Cross-posted at HuffPo
This post will appear lacking in systematic structure because poor people tend to be fatalistic. Low future time orientation and few social obligations combine to create an existence that seems impulsive and chaotic from vantage points higher up the ladder. We look at the poverty and pretend to wonder why. We know the what and the how, we can see all the decisions and behaviors that precede the seemingly intractable problems, but it’s rare to have someone actually explain the why without resorting to epicycles and all the pretty lies that accompany them.
Social obligations are the millstones the middle and upper classes refuse to take off their necks. Voluntarily so you might say, but many of them don’t even take all the vacation their employers give them, let alone bailing unexpectedly. They force themselves to sleep before they really want to and then set obnoxious alarms that force them out of bed long before the sun is up. They juggle school, work, church, sports games, civic activities, and on and on—I don’t do many of these things, and none of them with any consistency. I’d rather just mill around in public places, maybe playing a knockout game here or a joining a flash mob there. I’m not married, but if I ever do tie the knot, it’s a good bet that I’ll cut that knot long before my avowed obligations expire. I have plenty of time to think about what I’m doing, but it’s not in my constitution to do so. Planning isn’t in the mix.
I’m coming off as far more eloquent and articulate than I actually am because my thoughts are being edited by someone who reads more books in a month than I will in my entire life. I don’t know what words like “pact” and “animosity” mean, though I do use the word “fuck” a lot, and quite creatively to boot—as a verb, an adjective, a noun, and an of course as onomatopoeia.
I don’t remember the first time I got pregnant. I was bouncing back and forth between my abusive baby daddy and my mom’s apartment. He wasn’t faithful but he was good in bed and shared with me the money he made in exchange for the WIC and EBT benefits I got for being a single mother without any reported income. I like to smoke and drink, and the things science says are changing all the time anyway, so I wasn’t going to stop just because my menstrual cycle had.
Yeah, I have the time to cook, I already said that. But that’s hard, boring work and getting fresh meat and produce means going all the way to the grocery store two miles down the road. There’s a convenient store in walking distance just around the corner where I can get Red Bull and Bomb Burritos with a swipe of my freeBT card. They even have a microwave so I can heat the food up after you buy it for me. I have time to clean, too, but I don’t do that either, so a lot of creepy crawly things live with me.
I try to live like I have the purchasing power of someone in the middle class, but I lack the prerequisite combination of intelligence, executive function, and shrewdness to procure the resources required to enjoy said purchasing power on my own. Better not to try. In fact, the less I try, the easier it is to have the state provide that purchasing power for me. Why would I give up time for sensual pleasures like junk food, nicotine, and spontaneous sex to engage in creating value for someone else? Those working class stiffs need a stiff drink, that’s what they need.
I live in a vibrant area and consequently there are a couple of Planned Parenthood centers amidst the conurbation I stomp around in, but even if I lived three hours away from the nearest one, the profiteering not-for-profit do-gooders and their government enablers who run PP would happily cover my travel costs.
Our society spends way too much time and effort medically remediating a whole host of conditions that our ancestors hardly knew. There are drugs for everything. Blue bloods doctor shop for the prescriptions they want, but I have my own contacts on the ground for getting the stuff whenever I want it. I don’t get vacation per se, but I get a lot more time off than my social betters do. If I was able or even wanted to spend all that excess free time working, I wouldn’t be poor, after all.
I think I’d make a great movie star and do even better with a reality show, but I can’t even get a job as a waitress (though I have enjoyed my 15 minutes of fame here—twice!) because I have stained teeth and it looks like I used to chew on rocks, my BMI is over 30 but an ignorant outsider could be forgiven for mistakenly believing my wardrobe belonged to someone half my size, I shower irregularly and often don’t wash my hair when I do, and when I inevitably make an error on the application I fill out, I don’t have the patience to grab a new one but instead scratch out the mistake and write the correct thing in wherever I can find room.
Beauty is a thing you get when you’re a post-pubescent teenager. After that, you have to work to keep it. And, well, you already know how I feel about work.
Meth makes you overly alert to everything. Before Breaking Bad, nobody realized that. I’ve spent a lot of hours telling cashiers about all the things I need to take care of like right now, haha, sorry, *itch* I also want that, I get so forgetful, sorry *scratch* yeah sure that’s fine haha ohwheredidIputthatohhahaIputitoverthere. If only it would lead me to pull up my sleeves and get my shit together like it pulls back the skin on my face. It doesn’t work, but that is tweaking.
“Free” is only enticing if the object in question is something you want. It’s great that there are free condom giveaways in the convenient stores where I buy my bread (not by the loaf, rather one cinnamon-and-sugar topped roll at a time), but sex doesn’t feel as good with those things on.
Clinics? Specialists? Co-pays? Seriously?! Might as well be speaking Greek to me. If something’s wrong, I’ll go to the ER. They’ll see me anytime day or night, and they don’t make me do a bunch of stuff ahead of time or force me to produce an insurance card.
I smoke. It’s expensive. Okay, you’re with me on that one. If I justified it by feeding you a line about how it is the battery to my Energizer Bunny and then in the same paragraph called it a source of relaxation, well—what’s that? Ah yes, lack of structure, chaotic, impulsive—now you’re seeing exactly what I mean.
You might think I make a lot of poor financial decisions, but that’s because you’re so concerned with the past and the future that you’re forgetting about how I’m feeling in the present, too obsessed with gathering ideas of how it’ll all inevitably end for me. But if all it takes is a swipe of this piece of plastic to sate my appetites, what kind of sucker would I be not to take advantage? There’s an indefatigable pull to spend any money I can get my hands on before it burns a hole in my pocket. Look what being responsible gets you—a bunch of extra zeroes in your bank account that you never let yourself enjoy? And don’t get supercilious about your knowledge of financial instruments, blue blood. I know more about money orders and payday loans than you do, and I've played these same numbers for the last four months so I'm due to hit the jackpot any day now.
Understanding that I lack the long-term orientation we mentioned earlier, it should be easy to understand why you see people like me with four different baby daddies instead of one husband and father. We skip on the abortion because the irresistible pull that made us feel worthwhile at the time is something we can have over and over again afterwards just by letting nature take its course. Compromise isn’t our thing so we’re rarely compatible for the long-term, but carnality can keep us together for a couple of months, or at least a few hours anyway. It does not matter what will happen in a month. We don’t plan long-term because we’re fly, you ain’t cause you not. We take what we can as we spot it.
I’m not asking for sympathy (but I am asking for money. Have any to spare? God bless!), I’m just trying to explain, through parody, some of the many ways members of the Cathedral and their Great And Good Votaries deny empirical, ‘ugly’ realities in favor of self-serving pretty lies. Dive into the links provided and then take a gander at the interactive General Social Survey site to get a sense of what life is like in the Dark Enlightenment and a feel for the mechanisms that red-pill poppers employ in an effort to understand the world as it is rather than as we might wish it be. It’s certainly self-defeating, but it’s nobler.
GSS variables used: OWNFATE, REALINC(0-20000)(20001-999999), WORDSUM, NUMMEN, MARITAL, SMOKE, INTRWGHT, RACECEN1, GOVAID, JOBYEARS