There is a deep dark hole where many people live together, on top of each other….
They roll around in the dirt, they attempt live in lieu of the inevitably of death and the inconsequential nature of their existence, and…they periodically look up.
Some people talk about getting out of the hole, and some just pretend not to care. Some people have been out there already with the sun shining on them and blue skies exploding their tiny hearts. But up there, apparently, you become so filled with fear, paranoia, and self-importance, that you lose sight of the only things they have in the hole: human connection, vulnerability, joy in small pleasures, and most of all a sense of having nothing to lose.Those-out-of-the-hole sometimes throw rocks down below for fun or just to make sure the bottom-dwellers know their place.
A few of the smartest and bravest scaled the walls and made their way up to a cliff ledge. I call them “ledge-heroes“. There, they feel they have made a better home. They are less crowded and there is less disease. Being up on the ledge makes them feel safe and a little bit proud. Many things happen on the ledge but they often find themselves looking up.
They can see a little bit of the sun and what’s happening just outside of the hole. Words not minced, it looks pretty damn appealing. Beautiful women and men are up there, of course you can see all of the out-of-hole sights, and you have so much free time because people come up from the hole to work for you. Men are mostly in power and that is the most desirable of things.
The other people who came down with their stories against the people out of the hole must have been jealous. From the ledge, heroes can almost reach up.
The ledge is great but they want to get out of the hole! Especially knowing that they can make it now, and seeing those in the bottom of the hole. After looking up, looking down is despicable. Children are dirty. Adults are careless and hopeless. Teenagers are lost and angry because they haven’t become complacent but yet they couldn’t make it up to the ledge.
A few of the ledge-heroes immediately started throwing down ropes, while others fought about it angrily. Some ledge-heroes don’t want the bottom dwellers to come up.
“What will happen? Will they cause chaos with their bottom dweller ways? Will they drag us back down and take up all of our space and our plenitude of rations? Also, we need to focus on getting OUT of the hole, not helping others up.” Are some of the things they said.
In fact, one ledge hero said to another, “Look, you need to stop focusing on the down there or you will fall in it. You can’t help them until you are fully out of the hole anyway. Meanwhile you are eating up our rations and enjoying our space but not helping us.”
Some ledge-heroes have almost made their way out, but they keep getting yelled at and pushed down by those out of the hole. Many ledge-heroes were distracted by drugs and alcohol. They fell to the bottom.A few died and a few started over.
Every child born in the bottom or in the ledge faces the climb to the top. Many will give up instantly. Some will focus on procreation and try to be satisfied with the darkness of the hole. Perhaps even a few more will get up to the ledge or even out of the hole because they were born with special skills and abilities, but when they get there, they might be accused of rigging the lottery system or getting a hand-out instead of climbing like the original ledge-heroes. This life can inflict a deep sadness if one isn’t careful. Making it out of the hole, one finds, helps to show the disgusting, crowded, stinking, and frightening nature of being in the bottom. But one feels a part of the hole is a part of them and remembers the joy of playing freely without keeping up appearances for the desperate and petty games of Those-out-of-the-hole who are often bored and empty.
You may have guessed it, but this is my little analogy for the cycle of poverty.
This analogy came out of my brain as a culmination of me seeing how impossible it is to really make your dreams come true in the US. I was told that this great country was full of opportunity and if only I would stop making bad choices, then I would be rewarded with wealth and comfort and happiness. But somehow I find myself having to beat down doors and sometimes tell little white lies to reap any sort of rewards.
The idea fully formed though, when a friend of mine of Facebook posted this article:
A little short related aside: I graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2011 with a Bachelors Degree in Professional music. I started asking for SNap Benefits (Massachusetts Welfare) before I graduated as I had ran out of loan money and couldn’t do work study anymore. Even though I was working on my resume and sending them out, I couldn’t find any work. In fact I barely graduated.
I have had multiple jobs since then and have been on and off welfare in my pursuit to create the job best suited for my skills and abilities.
When I finally went to get benefits just the fact that I was going there was horrifying. Here I was with almost two degrees after having kicked a lot of bad habits and killed myself to make a better life, going to beg for help to eat food. This basic of needs is so utterly essential, and yet the fact that I could not feed myself felt utterly depressing. I wish I could think of a better word for depressing. At the time I was living with bed bugs in an unfinished apartment. Saying that out loud is ALSO disheartening. Bed bugs are an entirely different and long story though so I won’t detract from the topic at hand. I was very much a bottom-dweller.
When people post articles such as the former, others come out with comments about one person or another who they saw trying to buy cigarettes or even steak, or over heard they found a way to trade foodstamps for a Louis Vuitton purse. God forbid poor people should have any pleasure.
I realized recently that these commenters don’t understand a very basic premise of the cycle of poverty:
Poverty begets poverty, money begets money, and those on the ledge are constantly being used as pawns against the poor.
The way I see it is this: MOST of the media, politicians, and corporations want to secure their position out of the hole. They have earned their spot and they will destroy you if you try to take it away from them. Additionally they need people to be poor, so that basic things stay affordable. They want to make sure that everyone in the suburbs is focused on fighting the poor, so they don’t realize how they are being robbed by the rich.
The middle class give their money away to the rich, buying ridiculous things, gambling their money away for a chance to make it big, or buying into companies that fail. When they struggle, do they blame the rich? Nope, its the bottom dwellers. It’s all those masses of floundering souls that are sucking up tax money or engaging in street violence or robberies or filling up jail cells where they get fed for free!
Of course I’m generalizing. Not all bottom dwellers are self-less or enlightened. Neither are any in the 1% or the 10% or the 40% of upper middles
But the simple fact that they are out of the hole, makes them feel self-less and enlightened. As far as I have seen, many people will stand around a rich person, to tell them how self-less and enlightened they are, as if they needed more confidence.
Okay, I have had few interactions with those-out-of-the-hole and many were very nice at face value… but most of this I have observed from looking up– research, tv, books, even facebook (yes,facebook, dammit. its a reliable source.)
Regardless, I often find myself trying to explain why its pointless to “reform” welfare or “fix the poor problem” because DUH its not the POOR!! Newsflash: I can survive on 700 a month including rent at 500 and even less at times. Many others are the same or better. I can go an entire week without spending more than my T pass (for the train) by eating top ramen, and potatoes and eggs and maybe lunch meat if I am feeling special.
Did you know that the government spends MORE on National Defense than any other thing from your income tax? See for yourself: http://www.whitehouse.gov/2013-taxreceipt
All of welfare, which includes multiple programs such as running urine tests comes from less than 5 percent of the income tax from persons making 50K with 1 child.
National Defense 24.79%
Health care 25.19%
Job and Family Security 18.77%
this is broken into a subset which include unemployment and other welfare type programs such as food assistance
Education and Job Training 2.85% this is for poor kids to get ahead 😦
On my journey climbing out of the hole, I sometimes find myself on a ledge and just want to stay there. Sometimes I look down and feel compelled to reach out. Sometimes I just feel like giving up and falling back into the hole where I apparently belong. I’ve had to get the same type of work that I had before I went to school, and I’m still striving to keep my musical and intellectual integrity. Many times I feel it would be so much easier to become a mindless drone and forget that I care about everyone else. Sometimes not often but every once in a while when I haven’t slept well and I haven’t eaten well and I made some mistakes that make homelessness a reality, I feel like leaving earth all together.
But thankfully I was born with a special gift of determination against all odds.
I don’t know, maybe when I finally reach my goal of having my own apartment and a secure teaching gig that will pay for it I won’t look up. Maybe I will get bored and not be satisfied with that.
Here’s to keeping it all into perspective.
*note I went to music school and had a pretty atrocious poverty-type rural education before hand so apologies if you think my grammar or syntax is abysmal