Delamo insists he isn't worried.
"Honestly, man, I'm just very confident of my understanding of my social environment," he says a bit smugly. "I'll just use my cognitive abilities to steer myself away from dangerous situations."
In fact, there is an air of condescension to his entire project. Even the documentary's title — Homeless: A Normal Guy's Journey Into Poverty — implies that the people living on the streets of Miami aren't just down on their luck but also abnormal. "It seems like you'd have to make a lot of really bad choices to drive yourself down to that level," Delamo says. "I mean, what's going on in the minds of homeless people? Have they just given up? Do they like homelessness?"
He'll find out soon enough. Delamo plans on pretending to be homeless for seven days, beginning Memorial Day. If you're downtown, you can't miss him: He'll be the guy with the camera — or the guy lying on the ground who used to have a camera and is yelling for cops or paramedics (who are paid for by our tax dollars).
But Delamo isn't dogmatic enough to rule out changing his mind after his week on the streets.
"There's definitely a possibility that when I'm exposed to the hardships of homelessness, I might see things another way," he says. "I'll let you know if I'm a Big Government welfarist by the time I get back."