A well known and active feminist writer needs help to pay for her treatment of glaucoma. If it goes untreated irreversible loss of her sight and eventually total blindness will occur. She has zero income except for food stamps and $20 or so a month in book sale royalties. She is badly in need of new glasses and contacts both to properly see as well. Without her sight she has no chance of coming out of deep poverty that she has been struggling in without reprieve for many years since escaping the sex trade. At the moment she is taking a online computer course in the hope of being able to reenter the job market, after years of abuse in the sex industry. Which she has been incorporating in to her feminist writing in her just released self-published book, Without Apology, to uncover the truth about the sex industry. Help out sister to make it out of the poverty trap and continue to tell the truth nobody wants to hear. Together we can change her life for the better. And give her a chance to live instead of merely survive with the odds stacked against her…
Posts Tagged ‘poverty’
By Tracy Lynne Stout Meisky
“Dedicated to the governor of Pennsylvania, who suggested that women upset at being forced to have an unnecessary internal ultrasound should ‘close their eyes’, and to the Georgia legislator who wants to outlaw abortion even for a woman carrying a dead fetus because ‘cows and pigs do it all the time’ , and to the gentleman in Wisconsin who wants to outlaw divorce and says that women who are abused by their husbands should just ‘remember the good times’, and… and…. and….
“Just close your eyes” he said.
Close your eyes and maybe it won’t hurt so much. Maybe you can make the shame go away if you don’t have to look at it, don’t have to meet the eyes of the doctor who is ready to violate you, who is no longer allowed to address your pain and need.
Close your eyes and deal with it because from this point on, health care for you is nothing more than a power play, the political blood sport of men, drenched in your own desperate blood.
Close your eyes, ladies, and think of Jesus who wants you to know that you are a sinner- and a slut for having dreams beyond the ones given to you by your pastor, your employer, and your governor.
See, they are worried that you might get an abortion mistakenly thinking it’s a treatment for the flu or something, eager to brand you a wanton for having sex at all, a Jezebel for enjoying pleasure without consequence…the way that they get to.
Close your eyes and pretend that you are still a person with the right to make your own, most intimate decisions about your future.
Close your eyes and remember when planning your own family wasn’t considered dirty, when owning your body was still your birthright and the right to give birth also included the right not to.
Close your eyes and forget that you are supposed to be a mindless object of desire, to be salivated over and then dismissed, used by men to sell beer and shoes and laundry detergent, expected to exist only for their sexual pleasure, reviled for feeling it yourself, condemned for being what they so determinedly make you: a sexual being.
So come here, little girl, here’s a push-up bra, stilettos and a chastity belt. Learn now that sex is something for a man to do to a woman, not actually with her.
Understand that you must grow up to be either a slut, a dyke or a mother…and a mother, and a mother.
Close your eyes, girls, and enjoy your patent leather Mary Janes and princess dreams that don’t yet end in blood and probes and congressmen playing doctor behind the statehouse, insisting that the princess carry even death in her womb, all in the name of life.
Close your eyes and think of your grandmothers, and of their grandmothers owned by their fathers, traded to their husbands, needing permission to go to college.
Think of the days when the few lady-like jobs that existed were only for those un-natural old maids unable to join the ranks of the real women doing a woman’s real job of having babies.
Think of not even being allowed to learn or to help support yourself and your family, of depending on a man to feed and clothe you and your children, your own love and need to protect them a chain and an anchor that keeps you in the harbor of even a loveless, abusive marriage, your yards and yards of beautiful sail forever stowed belowdecks, because the open seas of life is no place for a woman.
Close your eyes, ladies, and think of England; and of Iran and Afghanistan where women are chained for their own good, beaten for showing their faces, stoned for going to school, sewn shut between babies, robbed of the ability to feel passion, used for a man’s desire but allowed none of their own; receptacles, incubators, cooks and maids.
So close your eyes, and shut your mouths, and be thankful that you live in such an enlightened, modern land.”
Brava Tracy! I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Just what does it mean to join in solidarity with the 99% whose Occupy movement is upper-middle class and heterosexual white male centered?
A prison guard who makes $50,000/year or more plus health and dental benefits, a pension and paid vacation may not be part of that 1% on Wall Street, but can he really stand in solidarity with poor black males with NO jobs (let alone good-paying union ones) who have a 1 in 4 chance of becoming fodder for the prison-industrial complex that provides middle class jobs for men (not many women) at the expense of poor racial minorities and women?
Being poor and non-white significantly increases your chance for ending up wrongly convicted and slapped with the death penalty. How much solidarity should those most at risk for ending up strapped to an execution gurney feel with those whose middle class paychecks and benefits require participation in the carrying out of capital punishment?
And who else is in this 99% that many might have difficulty feeling solidarity with? Gary Leon Ridgeway (“the Green River Killer”) was not, by any definition, part of the wealthy 1%. Neither was Larry Singleton, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, or Robert “Willie” Pickton. These serial rapists and psycho killers who hailed from the 99% preyed on society’s “throw-away” women — poor, marginalized vulnerable women of all races at the very bottom of the 99% that no one ever really cared about, not even other men in the 99% who now want us to stand with them in “unity.” Asking poor and vulnerable women to feel solidarity with social predators of any stripe is like asking Jewish Holocaust survivors to feel solidarity with the Nazi guards who were “just doing their jobs” at those death camps.
Would any sane person really argue that Nazi bureaucrats and guards were “just as oppressed” as the millions of genocide victims whom they first dehumanized, socially and economically excluded, and then herded into sealed ghettoes from which they were marched at gunpoint onto the death trains bound for the death camps that were the size of small cities?
What about rapists and child molesters that are part of this 99%? Do we really want to sit in solidarity with them and hold hands and sing Koom-Bye-Ya? Their violation of women’s and children’s human rights has nothing to do with the economic abuses committed by the 1%, but everything to do with patriarchy and the culture of rape: Rape of women and children, rape of the earth, rape of everything — all excused and justified by “divine right.”
And what about middle class employees of utility monopolies who previously rationalized the enormous suffering they inflicted on the poorest of the poor at the very bottom of the 99% who weren’t lucky enough to have a good-paying job to afford their rent, food, utilities, clothing, and medical and dental care and access to an advanced education? Where was all this unity when poor women and children and poor seniors and the disabled were either left to freeze to death or die in fires caused by unsafe space heaters because middle class utility company workers — who had their good jobs, their food, their nice homes, and their winter heat — shut off utilities on the poor, leaving them to die because there really wasn’t “all this help out there”?
Sylvia Young, a destitute 29 year-old single mother in Detroit with seven children to support on her own with no opportunity and no middle class job, lost everything except the clothes on her back in March of 2010 when her gas got shut off by DTE Energy during a deadly cold snap. She had to scramble trying to make do with old space heaters — one of which started the fire that ended up claiming the lives of three of her seven children. Less than two hours before the fire started, the utility worker who shut off Young’s gas spoke with her face-to face. He saw the infant she held in her arms. He saw her other children. He saw the squalor and poverty that she and her children were condemned to live in. Poor women across racial lines never got a chance for anything in this “land of opportunity” where the haves and have-nots are divided along the lines of gender and/or race.
And what was this middle class man’s response to the pleas of Sylvia Young and countless other marginalized and poor women like her when she begged him not to shut off the gas and leave her and her children to freeze to death? His answer was, “Sorry, but I have to do my job.”
How nice for him that he had his good-paying job enabling him to afford plenty of good food to eat, medical and dental care, and a nice warm home! Two hours after he “did his job” of shutting off Sylvia Young’s gas, a raging fire broke out. She lost what little bit of nothing that she had. Three of her children burned to death. The worst was yet to come when Michigan’s Democrat judges and middle class social workers from the child welfare authorities took Sylvia Young’s remaining children away from her and criminalized her for being a poor woman. Where was all this middle and working class “solidarity” with the poor then? I don’t recall seeing much middle class support and sympathy for the poorest of the poor in my lifetime as a marginal woman who struggled all of my life to climb up from total destitution up to poverty, never having access to health and dental care outside of the emergency room, and never getting a chance to make it to even the lowest rung of the lower-middle class.
As of December 2010, there were approximately 10 million US households from the bottom of the 99% that were without at least one life-sustaining utility; poor households whose utilities were shut off due to extreme poverty. Long before now, 80% of those below poverty either couldn’t get enough help to make it or they got turned away and sent home empty-handed altogether. But no one ever talked about those of us at the very bottom of the 99% who were turned away from all those charities and social service agencies; denied adequate help, denied hope, and denied a fair fighting chance of ever being able to escape dire poverty in America (which had been denied by everybody else for a long, long time until Hurricane Katrina opened the world’s eyes).
The truth is that nobody ever cared about us. The middle classes dismissed us and claimed we had it made compared to the poor in the slums of Mumbai; that we should “shut up and stop whining.” Now they want to talk about “unity” and how we’re all part of this 99% and trot us out as the mascot for their movement — which is really only about getting a better deal for their middle class selves within the capitalist paradigm while nothing gets better for those of us at the very bottom.
My personal past experiences with cross-class social justice coalitions is that the poor always lose out every time. The only outcome that those of us in extreme poverty can count on is being thrown under the bus for the sake of “political compromise” while we’re chastised by our middle class “saviors” for not being “pragmatic” enough. I’m not interested in more of the same, thank you.
Approximately half a million dollars was donated to Occupy Wall Street protesters alone. It went to pay for supporting a movement that is dominated by middle class white males under age 40. How many truly poor and destitute Americans could that support have helped instead of going for the publicized building of a middle class ‘Skid Row’ just to make a political statement by pretending to be destitute and homeless after the real poor and homeless have been shoved out of mind and out of sight for as long as I can remember? The middle class was all too happy these past 30 years to push for laws that criminalized the truly homeless and destitute by voting for lawmakers and leaders who slashed what little miserly help there was for America’s poor prior to the Welfare Reform Act of 1996.
As a deeply impoverished woman over age 40 who has been unemployed since 2004 with no real hope of ever getting re-employed due to age and gender discrimination that has always been pervasive even in better job markets, I’m not getting the help I need to be able to make it — I suffer from long-term deprivation of basic human needs that are not being met: medical and dental care, nutritious food, adequate clothing, basic utilities, and adequate housing that isn’t substandard. I can’t afford reliable transportation (a necessity when one lives in a semi-rural area). I have no income other than a meager food stamp benefit. I can’t get Medicaid because I’m not a parent or a low-income senior citizen. And until the middle class found itself under the barrel of capitalism’s Hotchkiss guns, they were very eager and willing footsoldiers who lubed the gears in the bureaucratic machine that runs the world on behalf of the super rich by sacrificing the poor.
Funny how middle class people can always find tons of money to push their class interests to the front of the line, using those of us at the very bottom as their disposable poster child to further their own agenda at our expense while they never have any money and support to give directly to someone in poverty and really lift someone up out of utter destitution and despair. And this is what they call “unity” and “solidarity” with those of us who can’t afford the luxury of being able to travel to a protest, camp out, and get our voices heard because we can’t even afford to live?
I don’t find much solidarity with upper-middle class college kids, well-heeled union leaders and professional “activists” living large off of honorariums and donations who talk about the unearned wealth of those with trillions of dollars while they exert their own privileges to step on those of us who suffer the oppression of sexism and legitimized misogyny and/or racism and/or colonialism for whom the issues transcend the economic injustices of capitalism. Yet, when marginalized people suffering from the redistributive injustices of more than one oppressor try to speak out, we get accused of being divisive. We get silenced. Our concerns are excluded from the social justice agenda, and we get accused of engaging in “oppression Olympics.”
Oppression Olympics is a term used to describe the dynamics of two or more groups competing to prove themselves more oppressed than the other. It’s a silencing tactic. It’s a way of invalidating others’ viewpoints by trying to place them lower down on a scale of significance. But the reality is that many people experience oppression daily in their lives from multiple fronts, and they’re not always comparable. To dismiss that by saying “we’re all in the same boat” ignores that oppression and even legitimizes it as part of the “sacrifice” some of us are expected to make for the benefit of those who ignore their own privileges and begin to exert them against us — in the name of “unity.”
When comfortably off union workers and wealthy union bosses in Ohio recently launched a political campaign by preaching unity among the middle class, the working class, and the poor, they were eager to get voter support for their Democrat candidates enabled through unity. But once their boys got in, that unity with the poorest of the poor went up in smoke — they protected their middle class wages and health benefits through Obamacare at the expense of eliminating access to medical care for the poorest of the poor — 84% whom are women, according to US Census data, human rights reports, and US Department of Health & Human Services records. The middle classes once again protected their own economic turf at the expense of the poor whom they threw under the bus — after benefiting from our solidarity with them.
We’re told that all of the 99% is equally oppressed by the 1%. Sorry, but no. No, we are not “all oppressed equally.” We are not “all in the same boat.” And openly acknowledging that is not being “divisive” or promoting “identity politics” — it’s simply telling the truth.
And it is not only many of us from poverty that are mistrustful of this Occupy movement, the Haudenosaunee also don’t seem to be supportive of it either. And mostly for very similar reasons: they were ill-used for others’ gain at their expense one time too many. As Jessica Yee pointed out,
“Colonialism also leads to capitalism, globalization, and industrialization. How can we truly end capitalism without ending colonialism? How does doing things in the name of “America” which was created by the imposition of hierarchies of class, race, ability, gender, and sexuality help that?”
[Read the rest of her article here: http://www.racialicious.com/2011/09/30/occupy-wall-street-the-game-of-colonialism-and-further-nationalism-to-be-decolonized-from-the-left/ ]
In every war since Britain and France colonized North America — the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, etc. — the Haudenosaunee fought to help the British and later, both the Americans (the Iroquois helped the North win the Civil War) and the Canadians in two devastating world wars resulting from imperialism. All they ever got for it was short-shifted. They got kicked out of the newly independent colonies after the end of the American Revolution (even though much of that land was their home) and offered a tiny tract as payment by the British Crown for their service in the American Revolution. But that land was already part of their traditional hunting territories anyway, and that land was held in trust, thus reducing the Iroquois (and other Aboriginals) to the status of diminished sovereigns. The Haudenosaunee lost lots of people in battle, fighting other people’s wars — rich, inbred foreign crowned heads’ wars — none of which were to their benefit.
As Rastia‘ta‘non:ha, a Seneca historian for the Iroquois Confederacy, says:
“Have we not been drawn into enough of their battles in the past, and look where it got us? This movement is bad for all Indigenous people, and none of us should be involved with it on any level.”
I have to agree with both Rastia‘ta‘non:ha and Jessica Yee. The original North Americans did not invite this trouble into their lives, just like they did not cause the “War on Terror” that they bear the consequence for with enormous border-crossing difficulties that neutered the Jay Treaty and put a “Berlin Wall” through the middle of their traditional territories.
I think this movement is also bad for the poorest non-Natives at the bottom of the 99% who are being used as pawns and tools for the preservation of unearned middle class white male privilege. Social justice solutions won’t be found within the non-reformable capitalist paradigm. The system of unearned privileges is the sine qua non of capitalism and its handmaiden, colonialism. If women and the poorest of the poor non-Indigenous are to be anyone’s ally, we should be allies with the original North Americans whose country this really is — not with a middle class white male centered 99% Occupy movement.
Dana Larsen is one of Canada’s New Democrat politicians running for office in British Columbia. His Facebook profile states that he is:
“passionate and committed to doing the right thing. I have faith in the human spirit and optimism in the face of adversity. I believe that we can re-create the world at any moment.”
He expressed a message of sympathy for the Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims on his Facebook page. How nice.
Where is his sympathy for the 50,000 Americans in poverty with NO health care and NO safety net that everybody in the high and mighty middle class always forgets about who die each year because of that preventable tragedy — a tragedy that was not caused by nature but by man? A tragedy which did not have to be but for the greed of the middle and upper classes whose votes outweigh the poor’s and who refuse to pay for social programs for the “undeserving poor” in our “I’ve Got Mine Fuck You” sorry-assed “democracy?”
Where is his sympathy for Vancouver’s missing and murdered women from the impoverished Downtown Eastside — all whom were poor and had troubled lives — most whom are First Nations women fleeing poverty and abuse on reservations directly caused by inter-generational trauma from genocide on First Nations peoples?
And where was Larsen’s sympathy for a local First Nations community when a well-respected and beloved elder, 71 year-old George Antone, was brutally shot to death in his home?
There is a notable difference between the many who died in the earthquakes and tsunami that struck Japan — something beyond anyone’s control — versus the many who die in the US from poverty, no welfare safety net, and lack of health care; or the many in Canada who die because it’s “open season” on poor aboriginal women.
The many who died in Japan’s recent natural disaster were not targeted with policies of “Benign Neglect” because they were poor and vulnerable and therefore “less than.” They were not targeted as part and parcel of an ongoing systemic genocide. They were not hewn down in cold blood for no apparent reason. And that is precisely what makes the murder of a tribal elder, the murders of hundreds of poor First Nations women across Canada, and the preventable deaths of the poor in the US for lack of access to health care and lack of any social safety net far more tragic.
But as usual, the poor — most whom are women, many who pay the ultimate price with their lives for the status crime of Living While Poor — get no sympathy or attention from the media and political hopefuls. Instead, the only sympathy marginalized poor people get is in the dictionary: between “shit” and “syphilis.”
A blog featuring a new book with book tour dates showcasing accolades, professional accomplishments, and Ivy League status by Harvard graduate and Rhodes Scholar Richard E. Rubenstein advertised his newly formed National Action Commission on Persistent Poverty (NAC).
Rubenstein, a George Mason University professor and director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs, is keenly worried about the poor. But is it for poor people’s well-being, or is it upper-middle class fear that an increasingly restive mob of the disenfranchised may lay siege to middle/upper classdom at any moment?
Rubenstein’s article begins by acknowledging that persistent poverty in the US is a “national tragedy”, but he describes this “tragedy” in terms that reaffirm middle class America’s contempt and fear of the poor.
He referred to growing inequality and abject poverty as an “increasingly bitter and dangerous social conflict between mainstream Americans and the poor” — implying that the poor are what Charles Loring Brace once called the “dangerous class” that America’s properly pedigreed and college-degreed need to subordinate in order to protect the “nice, good” middle class. The poor are once again painted as a smoldering menace, as the socially inadequate “Other”, rather than an oppressed class deserving of concern for their lower life expectancy rates and higher maternal and infant mortality rates, which now surpass those of many Third World countries, thanks to the past 30 years’ War On the Poor.
Rubenstein’s proposal for “what to do about the poor” is to set up an elite commission and secure funding from undisclosed sources — various trusts and charitable foundations. His blog page shows a link to the Cato Institute, an ultra-right-wing think tank that is no friend to America’s women or the poor.
The funding would go towards paying commission members and staff a stipend for their research-gathering and policy-formulating. The NAC is to be, in Rubenstein’s own words,
“composed of eminent citizens and aided by a professional staff… [and]…renowned experts on poverty, social conflict, and relevant key policy issues, as well as high-profile public figures capable of offering and promoting important ideas.”
This implies that poor “nobodies” are incapable of offering and promoting any important ideas.
NAC ‘s mission statement pledges to “hold hearings, facilitate community dialogue and conduct research in a series of US cities and rural locales over a period of 18 months, beginning in Chicago in the summer of 2011.”
NAC members will give Congressional testimony as “experts” and the group’s activities will shape and influence the national discourse on poverty leading up to the 2012 presidential elections, and the strategic formulation of social and economic policies that will impact the poor — for better or worse.
Yet, not one member of this esteemed panel of “poverty experts” is someone in poverty who would be a real poverty expert and less likely to harbor antagonistic class biases against the research subjects (poor people) than those who have fancy degrees, impressive titles, and “important” jobs. America’s true poverty experts never seem to get a chance to earn any stipends for our life experience — not even those of us in poverty who incurred unaffordable student loan debt just to earn a Bachelors degree from a non-prestigious state college in order to be “worthy” of a chance for a job.
So, once again, a commission is formed by the powerbrokers of privilege for the specific purpose of shaping social and economic policies and influencing government on poverty issues. And as usual, the poor are excluded from the great table of diversity — our voices censored, our needs proxied, and our ideas dismissed or outright ignored. Very few in the middle/upper-middle class care what we think, if they even acknowledge we think at all.
Conventional “wisdom” holds that poor people aren’t “smart enough” to be included in any important decision-making where our own lives are concerned, otherwise we wouldn’t be “losers” that are summarily dismissed as “uneducated” with nothing of value to offer. That’s why we’re never invited to join the ranks of comfortably-off policy-making “experts” in the Commissariat — and thus have some power and control over our fate.
Any “commission on poverty” that is wholly manned and driven by those who have benefited from capitalism’s cruel system of unearned social class privilege smacks of elitism. The exclusion of poor people as the real poverty experts from NAC is really about one — and only one — thing: neutralizing the poor as a political bloc in order to preserve and perpetuate the exact same system of unearned privileges that create inequality, poverty, and conflict.
Rubenstein downplays the enormity of the crisis. As someone who wears his Harvard Law School and Oxford University degrees and Rhodes Scholarship like bling, Rubenstein revealed his muted contempt for poor people in his article, saying,
“While the poor often act in ways that threaten or anger more comfortable Americans, the latter commonly blame them for their plight, advocate ineffective solutions, or deny that the problem exists…On both sides of this conflict, people feel pain, confusion, fear, and rage.”
Welfare Reform and the elimination of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) that used to provide subsidized employment for society’s most disadvantaged, which enabled them to get a toehold on the jobs ladder and springboard into middle classdom, was more than simply the result of “advocating for ineffective solutions” to poverty — they were policies of Benign Neglect aimed squarely at the poor with malice and a priori knowledge that harm would result.
What Rubenstein calls “advocating ineffective solutions” is really a euphemism for premeditated social holocaust, spearheaded by his academic peers whose earlier poverty studies (and department chairs) were funded by well-heeled powerful think tanks promoting the “culture of poverty” claptrap that socially engineered the public like Pavlov’s dog into hating the poor.
Rubenstein’s claim that people on “both sides of this conflict feel pain” compares apples to oranges. There is no comparison for the pain experienced by those who have suffered the loss of all their teeth before age 35, getting abscessed teeth pulled one at a time (often without pain relief — the poor are all “druggies”) for lack of access to dental care; to the pain of some hurt feelings of those who have never known such deprivation (while being told that it was their fault for “not trying hard enough”).
There is no comparison of dying from hypothermia (or in a house fire from unsafe alternative heating methods) as a direct result of utility cut-offs due to poverty (while being labeled “energy thieves”) to some bruised egos suffered by the comfortably off; or the pampered class’s discomfort with poor people’s anger and colorful vocabularies.
To compare the suffering of lifelong deprivation due to the economic terrorism that poverty inflicts on its victims to some ruffled middle class feathers of those chiefly responsible for carrying out the oppression that has inflicted irreparable harm to the oppressed is academically dishonest and morally bankrupt. There is no comparison.
We do not need a commission unaccountable to the public that is “comprised of 12-15 eminent public figures” spearheaded by someone trumpeting his Ivy League curriculum vitae all over cyberspace as if he was auditioning for Jesus in order to “resolve” this “conflict.” We need a socio-economic system in which nobody has to suffer preventable pain, disability, or death for lack of access to good medical care or lack of other necessities conducive to valuing the human rights and dignity of America’s economically excluded whose social and economic claims are equally valid to those of America’s fortunate sons.
Rubenstein and company would have more credibility if: (1) they included real poverty experts on their commission with paid stipends and let their testimony be heard before Congress, and; (2) if they had not waited for 30 years of irreversible carnage from the War on the Poor before finally charging out of their Ivory Towers like the 7th Calvary to save the day.
The updated edition of Classism For Dimwits is now available as of December 29th, 2010.
This new edition has updated information from 2008 on forward through the present year and month, along with a more thorough source citations and about 100 new pages of additional new material that I was able to crunch down to fit into 368 pages by altering the margin width and going from a size 12 Times New Roman font to a size 11.
The new material reflects much more information on the utilities shut-off crisis in states where utilities have already been deregulated, and also cites current representation of the Great Depression II that was not in my earlier edition that was written and published in 2007.
Although Amazon takes awhile to upload books’ images and updated annotations from the printers and publishers, it is also available through Amazon. And it is also available through Barnes & Noble online as well.
For anyone who has been following me on Alternet and here who would like to get a copy of this updated edition of Classism For Dimwits, you can buy a signed copy directly from me using PayPal, or by mailing a check or money order.
To buy by check/money order, send to:
Jacqueline S. Homan
816 E. 26th Street
Erie, PA 16504
By PayPal, remit funds to me via PayPal via my email:
Hardcover edition is $23.00 + $3.57 Shipping & Handling (media mail) USD
Paperback edition is $17.95 + $3.57 Shipping & Handling (media mail) USD
It never ceases to amaze me how obtuse the beneficiaries of unearned privilege are about the plight of America’s poor, or to the depth of hatred aimed at the multitudes of their fellow citizens in poverty who have to use food stamps.
This is not solely the purview of conservatives who wear their contempt for poor women, children and the disabled on their sleeves; displaying their classism as proudly as if it were a Congressional Medal of Honor. It is rampant among middle class progressives as well — except they’re more duplicitous about it. They hide it within the matrix of pet liberal causes under false pretenses of promoting healthier eating habits among the poor.
They aim their malevolence at the poorest of the poor who rely on food stamps and unhealthy donated non-perishables from food pantries. Those foods are loaded with starch and carbohydrates, which causes Type II diabetes and obesity.
Rather than target “Big Ag” conglomerates who are heavily subsidized with “welfare handouts” twice — first by taxes, and second by taxpayers’ food purchases — middle class progressives and conservatives act in concert to push punitive policies to make the poor even more miserable. Punishing the poor is easier than promoting policies that would enable poor food stamp recipients to buy fresh produce from local farmers, whose prices are three times as high as the chemical and starch loaded foods from Big Ag conglomerates that you can buy at Wal-Mart’s.
Local farmers do not accept food stamps for their expensive “free range” chicken and eggs, and their organic produce that the poor can’t afford at prices which are three times as high as the less-healthy foods in the local Wal-Mart’s — not that the middle class ever cared about that.
But instead of addressing those issues, middle class liberals aim to punish the poor by further curtailing their already restricted food options, which are really a Hobson’s Choice. The time-honored middle class tradition of “let’s make the poor even more miserable” was openly embraced in Alternet’s recent article, “Should Food Stamps Be Used For Soda?” The gist of the article was that poor people on food stamps shouldn’t be allowed to buy any cheap snacks or beverages with the SNAP benefits. Poor people get nothing to enjoy as it is, but it’s OK to deprive them of even cheap beverages and snacks because “it’s for their own good.” Having any solace in the enjoyment of any small comforts is not.
Someone getting food stamps doesn’t get enough to be able to buy a month’s worth of groceries, even when stretching their food stamps by buying the 2-day old stale baked goods and 2-liter bottles of soda on sale at 3 for $5. The overwhelming response among Alternet’s largely middle/upper-middle class “progressive” posters was along the vein of “let the poor drink tap water if they can’t afford healthier and tastier beverages”, which is really nothing more than a polite form of Rush Limbaugh’s “let the poor learn how to dumpster dive if they’re hungry.” My all-time favorite is from South Carolina’s “pro-life” Lieutenant Governor, Andre Bauer, who proposed eliminating the school breakfast and lunch program for poor children in his state, saying that feeding the poor was like “feeding stray animals and encouraging them to breed.”
Those who hate the poor come in all political stripes, but are overwhelmingly from one socio-economic class: the middle and upper-middle classes who have unjustly benefited from a legacy of unearned privileges that are the hallmark of the capitalist paradigm, which was only successful because capitalism relies on a lot of slave labor and devalued work in society in order for it to be successful. Those whose work is the most devalued, who have provided the bulk of “unimportant” work necessary for a capitalist society’s smooth functioning are women. The work women do is under-compensated precisely because it is women who do it. Everybody in society benefits from it, but takes it for granted while invalidating it. And giving moms a box of chocolates, flowers, and a card on one crummy day out of 365 designated as “Mothers’ Day” is an insultingly cheap kiss-off.
Yet, the taxes paid by poor women in this country — which poor women get the least benefit of — go towards disproportionately benefiting fascist militaristic police forces and military whose sole function is to protect capital and preserve this system of unearned privileges. And it is the middle and upper classes that benefit the most from this misogynistic command unit of the national security state which has always been used to brutally repress the poor here and abroad.
The middle class never had a problem with repression and capitalism’s other social ills until it hit them upside the snot-locker and forced them to reduce their own standard of living. They never had a problem with all the repression, inequality and unearned privileges that previously secured their own comfortable seat in the architecture of aggression of capitalism. As long as the rich were throwing them enough bones to mollify them, they didn’t even pretend to care about the well-being of the poor. And middle class liberals are just as selfish, sanctimonious, and self-centered as middle class neocons.
Middle class neocons got laws passed that restrict poor women’s access to affordable reliable contraception and abortion and middle class liberals’ response was tepid at best. Middle class neocons punish poor pregnant women, poor mothers, and poor children with draconian budget cuts to Pell grants, food stamps, LIHEAP, and Medicaid and pushed for the passage of “At-Will” employment laws which serve as a backdoor pass for employers to get away with job discrimination; disproportionately hurting poor women without any economic support in post-Welfare Reform America. Middle class liberals have no problem with that, contrary to what they tell the poor to our faces.
Middle class progressives quietly benefit from their right-wing counterparts’ agenda of pulling the ladder up and out of reach for the poor, including compulsory maternity to ensure poor women are kept poor and enslaved as childbirth chattel. Keeping poor women marginalized and excluded means fewer female PhD’s and well-paid skilled tradesmen — works out nicely for those who don’t want any real merit-based competition for the good jobs.
Poor women without reproductive choice and economic opportunity also make an even more economically desperate pool of prime candidates for exploitation as cheap “rent-a-womb” service — an inconvenient truth illustrated by the New York Times November 28th 2008 article, “Her Body, My Baby” .
White heterosexual middle class couples whose chic, slim and trim latte-sipping “career women” are too posh to trash their bodies and suffer all the discomfort and risks inherent with pregnancy and endure hours of excruciating pain tearing up their own bodies from stem to stern giving birth, benefit from a large pool of poorer and more desperate women whose bodies, lives, and well-being can be sacrificed for a song as cheap under-compensated surrogate reproductive livestock.
Of course, those in the middle/upper classes benefiting from this arrangement deny that it’s all about the money even though they reap all the gain without suffering any of the pain. They convince themselves that they really did all the work of becoming a mother because it was their eggs that were used in the process, even though it wasn’t their bodies getting permanently ruined in the gestation and birth process, which is fraught with unexpected risks — perfectly healthy women with health insurance become permanently disabled or die from childbirth in the US.
Maybe that’s part of what’s behind the latest assault on food stamp recipients by the middle class who justify beating up on the poor by further depriving them of already sparse food choices with this latest push to prohibit food stamp usage for cheap snacks and beverages. Force a semi-healthy diet to ensure that economically desperate women are “fit” for exploitation as cheap childbirth chattel. Increasing the pool of semi-healthy candidates for “rent-a-womb” service drives down the already insultingly cheap going rates for the commodity of poor women’s bodies.
Another sinister purpose is also achieved by the faux concern for poor people’s health: healthier organs to be harvested that only benefit the middle class and the rich. In states like Arizona, the poor on Medicaid and Medicare have been removed from waiting lists for life-saving organ transplants. The poor got a death sentence by budget cuts. Where was the indignant outcry from the officious middle class about that if they’re so concerned about improving poor people’s health?
Maybe it’s time every working class/poor American revokes their organ donor status from their drivers’ licenses and non-driving state photo ID’s. If we’re not good enough to have a real fair fighting chance for anything in this country with a guaranteed right to an education and a living wage job and a guaranteed right to decent health care and access to healthy foods and decent homes, then we’re not good enough for the “haves” and “have-mores” to benefit from our body parts. Fuck ‘em.
The middle class, regardless of political stripe, has never been an ally for the poor. They do not seek equality outside of their own class. They do not want a partnership with poor people. They do not respect poor people. They seek paternalistic control to satisfy their own craven egos, and they often desire to exploit the less fortunate for their own political agenda. They don’t care about whether the poor get a chance in life or not. As far as they’re concerned, the poor are nothing but “useless eaters” that don’t deserve to live, much less have any happiness. The middle class is not ignorant and oblivious to the suffering and misery they inflict on the poor. They’re an oppressor class — just like the rich whom they emulate and aspire to become.