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Rant. Muse. Eat. Sleep. Recycle.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Need for Need

It's the season of giving again, or to be more accurate, the season of rampant consumerism. But along with this mostly mindless consumerism, one gets the feeling of a heightened sense of the “less fortunate” among us. I wouldn’t call it a class consciousness, but we are definitely more aware of the lower classes. We will gather last year's Abercrombie and Fitch jeans that junior has grown out of, or simply won’t wear anymore, and give them to the local thrift store. Or maybe we will give in to the unavoidable sound of the bell ringer when we are buying groceries and slip them a ten dollar bill. Hell, we might be so engulfed by the spirit of the season, we could even volunteer our time at the local United Way. It makes us feel better after the uncontrollable spending spree. It’s like taking a vitamin after you biggie size your quarter pounder with cheese value meal.

When December 26th rolls around, it is back to business as usual. The poor become invisible again. The “less fortunate” become the lazy. The cleaning people clean for a living because they simply aren’t as smart as the accountant. Our need for need has been temporarily fulfilled. Maybe we will leave an extra five dollar tip after our 2 ½ hour lunch disguised as a meeting- maybe not.

But if we truly cared, there is so much more we could do. Not handouts. Giving someone money for nothing suggests that you are above them, not only in the obvious financial sense, but also psychologically. No, people don’t want handouts- they want what they have earned. But you can’t complain about a welfare state if the companies in that state refuse to pay a living wage. Demand a living wage. Demand adequate care for the homeless, many of whom are mentally ill. They are the unseen victims of Reaganomics.

But do we need this class of people? Do we need them to make us feel better about ourselves? We would certainly never admit that. But if we are so concerned about illegal immigration, why don’t we take a harder look at the neoliberal economic policies that have kept money in the hands of the few and good paying jobs scarce in Mexico, forcing workers to leave their families behind and cross the border to the US? Do we think they want to do that? We could educate ourselves. In this age of information, we have the tools at our fingertips. But that takes time and energy.

We want a quick fix. We want the good feeling of giving and not have to think about it until next year. There will always be poor people we say. What can we do? We are all good people.

And so are they. They simply want what they have worked and died for. We apparently would rather keep our need for need. Our need to feel pity on those “less fortunate” than us. But they aren't simply less fortunate than we are- they are victims of a global thievery system known as free market capitalism.

Graeme Anfinson


link | posted by Jae at 1:34 AM |


10 Comments:

Blogger GraemeAnfinson commented at 1:54 AM~  

I should add- I suppose we are all victims of neoliberal policies to varying degrees, but because of the blood, sweat and tears of activists throughout the years, we (US workers) have gained quite a bit more power than workers in other countries, especially in this hemisphere. Which is why protectionist domestic unions aren't the right way to go in my opinon. It has to be an international labor movement.

just thought I'd clear that up :)

Blogger Jae commented at 7:43 AM~  

Your "Reaganomics" citation made me cringe. I was an adult during the Reagan years and that SOB was a divisive, conniving evil guy. While I was a child during the Nixon years, I never got the feeling of evil from Nixon that I did from Reagan. My interpretation of his policies was that he was fighting to preserve the domains of the ultra-rich and women at all costs and people of color could go to hell. While I despise George W. Bush, there are very few nouns to describe my loathing for Reagan. I couldn't understand -- and don't to this day -- people's affection for him. To me, he was the worst type of televangelist -- one with real power. Under his watch, the GOP began its 'Southern Strategy' and you know what that is a code word for. Under his watch, 'Voodoo Economics' was the order of the day, under his watch the federal government began to slow the march of the middle class, under his watch we became the world's biggest jailer... you get my drift. And, yet, people remember him for a [expletive deleted] wall. In the words of the immortal Marvin Gaye, 'It Makes You Wanna Holler.'

Blogger Jae commented at 7:46 AM~  

A clarification:
"My interpretation of his policies was that he was fighting to preserve the domains of the ultra-rich AT ALL COSTS and women and people of color could go to hell."

My post made it sound like he was defending women and rich people... nope! I meant just rich people.

Blogger Renegade Eye commented at 10:02 AM~  

The Reagan's policies were continued with Clinton's assault on welfare. He did what Ronnie couldn't.

Blogger Jae commented at 10:04 AM~  

I am a liberal, not a liar -- I can't disagree with Ren's statement.

Blogger GraemeAnfinson commented at 11:01 AM~  

Indeed. And Reagan gets turned into a saint when he died. Pretty frustrating. He pretty much created the homeless problem of today.

my post sounds quite judgemental I noticed, I include myself in the "could do more" group of people as well. didn't mean to sound holier than thou

Anonymous Elizabethbranford commented at 9:09 PM~  

The welfare reform of the early 90's was spearheaded by Newt Gingrich and I dont think anyone could have stopped it. It didnt help that some changes were past due. But what they did was beyond what was necessary.

Welfare needed to be fixed. The problem was that it went from one extreme (welfare for life) to another, to a maximum that is very hard for people as the welfare-to-work programs are often inflexible and problematic especially for parents.

But the way things were could not continue forever. I had hoped back then for more vocational funds, education as the answer. Skills. Thats not what people got.

Its no accident that the minimum wage has not been raised really since throwing everyone off the welfare rolls.

Reagan certainly hurt the working class, many of his gutted deductions and other measures hurt the middle class. Its true that he didnt go as far as he probably would have wanted. But his people stucl to the task of increasing the disparity.

His model is no longer applicable. (assuming you thought it had much validity in the first place)As Graeme pointed out, we have global economies now, international markets.

See Tuesday! I remembered! Two weeks in a row! Woo hoo! Next Tuesday I will be away though.

Blogger sumo commented at 11:51 PM~  

Another good thoughtful post Graeme. I just found on CNN page that a family is reduced to eating fried rats that they catch in the fields...in Zimbabwe. Now that's got to be a more inportant thing to address than waring in Iraq. Oh yeah...Ronnie was the resident fool. Nancy had to keep him propped up.

Blogger troutsky commented at 9:46 PM~  

Before Ronnie politicians at least made an attempt to blur the line between entertainment and government but once we elected a lousy actor the curtain came down.Now even little kids think its a farce, or some kind of show.The Terminator, perfect hair, Tony Snow, whatever.

Anonymous Anonymous commented at 3:32 PM~  

Wait a minute, wait a minute!!!

I can't let this go unchallenged, too many pom poms flying and skirts twirling.

But I'll do it in the new year.

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