Friday, August 17, 2012

Toxic Memes and Poor People

I'm at home tonight with sinusitis, so I'm writing this while in pain. It doesn't make me a very happy individual at all, but compared to the pain this damn sinus infection has inflicted upon me before, what I'm feeling now is nothing.

It hurt worse earlier. So bad I had to admit myself into an emergency clinic and now I have to wall my wallet away inside of my tin can so it doesn't strangle me for it. There's a reason I've waited to treat it - I just recently paid for breaks, so I'm hurting financially enough as it is. I was just hoping that if I ignored it, it'd go away. It's been chronic for the last month or so, since the end of the last heatwave. Part of the problem, I'm sure, is the fact that my neighbor is an asshole. this guy hasn't mowed his lawn all summer (being in jail hasn't helped, but I have a right to be mad at the general situation because it's an eye sore and the city should, but won't, do anything about it) but the weeds - gawddamn. They're bigger than I am. And they've spent most of the summer flowering; kicking my allergies way into overdrive. Even my cat has been suffering from allergies this summer. So I'm sure that's what causing it; that and the fact that work they have something in the filters that just makes it utterly unbearable. I stayed at work as long as I could today - I had to clock out early so I could carry myself off to an emergency clinic because it hurt so bad I wanted to cry. I have quite sensitive teeth; any kind of pressure on that nerve makes it unbearable for me. My teeth were literally throbbing today. I could feel them; I can still feel them now. It felt like someone was trying pry my face apart. Motrin didn't even take the edge off. I kept my patience until I realized that I just couldn't do this anymore. It hurt to talk; someone drove a nail through my jaw and lit that nerve that runs along the chin on fire. That's when I left work early, losing 2 hours of pay. I'm on antibiotics now, so hopefully I'll see some improvement before I go back on Tuesday. I have a weekend off to get better, at least.

Anyway, this post stems from something I've seen too many times.

America is a culture of soundbites.

It's a culture that compresses complex ideologies and multifaceted problems into a few words that, at most, give only a cursory and biased glace at the problem itself. This is what happens when you have a culture of soundbites. As a result, people begin to think in soundbites and begin to expect immediate solutions to present themselves almost as easily as the soundbites are tossed out by our ignoble leaders.

This isn't the first one of these that I've seen, but it is the most recent. And I've commented on almost every one that I've seen, including several arguments with people who thought they supported this stuff. I can't say how many minds I've changed; I doubt the people who support measures and rhetoric like this want their mind changed (as Fred Clark calls it, the "Good Jackie/Bad Jackie test". To my understanding, it works like this: if you tell someone some wild and fanciful story they're repeating is a lie/wrong, how do they react? If they react with "oh, I didn't know that", then you're looking at Good Jackie. If they get mad because you're telling them the truth and they storm off, then you're looking at a Bad Jackie. Most importantly, I reserve the right to be wrong about this. I hurt, y'all. This is not fun).

So, America is a culture of easy and simple soundbites for complex and complicated problems. Here's a very simple solution approach to a problem so complex it has bedeviled people since society first began.



This is one of those things that elicits a, "well duh" from even the most meaningful and caring of people. Obviously we don't want to help the people who don't want to help themselves, right? We do, however, want to help the people who need it, since obviously they deserve it.

Now, if you agreed with any of that, go back and reread it and see if you can't figure out why it's wrong.

I'll give you a key: "don't want to help themselves", "need it", "deserve it".

How can you tell apart the people who don't want to help themselves over the "needy/deserving" people? The people who don't want to help themselves are on drugs, you say. They sit around all day collecting a welfare check without looking for a job. They don't bother to take care of themselves or their kids and they just spit babies out while driving around in Cadillacs and paying 100s of dollars for a pair of trendy shoes. They have fancy cell phones while buying food with WIC; they purchase cigarettes and alcohol with their own money while using a bridge card to purchase food. Most importantly, and what goes unsaid in all of this, is that they're usually black.

So what does a deserving poor person look like, you might ask?

"Please, sir. It's not a smart phone, I promise."
That's the archetypical image of the "deserving poor." So thank you, Oliver, you may go have a seat. You'll notice how Oliver does not have a phone at all, how he has shoes that aren't expensive, how he doesn't have mom who drives around in a Cadillac and, most importantly, how he's white.

Racism factors into this but that's not the aspect I want to view. There's a lot that merges here,; racism, misogyny, and others, but uniformly, this is about one thing:

Class.

So, let's go back to that poor person who clearly doesn't need the help because they're "lazy".

That lazy slob, you say. He doesn't deserve his welfare check. He sits around all day and drinks, and gets slammed, and then passes out on the couch in front of the television. When he does get up, he always smells like alcohol and it's to drag himself to the corner store to get more beer. Clearly he doesn't deserve assistance; he's not working to help himself at all.

Oh, sure. Until you know him. Then you realize his name is John Wilson. Mr. Wilson has suffered from depression his entire adult life. It manifested in his late teen years, and because he comes from a society where men aren't allowed to express their emotions healthily, he bottled them up. Eventually, it became too much to bear. He started drinking in college because it was a way to get away from how he felt. It was a way to drown the pain. Because mental illnesses rarely come by themselves, he quickly developed a dependency on alcohol to try and stabilize his mood. He began showing up for class late, lost the initiative to follow through with assignments because he just didn't have the energy too. He eventually dropped out of college, and started doing what work he could do - temporary, part time, meaningless work. He couldn't live on his own; it only drove home the notion that he was a failure, which he already suspected (because remember, he has depression). Now that he's in his 40s and he hasn't gone anywhere with his life, he looks back and realizes that (in his own mind) he's wasted it all and isn't getting it back. He's going nowhere fast, can't keep a job, and the depression is only getting worse, not better. He's lost the will to continue. He doesn't have the energy to. After being fired from several positions for coming in drunk and late, he realizes that he can't get a job now, so he turns to state assistance and can't get anywhere now, partially because he tells himself he can't, and partially because he honestly cannot find the energy to move forward and just doesn't see the point in it anymore. He's 40. His life is almost half over with, and he'll like die sooner from cirrhosis of the liver because he no longer has any decent insurance.

Now look me in the eyes and tell me that this man isn't deserving of all the help that he can get. Tell me how your soundbite culture can help fix this, because it's part of the problem. It's done nothing but set expectations he cannot meet, only reinforcing the failures over the successes.

But you know what? You don't know him. You just see a guy who drinks himself into a stupor every night and is "lazy" because he doesn't go anywhere with his life. You sigh and shake your head in disgust, and offer up stories about a near cousin, Mr. Watson, who - to you - is legitimately lazy. Because the story of Mr. Watson, you believe, utterly negates the very real situation of Mr. Wilson.

After all, you only want to help the deserving. Clearly, if Mr. Watson isn't deserving, then neither is Mr. Wilson.

There's a lazy little tramp. She's got about three kids, with a fourth on the way, and she can't afford any of them. You see her waiting in line, trying to tame her kids and keep them in line with a father nowhere in sight. She's got about six tattoos, she's got two packs of cigarettes, some beer, and she's paying for that separately with actual cash while she's paying for the food with a bridge card  - aka, your tax dollars. You're disgusted. here's another abusive little whore, who's taking advantage of the system rather than doing the right and "proper" thing, which is getting out there, cleaning herself up, and making herself look acceptable to society. You stick your nose up; clearly, this is the very picture of a welfare queen.

Let's label Amanda with misogynistic insults. It's not like she hasn't gotten them her entire life after making a mistake with a boy that she thought she would spend the rest of her life with and winding up pregnant. After all, we here in America positively arm our children with knowledge about sexuality and are most certainly not hung up on Puritanism at all. She knew. The school didn't like that at all; the counselor did everything she could to get Amanda out of school because, as we all know, pregnancy is contagious. Because of this, Amanda never completed high school. She's going back right now to get her GED, but one of the signs of being poor is believing that a GED means anything at all.

Yes, those tattoos. Those were from a better time. Those were when she was dating a guy who was into that sort of thing. Back when she was recovering from the birth of her second child. Giving birth and raising children is hard; she got addicted to cigarettes during this time, smoking with the boyfriend who would eventually leave her. Unfortunately for your taxpayer money, addictions are hard to break. Very hard to break; especially ones like smoking and drinking. And if you had three kids like she does, you'd probably be drinking too. Speaking of which, did I mention that one of those kids has a learning disorder? And did I mention that one of those children has issues with authority and is beginning to display what those eggheads call "oppositional defiant disorder."

They have a disorder for everything these days, you scoff. All the kid needs is a good swat to the ass and everything will be all over with. That's how we did it back when I was growing up.

Unfortunately, it's not that easy and that's not the proper response anyway; one, it's child abuse, and two, it doesn't help. Exerting authority only makes the child stub up that much more - it's authority that they've got the problem with. Tell me, o tinpot dictator of the household, why do you think exerting more of the problem in larger amounts is the solution? Anyway, Amanda has three of these children. She barely has the energy to keep up with any of them. Stress does bad things to a person's mind. They begin to break. She's finding it harder and harder to go on, and right now, those cigarettes and that beer is the only thing that keeps her going some days. She's a horrible parent, you say, because she should be worried about her kids. She can't take care of her kids until she takes care of herself first, and unfortunately, she's not doing a very good job of either.

That phone. It was a gift from her mom. Her mom bought it for her so she could stay in contact with her mom. Of course, she doesn't have the "from mom" sticker on there anymore. Alternatively, she bought it because she could and because she wanted to do something nice for herself - after all, everyone deserves something nice every once in a while.

Yes, that's right, I said deserves.

Clearly, you don't understand their situations. You don't see how complicated they are, and the kind of pain both of these people are in. There are people like them and worse off in the world, and they exist here in this country. But when you look at them, you see only lazy poor people leech off of the government.

Do you want me to tell you who's really leeching off of the government? Who the real lazy people are, who are doing nothing at all for society?

There are 26 corporations in the United States, at least, that have not paid federal income tax. There's actually more than 26 - there's something like 280 - but 26 of them are Fortune 500 companies. That is, they make billions of dollars. They make billions of dollars using public roads to ship things. They make billions of dollars using the public power grid to power their plants. They make billions of dollars using the public sewage to water their plants. They make billions of dollars setting up shop on public land. And they're not paying a cent for it. At all.

So who has to cover the taxes? People like Mr. Wilson. People like Amanda. People like you and me - we support these massive corporations. Their CEOs make millions of dollars a year. Their workers are lucky in most cases to see $7.50, because we have a minimum wage. Speaking of those CEOs; what are the odds that they're paying their full taxes, hmm? There are thousands of loopholes in the tax return forms for people who are wealthy and know how to use them. They can hire entire cadres of people who understand the tax laws to get them to pay as little taxes as possible. That is, they get to use all of our public services - roads, gas, sewage, police, fire, ambulance, power, and others - without having to pay for them, or with paying as little as possible for them.

So who's really paying for these public services?

You. Me. Amanda. Mr. Wilson. Others like us. That's right. Us. If you're reading this, you're not rich. Don't fool yourself.

No, the real leeches in this society, the real bloodsuckers society is better off without, is the real people that society carries who give back nothing, are the corporations and most of the wealthy. They don't create jobs - if they did, we'd be drowning in jobs right now. They don't give shit back. They're parasites; parasitic organisms, leeching off of people who can barely afford to give anymore. And yet, you're mad at Amanda and Mr. Wilson for "abusing your tax dollars" and "being lazy." Not the corporations, who have made record profits while not hiring anyone new. Not the corporations, who influence the political system to make things work their way for the foreseeable future? Not the corporations, who use the roads, who use the public services, but do not give back and do not pay for them?

What the hell is wrong with you?

Seriously, this is all I have to say. What the hell is wrong with you?

Your anger is aimed in the wrong direction. You're aiming it down at people who are trapped in a system that they can't get out of, often through no means of their own. Is it just easier to believe that someone like Mr. Wilson, who struggles with depression his entire life, is more responsible for supporting society and "wasting your tax dollars" than a multi-trillion dollar industry that outsourced a million jobs to India last year while using all of the things your tax dollars paid for for free? Without giving back a cent?

Especially when it's in your face that them being wealthy, and them making profits, do not create more jobs? You were never hired by a poor person, but guess what? Nobody's being hired by the rich.

I mentioned before that one of the trademarks of knowing that you were poor and well education was when you look to the rich not with envy, but with anger and hate for what they've done to society and the people in it. When you realized that Robespierre and Vladimir Lenin may have had the right idea and their implementation wasn't all that bad, either.

Class warfare exists in the metaphorical sense. It exists on the floors of the people in power. It exists on the floors of congress, and in between the numbers of the ticker at the bottom of MSNBC's stock exchange reports. I'm about to the point where I would support literal class warfare.

Of course, right now, I'm addled on painkillers that aren't really working, with a nasty sinus infection that I waited to have treated because I was afraid that it might mean more expensive surgery to fix. Expensive surgery I didn't have the money for. I'm in a bad mood. I suppose I deserve it. I mean, I own a laptop and a computer, I have an iPod and a car, and I've got a lot of other stuff. Perhaps maybe I'm not a deserving poor person. Perhaps I should sell everything I have to make you believe I'm really poor.

Or maybe I should just say fuck you.

I'm not sacrificing what little comforts I have in life to get by. I don't believe you should. I don't care how you feel about "your tax dollars" because I pay taxes too, asshole, and they're my tax dollars as well. But you know who doesn't pay taxes, and who does abuse the infrastructure we paid for as a group of people? Who gets all of these things you pay taxes for for free? You know who is a leech on society?

If you answered anyone other than the rich; anyone other than the corporations, in light of everything I've shown you so far, fuck off. You're too ignorant and you're too willfully, perversely stupid to be dealt with and I don't have anymore patience.

5 comments:

  1. Most excellent rant... hope you feel better.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So, um, yeah. I needed to hear this. I'll still have trouble relating to people, I'll never truly like Loud folks, but I'm not rich, and I'll try my damnedest to be better.

    And if these people didn't have all their money, they wouldn't be rich. And then would they get rich again?

    ReplyDelete
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