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Poor People NOT Crazy . . . Just Poor (And I Hate You)

Let’s begin here:

ScienceDaily (July 20, 2012) — Poor mothers are more likely to be classified as having the mental illness known as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) because they live in poverty — not because they are suffering from a psychiatric disorder, according to Rutgers researchers.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120720083312.htm

What’s even worse is that we feign asking the question in attempt to simulate concern.

Having been despondently strapped a few times in my forty one years, I can say, without hesitation, that endless juggling, job hunting, child care, and, when it comes down to it, survival is exhausting — worse than any sleep deprivation I’ve experienced. Something akin to cracking up. It’s a very slow process. Like your social body and self concept and understanding of the world and what you thought was possible or impossible shutting down . . . as though your entire being is preparing you for death.

So, FUCK YOU Science Daily and the Brave New World styled research. Fuck. You. On behalf of that part of me living in the multiverse with a bloody nose and Pricechopper sandwich I stretched for three days straight. Fuck. You. Anyone who thinks people CHOOSE to be poor. Fuck. You. Every single member of state legislatures, the House, the Senate who can always find money to pay for another razor bomb to murder another brown family somewhere on the other side of the world but always turn out their pockets and puckers their bottom lip saying “awwwwww man. . . . nawwww . . . . . we all out . . . .”

But here’s what the science cannot report: together as a family we got out of it. Ten years ago almost to the date. WE got out of it together. Facing the situation. Thinking creatively and strategically. Pausing. Stopping with the endless juggling. Just stop. And then, slowly, a way out was presented; a real accounting of how we arrived at rock bottom; a devastating but necessary series of self-realizations leading to what my new agey friends call “self actualization” and my zen friends call “mindfulness.” We were able to see our part in the break down; but we were able to see clearly the choices OTHER PEOPLE made that HURT us:

  • Losing $7K a year at a theatre that decided to stop paying its staff, especially the “expendables” like myself
  • Being told the very week I arrived in Minnesota in August 1998 by my department chair that I must have “misunderstood” the yearly stipend (it was half of what we’d expected: $17.5/year not /semester)
  • Being told by the same officious prick (hats off to Stephen King for this wonderfully descriptive phrase) that health insurance was not included when I was told it would be included (there goes another $300 a month)
  • Being owed $10K from colleagues at former college for actual work hours that amounted to $15Kplus.
  • Then all the bad choices we made (1998-2002).

But, what science cannot understand here in the poverty equation is precisely the spiritual and mental damage. Look. I almost lost my family because we were struggling and strapped. We thought at one point it would be best for everyone if we split up. We were going crazy. No. We HAD gone crazy. Crazy is the only word to describe driving 160 miles round trip twice a week for:

$1600 x 2 courses
$1800 x 2 courses
$2200 for an additional course

You do the math.
Could you live off that?

Monthly expenses $3200-$3600

Right.

I’ll just go get another part time job at Pricechopper.

Or, you, yes you — dick! — you could actually pay me the “market rate” which is double if not triple what you claim is “all we can afford.”

Funny — dick! — I don’t remember you saying that when you gave yourself a raise.

———————————————————————-

Why do that?

Because it’s crazy. You say to yourself, well — this is what you do. There aren’t as many FT jobs so you take as many PT contracts as possible, do good work, get noticed, and then, you know, when this fiscal drought passes, all will be well, you’ll be golden, baby, golden.

But no one, especially the craziest of crazies, the ten course plus adjuncts, the hard core migrant intellectuals, no one ever stated the obvious: what if this is it? What if there will NEVER be jobs like there were in the 80s and 90s? What if we are destined to literally move college to college, state to state, maybe even country to country like our fellow migrant workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Poland, Chechnya, Pakistan, etc.

No one ever asked.
Wanna know why?
Because if we did, and if we did take such an insight clearly, then the link of poverty and madness would be absolute.
We’d all go crazy.
And we’d open fire in a way that would make The Dark Knight Rises massacre seem like Saturday morning at the paint ball range.

What kept me from not stone cold strangling someone in a college parking lot wasn’t the threat of jail, losing my civil rights, never seeing my wife or kids again. I was mostly afraid of not getting picked for next semesters Composition course. You know, don’t rock the boat.

Keep saying it: don’t rock the boat / don’t tip the boat over.
Go ahead: say it.
Sing it.
Dance it out.
All will be well.

There’s no one actively fucking you over.

There’s no one stealing money from you.

There’s no one but you — it’s your fault.

It’s all your fault.

Now, bleed.

Eat your sandwich.

And shut the fuck up.

rock the boat

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About Dean RCB

Dean of Academics Lebanon College Philosophy and Integrated Liberal Arts Writer & Producer (theatre, television, film) Composer & Producer RCB lives in the Upper Valley with his wife and four boys.

3 responses to “Poor People NOT Crazy . . . Just Poor (And I Hate You)

  1. survivor guilt ⋅

    your post is goddamned brilliant…and it makes my stomach hurt.

    • I just spit out my egg sandwich. I’d forgotten about this post. Please please share it.
      I love that it’s completely unedited. I just wrote it. From the hip.
      Still reads that way.

      How are you?
      How can I use the recent attention (FoxNews is coming on Monday) to transform Migrant Intellectual into a “plurality” of people the way Anonymous operates?
      Woah.
      I hadn’t thought of it this way before.
      You’re amazing Survivor Guilt — this provocation has moved me to think even more radically about this project.

  2. ‎”… Having been despondently strapped a few times in my forty one years, I can say, without hesitation, that endless juggling, job hunting, child care, and, when it comes down to it, survival is exhausting — worse than any sleep deprivation I’ve experienced. Something akin to cracking up. It’s a very slow process. Like your social body and self concept and understanding of the world and what you thought was possible or impossible shutting down . . . as though your entire being is preparing you for death…”
    ~ Yes, that IS the way it can feel. Yes, poverty in the U.S. is often a soul-numbing, life-sapping state. Not because depression is inherent in the state of poverty. Nay nay. The poorest of any population can have more joy and dignity than those with material abundance… but our system is designed to remove dignity and autonomy and actually deny people real tools to become self-sufficient. And our society carries within its structure a vicious caste system in which there truly are “untouchables”… we just choose not to acknowledge this.

    But, be that as it may ~ here’s the thing. Getting out. That’s what many people fall just short of in the madness, induced by this rather insane society… To get out, you have to OWN the madness. You have to fully sink into the total chaos of it and say “YES, I see it, I do not deny it, I will stare it right in the eye…” and then comes the “NO”… the NO that is your line in the sand, the line that declares “I will NOT invest myself in that madness anymore”, “I will NOT give my life, my creativity, my clarity, my blood, sweat, or tears to this anymore.” ~ You have drawn that line, I have drawn that line. It might make us MORE “mad” in the eyes of the society that cannot recognize its own utter insanity… but from that position, the greater YES can emerge: THIS is what I AM living for… THIS is worth living, breathing, bleeding, dying for… THIS is about absolute sanity. And that is the way OUT. It take one step. And then another. And every step demands that ones’ eyes are open to the sort of “realizations” and “soul-searches” that show ALL of the various levels of responsibility ~ yours, mine, ours, theirs… You’ve done that work and will no doubt keep doing it. I am doing that work and will keep on doing it. THAT path ~ requires a mad sort of courage. So keep on keeping on… Honoring the madman in the most artful way possible.

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