Our Classless Society
Jay was leaning against the fence in front of the church on Broadway, holding out a plastic coffee cup, asking for change. He was in socked feet and blue booties, the kind that would wrap around a cast or a sprained ankle. He was standing on a thin piece of styrofoam, and had a shopping bag and a backpack on the ground text to him. I stopped and said, hello, and he smiled a huge smile that I wasn’t expecting.
In Hawaii, Tom Brower, a Democratic state representative, is walking around with a sledgehammer and disabling shopping carts used by the homeless. He says he does it because “it’s threatening to steal things,” meaning taking shopping carts to use as storage of personal possessions, yet Brower does not see the irony of how threatening it is to walk around with a sledgehammer to destroy the carts. And it’s not just the carts—Brower appears to have disdain for the homeless, one of the most vulnerable segments of our society, who often suffer from mental health issues.
The Washington Post has a list of 16 cities in the U.S. that France warns their citizens about, with reasons or advice to stay vigilant. The advice is generally to keep an eye out on your pocketbooks when in high-tourist areas like Times Square in New York, but it’s also about avoiding areas like Harlem in NYC, Anacostia in Washington D.C., the West Side of Chicago, and Inglewood in Los Angeles (see a trend here?).
Related to my post earlier today about class issues at Duke University, a reader sent me a link to the November issue of The Yale Daily News Magazine, which examines this issue on campus in detail.
KellyNoel Waldorf, a student at Duke, has an editorial in The Duke Chronicle about “coming out as poor” in a college atmosphere where she says talking about class has been difficult for her. And it’s not the kind of “poor student on a ramen diet” that’s prototypical of the “broke college student,” but things like having to lie about reasons why she couldn’t socialize because she felt ashamed about not having money, and having her mother calling her crying, telling her that she doesn’t have enough gas money to pick her up for Thanksgiving.
I don’t know what to make of this at all. It’s like an alternate universe to me. I’m just going to leave this here.
In Sweden, there is a magazine called Situation Stockholm that is sold by the homeless, who get to keep half of the money the get from selling the publication. There was one big problem: the Swedes don’t really like carrying cash.
Modern Farmer has a new feature called “Farm Confessional” in which they talk to people who work in agriculture to tell some of the stories that aren’t being told. Today, they have an excellent confessional by a 40-year-old undocumented migrant farmworker named Odilia Chavez based in Madera, Calif.
“Why do poor people make stupid, illogical decisions to buy status symbols? For the same reason all but only the most wealthy buy status symbols, I suppose. We want to belong. And, not just for the psychic rewards, but belonging to one group at the right time can mean the difference between unemployment and employment, a good job as opposed to a bad job, housing or a shelter, and so on. Someone mentioned on twitter that poor people can be presentable with affordable options from Kmart. But the issue is not about being presentable. Presentable is the bare minimum of social civility. It means being clean, not smelling, wearing shirts and shoes for service and the like. Presentable as a sufficient condition for gainful, dignified work or successful social interactions is a privilege. It’s the aging white hippie who can cut the ponytail of his youthful rebellion and walk into senior management while aging black panthers can never completely outrun the effects of stigmatization against which they were courting a revolution. Presentable is relative and, like life, it ain’t fair.”
Friday’s episode of Al Jazeera’s documentary program Fault Lines focused on child labor in the United States; E. Tammy Kim wrote the accompanying feature article on their website (such a good idea).
Mike: Earlier this week, we had a feature story about how a person got her job at a public relations firm. Part of that answer, we discover, is through connections this person had. “You should take every meeting,” she said. “Because you never know who’s going to have a job open up over the weekend. That’s a lot of how I got my job.” I appreciate how upfront she was about this because it basically demonstrated how “bootstrapping” is often a myth—the idea we got from Horatio Alger who wrote stories about boys working hard and moving themselves out of poverty and up the ladder. This is a part of the heart of the American Dream, but, of course, Horatio Alger wrote fiction. It’s not as simple as that. Were you raised with a “bootstrapping” mentality?