Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Disparity of Wealth on Christmas

A time for family, gift giving, and feeling the true weight of how poor you actually are. Well, for me anyways. And for a lot of other people in this country during this recession. This holiday season, while walking home from work past brand new cars and homeless men, I got to thinking about the people that Have and the people that Have Not. Particularly, I was thinking about the all-too-common theory that poor people are poor because they way to be.

What is that? Who would ever want to be poor? It's hard as shit to be poor. It's stressful and depressing and every financial decision, no matter how small, is a painstaking decision. Furthermore, the poor are surrounded by the judging eyes of the Haves.

I don't understand how we came to worship money so feverishly in this country, but that appears to be the situation. At times it seems to me that we live in some sort of bizarre nightmare reality in which the most important thing in your life is supposed to be your job. Does that give you chills or what? The thing that gives your life meaning is the way you make money? That sounds awful.

A lot of different philosophies speculate at the true meaning of life. It might be to find happiness, it might be to find peace, it might be to help others and it might be 42. All of these seem valid to me. What does not seem plausible is that the ultimate goal of one's life should be to have a solid financial foundation, with good investments and low interest rates. I mean, have I watched too much Bill Hicks and read too much Palahniuk? Do I just have an especially strong distaste for bullshit? Am I wrong? Is life really about mortgages and nice cars and all the boring percentages? Because I would prefer my life to be a little more interesting than that.

You know, when you think about it that way, it makes perfect sense that the Haves would see the Have Nots as enemies. The Haves are all cooped up in their offices, stuck in neck ties, tricking themselves into believing that work matters. Paperwork matters. Deadlines matter. Business is important, damnit. And if they have to waste the only lives they have to live on making money, why should anyone else get any of it, whether it be a quarter to a homeless man or taxes that pay for public services?

And that's why I continue to be unsurprised about the failure of the health care reform. No one should get anything for free in this country. The only problem is that people just aren't working hard enough. And that's the kind of short-sighted, uncomplicated thinking that you develop when you start to define your worth by the money you make. You start to judge everyone else by the money they don't make. That's called The Process of Othering and it makes things less complicated. By thinking of the poor as others, they aren't really people.
"They" are all too lazy to work.
"They" are all just drug addicts and alcoholics.
"They" lie and cheat to get food stamps and medicaid.
"They" are immoral. Automatically. Because they don't make enough money.

It is so acceptable to hate and resent the poor. It's so easy to imagine that they are constantly scheming up ways to get the money that you have worked so hard for. Democracy was built to protect the rich from the poor, because "they" are the enemy.
But we're all human beings, and that should matter more than what's in your bank account.

Merry fucking Christmas.


  1. Sure, we are all human beings. But if each of us is judged to have the same value, then how is it that I value some more than others? Obviously there is more to human value than the fact that one is human. So is it so wrong for me to decide that my highest valued human is one who makes the most money? Who are you to tell me that my values are wrong?

  2. I'm me, that's who.
    And I don't necessarily believe that we're all automatically equal simply because we're humans. I'm saying, or trying to say, that you shouldn't automatically assume that someone is in any way less human simply because they have less money and then use that assumption to discriminate. Like racism, this kind of thinking is both morally and logically wrong. I feel like sweeping generalizations about the poor (like the "they" statements I made in the blog) are pretty socially acceptable and pretty stupid at the same time. Uncomplicated thinking about large social issues makes me frustrated.

  3. Personally, I'm not going to school to get some awesome job and make money. I'm going to school so I can meet the qualifications to get a job that's fulfilling on many levels, and enjoyable. Of course I want a job that pays the bills and pays for fun, but luckily jobs that are fulfilling and enjoyable, to me, pay pretty well. If flipping burgers was fun and fulfilling, I'd just do that, but I need more than that.

    The poor don't always have the resources for that like you and I do. They simply can't afford college, even with loans, or if they get there, they're not educated enough to finish. Detroit Public Schools, for example, is a horrible school system. Even if someone gets straight As there, they usually struggle in a 4-year university because they just weren't prepared for college in high school. The transition, learning-wise, wasn't that difficult for me because I was lucky enough to a good high school that prepared me for college.

    To me, that simply isn't right or just or fair in any way. That's why I think we should feel morally obligated to help. And that's why I give change to anyone who asks me for it, whether it be the homeless guy downtown, or someone who's 10 cents short in line at the gas station. But that's all I can afford to offer as an unemployed college student. Maybe I'm just one of those rare humanitarians, but I hope one day I'll be able to give more, because I think everyone should have the opportunity to do what they love.

    Life isn't about getting a job and making money. It's about doing the things you love. It takes money do be able to do that, and if you're lucky, it makes money too. Unfortunately, we live in a world based on money and not on resources, but that's a whole other topic I'm not about to get into.