A few friends, including my cousin Jaime, reposted a link on Facebook to a blog post by Linda Tirado. The article “This Is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense“, has been featured on Huffington Post and other outlets around the web. It’s completely worth reading. Jaime asked her Facebook friends for responses, below is my response with an addendum tacked on here and there:
I’ve been this level of poor for short periods of time; living on a honey bun out of a vending machine for the day, squatting illegally in my grad. school studio because I couldn’t afford an apartment. Luckily, I was on track to earn the terminal degree in my field and was therefore able and willing to take on the debt necessary to avoid this level of poverty for long.
I’ve spent the vast majority of the last 15 years working at least two jobs, often three, to scrape together a paltry 20K per year, much of which went toward keeping the debt at bay. I always marveled at my co-workers who were living from paycheck to paycheck, not because they were supporting a family, but because they were supporting a $150 phone bill, a $100 cable bill, and a $250 a month lunch habit. The writer of this article is not one of these frivolous people.
I saw a light at the end of the tunnel because I never truly suffered–when I was at my lowest I had the glow of the mystique of the “starving artist” to warm me– and did not grow up with the numbing, institutional poverty (I’m assuming, perhaps unfairly) the writer did. Had I grown up in a home with parents who had to work three jobs to make ends meet and were not available to help me with schoolwork; where my neighbors and classmates shamed me for taking Wellfare and reduced lunches at school; where I wound up prematurely aged and generally unhealthy because the diet my family could afford had the nutritional value of a box of kleenex; I probably would have wound up exactly where this writer is, despite being pretty bright and resourceful.
I look hopefully to the future–as a portion of the population is becoming more compassionate and less interested in a world where profit=happiness–where programs arise that allow the poor to afford more nutritional food, more educational opportunities for their young children, and more pay equity (a long shot I know, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed). The bottom line is this: nearly everybody has it hard, and damn near everybody works hard, and if we are able to acknowledge this and love each other for it we’ll make everybody’s life a little easier. These are my thoughts. Thanks for asking!—Blake
This is the long and short of my worldview. While I didn’t grow up with much, my parents were available and proactive, and I was raised with a working-class attitude about money but a middle-class view of education. I was extremely lucky, and am willing to spend any amount of money–give any amount in taxes–to provide every child in the country the same opportunities I had, PERIOD. Call me a sucker, but I’m a big picture guy and when money and privilege is distributed more evenly the world is happier and safer. When people start thinking they’re more special, more deserving than their neighbor, economic disparity rises and despair follows. I don’t know how much my lefty leanings were shaped by my upbringing, my family didn’t really discuss politics much, but I knew the importance of fairness and kindness. Perhaps more importantly it was made very clear that even though I had some talents, I was weird, not special. These simple lessons formed me into the hard-headed bleeding heart I am today, and thank goodness for that.
An aside—–Even though we’re getting by, Hannah and I are far from out of the woods yet. This with both of us having Masters in our field and a more active CV than four average people. As America proceeds down this road where every institution in the world is expected to be run like a business–allowing the impersonal nature of profit-driven efficiency to trump morality–pursuits like the arts, which both define and act as the conscience for culture, are demonized and diminished. Do we want the world to be run by MBAs? Or do people have value above jobs statistics and living-breathing profit machines?
Sorry we haven’t been posting the last couple months, we’ve been doing a lot of traveling and making, and I’m sure Hannah will be back to telling you all about it soon enough! Happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all a happy weekend.
Note: Linda Tirado’s blog.