Monday, March 28, 2016

Monday Musings

My husband and I had an interesting and thoughtful conversation with my daughter and  her husband about sensitivity and empathy for working class people.  So many of  us, as we climb the economic ladder, forget how hard it is to struggle to make ends meet.  This causes one to be callous about 'poor people' and feeds into the false narrative that we can all pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.  This is a blame and shame tactic used by the wealthy against the poor.  It does no one any good.

A few years ago I read two books that really shook up my reality:  Nickled and Dimed, and Deer Hunting with Jesus.  Two books on income inequality, how we got this way, and why it is perpetuated.  I always recommend these two books as an excellent reality check.

PBS is running a series on the News Hour about wealth and poverty.  You can take a quiz here.  It brings up some interesting points.

When I was growing up, my family experienced periods of wealth and stability, and also hard times where money was tight and mom was cancelling newspaper subscriptions in an effort to save money.  As an adult,  I've always lived paycheck to paycheck, which was especially stressful when bringing up my child.  There was a particularly stressful Christmas where I had no idea where I was going to get enough money to buy her a gift of any consequence.  Then, by mail, my grandmother sent me a very generous check and I broke down and cried I was so grateful.  She literally saved Christmas for my child and me.

But through hard times and good, I had what I call "class."  Values that include empathy, dignity, friendliness, generosity, and integrity.  I've passed these along to my child and she lives these values as well.

So we were pretty incredulous that some people, as they do well economically, lose their connection with working people.  We talked about how the people that have the least give the most.  Time and time again we see it and hear about it.  It seems to be true the world over.

I did see a great story last night on Sixty Minutes about "The Giving Pledge" wherein billionaires pledge to give away at least 50 percent of their wealth during their lifetimes.  Featured were Bill and Melinda Gates, the woman who invented "Spanks" of all things, and our favorite Billionaire, Warren Buffet.  The Koch brothers were not a part of the pledge.  Big surprise.

How you spend your money reflects your deepest values.  This is true no matter your net financial worth.  Some people retain their values and use their money for good.  Others use their money to build a wall between them and the rest of humanity.  I'm an old socialist at heart, because sharing of the wealth leads to the greatest good.  This is not to say there has been a successful socialist experiment on earth.  We're still working on it. 


5 comments:

  1. Excellent article and a wonderful shout-out to Joe, who was by all standards and incredible man. I, like many others, had a rich correspondence over the years. I saw in him a literary hero. His depth of spirituality was rugged and brave. Like Molly he used compassion, empathy, and earthiness to strip bare the hypocrisy of culture, religion, and politics. I tried the test and got a 23---was a perfect fit. Thank Gaia for the hippy generation. We got out, traveled, and raised hell!

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    1. yes, I often thank Gaia as well. we grew up in a remarkable time.

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  2. I still have Joe Bageant's blog in my 'old' blog lists even though it's no longer there but just as a reminder of his ideas. I took that test and came up 56 (from 1-100 with the higher the score, the thinner the bubble and the lower the more insulated you are from mainstream). I am more insulated by the fact I don't watch the programs most but for the rest, my family was blue collar growing up. I remember my mother making her time of the month pads to be able to wash and reuse them. I grew up with lots of hand-me down clothes and frankly never felt embarrassed just lucky. I married a man where he made a very good salary during his working years, but we bought this farm where we raise livestock. It keeps you grounded (and keeps you from getting too fond of spending money on luxuries as it's not there), plus people who live in the country do live side by side with the impoverished and those who are millionaires. It's not as divided up as cities are. I think many Americans don't know anyone not of their political persuasion and not far from their economic level as it's what they have in common. It makes them hard put to relate to rednecks or the rich-- either way. Money alone does not separate us but how we spend it does.

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  3. That's an interesting quiz. I don't like Charles Murray. He's a bit of a schmuck. He co-authored the book "The Bell Curve" which argued that class and race are linked to intelligence. Some of the questions in the quiz seemed odd to me. I'm not sure how insulation is conferred by whether someone has a friend who is fundamentalist Christian. Or what the definition of mainstream is. That said, I scored 46, and that's because I was born in New Jersey to working class parents, have lived rurally for years, and worked in more than one factory setting. But, the quiz does not take in account the important role of empathy. I think Charles Murray sees the world in a bleak way and measures reality by the whim of his own condescension. Fun quiz!

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  4. I couldn't quite get how what we watch on TV relates to our insulation or not. I don't watch any of the shows he mentioned and only have seen a few of the movies.

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