Saturday, October 15, 2011

Not Your Father's 99%

The Occupy Wall Street movement is a legitimate, grass roots organization. You can tell because of the high level of initial disorganization. This blog supports the Occupy Wall Street movement, not just because it's author is one of the 99%, but because solidarity is a necessity in this world, when the predatory upper class is constantly looking for a means to hold down the lower class.

Marxist theory is probably the best way to explain how this works. See, in the Marxist view of history, there are three classes: the poor, the middle, and the wealthy. Contrary to popular belief, the wealthy are not the bourgeois. That's a title reserved for the middle class - that is, the shop owners, the employers, etc. According to Marxism, history is nothing but one long struggle between the ruling classes (the bourgeois, who answer to the wealthy) and the proletariat, or the poor people who are exploited by both the bourgeois and the wealthy, repeatedly. Different individuals have taken this in different directions, although I find that Lenin was amazingly accurate in his predictions of what would happen when commodities find themselves controlled by one group of people, or when banks become private enterprises (read his essay, On Imperialism, for a more thorough view.)

I'm not going to spend to much time on Lenin or Marx. I wanted to bring them up because the current OWS movement highlights the ongoing division of the rich verses the poor that's been happening ever since humans developed an economy for their society (and even before that; the god/desses only spoke to certain people, and faith is a currency all it's own, more potent than any paper bill or gold coin minted in history). This is the same vein as the Bonus Army or the Wobblies; it hasn't become the Peasant Revolution of the 1380s yet, and with any luck, it won't morph into a full blown French Revolution (despite what I've heard people say, I don't think it'll go that far. I doubt that we'll see a Lenin-style October Revolution. But if it does, dibs on manning the guillotine. I'd rather be behind it than under it.)

Instead, I found one of those typical responses that pissed me off, so I'm going to look at that. I just wanted to make it very plan and very clear that, as a student of Marx and Lenin, I understand how class warfare works, how it's shaped the history of humanity, and how I'm not scared to admit that I've read either man (dismissals of my arguments on their faces because of who I'm influenced by will be laughed at and pitched aside with the other ad hominem garbage. The most vocal critics of Marx and Lenin don't know a thing about either man or what they said to begin with, and usually resort to making things up anyway.)

So, let's take a look at this thing that's gotten under my skin.

Mmm.... you can taste the privilege. I don't know if those are the hands that wrote the paper, but I'm almost willing to bet this entire blog that the person who wrote that was White. It reeks of privilege, and obliviousness to that privilege, which usually goes hand in hand with being White.

News flash - I graduated high school with a 3.2. That's pretty good, right? Yeah, I didn't see any Scholarships, either. I got a GM scholarship because my dad worked for GM, and that carried me up until my final year, when the government started paying for it through grant money. Is it my own fault for not finding scholarships? Maybe; I didn't have the first clue how to go about getting them, though, and because of the situation I was in. But at the end of the day, aren't scholarships just another handout?

Also, I love this "I got good grades in high school." Good for you. What about students who don't, and can't help it? I got good grades - like I said, my GPA was 3.2. I suffer from ADHD and cyclothymia/depression (might as well be depression; it's just extreme depression in between periods of feeling like a normal, functioning human being). That's normally a bad combination for any kind of school system. Kids like me fall out of the system; we get lost in the cracks, because our disabilities keep us from understanding. They keep us from learning. They keep us from adapting, from focusing, from having the energy - and it's our fault we feel this way? This is why we get poor grades. Because we have these illnesses. It's really no different from having diabetes. We'd understand a student with diabetes who has difficulty in school due to their diabetes, and has to miss days to see the doctor. But if you're feeling depressed or you have bipolar, you're shit out of luck. You should be like him. Get good grades.

I didn't say you should be like me. I understand well enough to know that my case is extremely unusual. You know, sorta like every mental illness case. No two cases of bipolar are the same.Your case is not my case. I won't ask it to be the same.

Instead, he's asking you to be just like him. You should be able to do everything that he did. Do you hear that? You're a failure if you don't. Because that's exactly what we need to be telling depressed kids with no self-esteem anyway.

Or kid with learning disabilities. Suck it up. You can't read? It's because your ass is lazy. This business about the letters jumping all over the place, about you confusing the signs for addition and division, it's excuses for poor performance. You should be just like him. He obviously didn't have these problems, of if he was like me and figured out how to work around them, then you should too.

He works 30+ hours a week. Let me tell you something about my first job. I got my first job long before I started treating my ADHD. When you have ADHD, focus is extremely difficult. You know you heard the directions on how to do something, but you can't remember how to do them. When you're working in fast food, that's a hell of a way to do a job. Add to that getting sucked up into drama on the job, and you're just up shit creek. But hey, because all jobs are like his, you've got no excuses.

You have to especially love that part about "I can't have everything I want." You couldn't possibly be more condescending than that. There are people in this country who can't have the things they need, much less the things they want, and they're working a whole hell of a lot harder than you are. Try pulling 60 hours a week, at two jobs making less than minimum wage, going to college and paying for it with loans, and raising two children at the same time. That was the condition a friend of mine is in. And she's got a 4.0 GPA. I'd like to ask Mr. Cocksure here why he can only turn out a 3.8.

Is her condition like the condition of every other single mother in the country? Hell no. And she'd tell you that. See, she was White. It came a lot easier to her because she was White. Had she been Black, or Hispanic, things would've been uglier. I'm preaching to the choir about institutional racism; the fact that Blacks get charged a higher interest rate on loans, the fact that they're more likely to be turned down for loans because they are Black, the fact that being Black tags you with a whole lot of baggage that White people don't even dream of having to deal with. That's another thing this fellow here (unsurprisingly) forgot - the color of your skin sure as hell determines how institutions react to you and that, in the long run, determines how successful your success is actually going to be. It's possible to fight against the system and succeed, but just because some people are capable of fighting against it and winning doesn't mean the system is justified to begin with, like Mr. No Debt here is suggesting.

Also, I'd be concerned here. He has no debt, which means he likely has no credit score, or he has a very low one (or he's lying). I'd like to know how he could get that cheap apartment - he'd probably have to have a parent cosign for it. And he must have a car, which means he has a car loan out unless he paid for it in cash, up front, which again, is another way to torpedo your credit score. Having no credit is just as bad as having bad credit.What's happening here is this guy is really hurting himself - this is another arrogant White d00d who thinks everyone should be like him, without knowing exactly what got him where he is to begin with. For the record, I believe that the credit system is utterly broken, like Rifts, but with more complicated rules than GURPs. The idea - assessing how reliable people are for taking out loans - is a fair. If the bank is going to give you money, they need to assess what your liability is. Banks not assessing liabilities is part of what got us into this mess to begin with. That said, there's so many factors that make it unfair it's not even worth trying. It's broken, and it needs to be thrown out. And before it comes up, I have a credit score of 700, probably higher now that I'm paying for my car on time and still making my student loan payments. So it's not that I have a crappy credit score, because I don't.

I doubt he's content in that position. He probably wants something more. I wouldn't be content with a cheap apartment - apartments are financial sinks. The money you throw at an apartment you never get back. That's why I'm saving my money for a house; at least a house is an investment. You can take out liens against a mortgage. An apartment is no such thing. Son, you're wasting your money. You're spinning your wheels and you're getting nowhere, so I wouldn't be proud of it at all.

You live below your means - that's because you can live below your means. There are plenty that are forced to live below their means. I notice you at least have a camera, a computer, and Internet access of some type; I worked with students who were fortunate to have clothing. I notice you have the capacity to eat on a regular basis - some of the kids I worked with only ate while they were at school, and were screwed when they went on break. Children wanting the absolute basics because their parents can't afford it is a "hand out?"

Which brings me to my final point. This idea that if you have to ask for help, you're asking for hand out. This idea that, if you're not pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, complete with the 900 pound elephant of a system sitting on your shoulders without boots on your feet, you're getting a hand out. I know he's not content. He's jealous. He's jealous of the poor, because he's like the 29% who've come to believe that they get hand outs, and that they have easy lives, and that they can sit around and do drugs all day, drive Cadillacs, afford 300 dollar shoes, and buy microwave ovens and have cellular phones, while he's *only* working 30 hours a week, and "lives below his means." Not only does this reek of privilege and condescension, but it also reeks of that barely restrained anger towards this mythical notion of the poor; this notion that has successfully 'Othered' them. This whole thing is nothing more than a exercise in making more whine than necessary from sour grapes.

And that's all protests of this kind ever amount to. They're sour grapes. They believe that poor people have never worked a day in their life, and they believe that if you worked like they do, instead of getting hand outs, that you'd be "successful" like they are. I love how this fool deludes himself into thinking he's successful. He's successful by sinking it in on an apartment. He's not expecting handout, except for scholarships (because loans are such handouts). He's not got any debt at all, but he's shot himself in the foot because he probably doesn't have very good credit, either. Okay, so he's got a 3.8 GPA. Get back with me after you graduate, and find yourself without a job in your choose career. You can always choose to live like that, but that's not being successful.

Here's a message from one White individual to another White man. You have more privilege than I do on most fronts; I'm mentally ill, I'm genderfluid, I'm atheist, and I'm poor. I still have White privilege and all that comes with it, just like this clown does, and I get standard privilege awarded to believers, cisgendered and the neurotypical until I open my mouth and announce otherwise (although the neurotypical privilege is a little more insidious; that you really can't lie about, because it affects your actions, and your ability to comprehend). Unlike this clown, I'm aware of it, and I'm trying to make others aware of it, too. I've got privilege. It's great. I want to share; everyone should have it. I graduated with a 3.6, got my Bachelor's in Science in Education, and I was on the Dean's List. Cum Laude, and I managed to fight off a total mental breakdown my final year of college, during my student teaching experience, to do it. I could never hold a job because my ADHD made it difficult for me to focus on one thing - my first boss told me "I think too much." Here I am, working 30 hours a week, making 15 dollars an hour - well beyond anything you're making. Given all this, why aren't you more like me? I had more hurdles than you. I managed to leap them all, and arguably, even though I have no apartment and I still live with my parents, I'm more successful than you. And furthermore, why can't you see that it's wrong for me to ask you to be that way?

When you can answer that question, you'll see why it's wrong for you to say what you did.

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