We Are Not All in the Same Boat

Jacqueline S. Homan

We are not “all in this together.”

The rich, who used their middle class phalanx of clergymen, police, lawyers, judges, and doctors to keep the poor “in their place” found religion, “self-help” books, and psychotherapy to be particularly useful in managing, controlling, and socially engineering the poor into meek acceptance of their miserable lot in life — a life of nothing but deprivation, suffering and want seasoned with more than just a modicum of scorn and contempt generously doled out by the middle class.

The middle class always sided with the rich. They have always been eager Brownshirts, brown-nosing the rich while claiming to hate them as they cheerfully stepped on the necks of the poor with their spit-shined jackboots, grinding our faces into the dirt. In times of great economic calamity, the middle classes say to the poor, “we’re all in the same boat” and “we’re all in this together.”

No, we are not.

The middle classes have always used the poor to get some measure of comfort and relief for themselves while telling those in the most need that after they got theirs, they will help us get ours. But they never have. They always abandon us as soon as their needs are met. How quickly they forget about that unity and spirit about all of us being “in this together” once they’ve conveniently gotten their needs addressed — always at the expense of ours.

Poor women are subjected to compulsory childbirth (without access to decent medical and dental care during pregnancy when it is most needed), and are deprived of having any ownership and control over our own bodies. With 87% of all US counties lacking an abortion provider and having diminished access to reliable contraception for poor women, including emergency contraception, poor women are de facto reproductive chattel slaves whose human rights, needs and feelings count less than that of a parasitically attached embryo/fetus. Are men “in the same boat?” No. Are middle class women who can afford their birth control and money to travel to access abortion in the event of contraceptive failure “in the same boat?” No. Are middle class women forced to gestate their rapists’ progeny? No. We are not “all in the same boat.”

Up until the economic collapse of 2008, the middle class ignored the poor as if we didn’t exist; much less have a right to live. For them to tell the poor whom they’ve kept down all these years that “we’re all in this together” and that “we’re all in the same boat” is beyond hypocritical.

If you were one of those whose votes, cultural capital, campaign contributions, election volunteering activities placed the last three decades of neoliberals and neocons in office that have deprived poor women of bodily autonomy and bodily integrity in the name of “pro-life” morality and then gutted what miserly inadequate safety nets for the poor that used to exist; while being a card-carrying member of the very class that refused to provide the poor (especially the poor women thrown off of welfare) with a guaranteed right to health care and a living wage job — we are not “all in this together.”

If you were middle class, you were one of the experts, gatekeepers, overseers, taskmasters, or policymakers that made damn sure that the credentialism you’ve imposed and other more superficial qualifiers (having the “right” image) kept the poor on society’s margins with nothing, not even an equal chance.

You are not “in this together” with those of us whom you’ve oppressed, making sure that as a poor woman I couldn’t get anything I needed throughout most of my 43 years of life in this country — a nation founded on gender inferiority, racism, and exploitation; a society that I did not ask to be born in.

If you have all your natural teeth and have enjoyed access to health and dental care over the past 30 years while I and many others in poverty did not; you are not “in the same boat” as those of us who never got to make it out of poverty and never had any of those things. Our health and quality of life is far more degraded and miserable as a result — thanks to your policies of Benign Neglect, like Welfare Deform.

Don’t you dare insult the intelligence of all the poor whom you’ve begrudged nutritious food, good jobs, decent housing, advanced educations, health and dental care, and an economic lifeline of a hand up these past 30 years just so you could “get yours” — while you put us down, belittled us, slammed the doors of opportunity shut in our faces, and then told us that if we weren’t making it in the “land of opportunity” it was our fault for not being able to compete.

Don’t you dare tell us how you suddenly care since you’re poor and jobless now and therefore “in the same boat” as us after telling us that we’ve got it made compared to people in other countries and that we should “learn how to help ourselves” and “stop bitching” because you didn’t want to hear about our problems when we had nothing while you had everything.

You were not “in this together” with those of us in poverty before, and we’re not “all in this together” now.

It’s easier to believe in leprechauns and unicorns than in your proclaimed sincerity. You think you can tell us that you now want to join hands and sing Koom Bye Ya after 30 years of promoting policies that disenfranchised us, criminalized us, and made us invisible, that “we’re all in this together now” and that the underclass should just “forgive and forget” about all the harm you’ve caused for us. Sorry, but there are some things — a long sordid history of things — that there is no “just getting over it.”

You have not earned our support and trust. And you don’t deserve our cooperation in what really amounts to making sure your middle class lives are as comfortable as possible within the status quo of the capitalist paradigm which caused all the problems this nation and the world faces today. Your track record speaks for itself — it was always the poor whose needs you jettisoned after getting what you wanted from an oppressive capitalist system of unearned privileges that still denies equal rights to women, with women in poverty suffering the worst because of it. Your legacy is one of betrayal, hypocrisy, and deceit.

If we are really “all in this together”, if the middle class ever really gave a crap about any goddam social justice at all, the middle class wouldn’t act like glory hounds auditioning for Jesus while patronizing the poor as if we’re stupid and “uneducated” (after making damn sure we couldn’t get the educations that you got).

If the middle class had any real concept of “fairness”, they would not have erected and maintained barriers to health care for the poor and access to educations and good jobs while strutting like peacocks and throwing their status around like sanctimonious know-it-all fucks whose shit doesn’t stink.

The middle class heaped abuse, scorn, ridicule, and condescension on everyone in the underclass while convincing themselves that they were so much better than those of us struggling in deep poverty who never got a chance for anything, no matter how hard we tried in a nation that is nothing but one great big public toilet of narcissistic materialism — that the middle class created while thinking they were so above it all.

Newsflash: The owning class isn’t all that into you.

I am not interested in supporting any political platform within the capitalist paradigm. I do not consent to maintaining any vestiges of a system of unearned privileges. Non Serviam (I will not serve).

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5 Responses to “We Are Not All in the Same Boat”

  1. epppie Says:

    What ought to be obvious to everyone now, if it wasn’t before, is that the inequality and poverty of the society we live in, ‘the richest society in the history of the world’, is a choice made by the owning class and their helpers in the middle class. They could have chosen to guide us towards a happier and more egalitarian society and THEY CHOSE NOT TO.

  2. Lily H. Says:

    “We’re in the same boat” from the middle-class would be like the Nazis’ telling that to the Jews as they led them to the showers. Oddly enough, I just went to a free community function where a woman who teaches classes in “The Best Deals & Steals” in my city came to my local branch library to tout her newest installments in her field. She printed up a sheet from her website, telling us where/when to go to area museums free; nice idea, but nothing new there, and certainly hadn’t changed her format in at least twenty years she’d been at it.
    A friend and I (who is equally fiscally challenged as I) went, thinking we’d hear more about what to do in today’s economy. She hawked her book, usually selling for $20.00 for a measly $5.00. I happened to have had an extra $5.00 on me, so I bit. Nothing new since the early 90’s, either.
    And of course, she’s middle-class, living in a very tony neighborhood, overlooking our boat-filled, skyline-draped harbor.
    My friend and I commented (to ourselves) WE could do a better job of telling folks where/how to get cheap deals, food, in our city! As I may have commented privately to you, Jacqueline, but will do here publicly, I recall when our city had a streak of horrific wildfires, you should have seen the scores of middle-classers pouring into centers set up JUST FOR THEM, with help and assistance tailored just for their needs, and with none of the typical low-life treatment doled out to those lesser-thans, that is, what we here on the bottom-rung get handed to each and every day of our lives.
    These folks eventually built homes that were even bigger and fancier than the ones they’d lost and made no bones about airing it on local news stories. Perhaps you’ve heard of the bomb factory just emerging from a SoCal neighborhood recently? That is a stone’s throw from all those middle-classers building all those new McMansions. The second one (yes, there’s now TWO bomb-laden homes just miles apart) was in — can you believe it — a GATED COMMUNITY!!?? Uh huh, WE poor people can’t live there because WE’RE supposed to be the ones making meth labs and crack in OUR homes, but the middle-classers seem to do it right under their oblivious neighbors’ noses (as evident by accounts on the local news).

    News reports chirpily air blurbs on “How to Get Bargains On…” well, you fill in the dots, aiming mostly for those middle-classers who are now living hand-to-mouth after they’ve been laid-off or lost their home, etc.

    And no, they don’t suddenly care, if they do now, it’s because they’re feeling the pinch we’ve been familiar with all our lives. We didn’t have the cushion these folks have had nor the sense of entitlement and respect they’ve enjoyed until now. I can’t wait until I hear of an incident where a white, middle-class man or woman crawls into a welfare/Medicaid/food stamp office and expects to get treated as if they’d strolled into a Dean Witter outlet and get the service they’d get there, only to get snubbed by a Latino or black clerk who sees them as just another annoying “client”.

    Speaking of which, I recently found, then posted a reply to a woman I’d read about on Newt.org, who responded to an article, “Food Stamps or Paychecks”, dated Aug. 18, 2010. She’s purportedly a conservative woman in her early 60s who lost her job, after having been divorced and is now at the end of her rope, asking, “After doing all the right things for so long, where is the American Dream?”
    After I recouped from the sadness of her letter, I realized this was an incredible opportunity to share the bare bones of reality with someone who’d just “joined the club”, so to speak. I responded, in part, thus:
    “As a traditional woman, my heart breaks for you. As a liberal, this is the precisely the letter I’d always wondered when I’d read. A joke I’ve heard is “When does a liberal turn conservative? When he gets mugged”.
    “When does a conservative turn liberal? When he gets divorced.”
    “Looks as if you fit the second category.” I then related my own upbringing, marrying early, going to college, working, waiting to have children, all the bullets conservatives persist in following will lead one to the “American Dream”, except for me, it didn’t. I told her she was brave for posting her story, but “As far as Newt’s crowd is concerned, we truly don’t exist. You might even be thought of as a plant, designed to fan flames of hatred towards their party. Would that be true, your story wouldn’t sound so damned ordinary, in light of what’s happened to women and families across this country. We’ve been tossed on the trashbin of history, and according to THEM, we “didn’t try hard enough”, “should have made better choices”, and my personal favorite, “didn’t pray hard enough”.

    I don’t think I’ll get a response from this writer, as her letter was dated some three months ago, and she’s probably long since forgotten one sad account she’s most likely telling some faceless clerk behind thick-glass window who’s holding her fragile life in their hands, hoping and praying she’ll get a few crumbs before she heads home, that is, if she still has one.

    I also told her, ‘Forget about Phyllis Schlafly. She’ll probably do nothing but rant and rave about “no-fault divorce;, and how it’s destroyed homemakers”, etc. I hate to see the person who dares to tell this poor, wretched soul, “We’re All In The Same Boat”. Her face will probably be the last thing they see before her cold, starvation-ridden fingers close around their throat.

  3. Mr. Peabody Says:

    Haven’t read all your posts yet, but I’m curious… if capitalism is evil, what system of economics is good. (If you answer this question in later posts, no need to answer this — I’ll get to it eventually.)

  4. Mr. Peabody Says:

    BTW, I’m not baiting you. I 90% agree with your opinions. I’m just curious.

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