This article reprinted from a blog post by Linda Tirado titled “Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, poverty thoughts“:
There’s no way to structure this coherently. They are random observations that might help explain the mental processes. But often, I think that we look at the academic problems of poverty and have no idea of the why. We know the what and the how, and we can see systemic problems, but it’s rare to have a poor person actually explain it on their own behalf. So this is me doing that, sort of.
Rest is a luxury for the rich. I get up at 6AM, go to school (I have a full courseload, but I only have to go to two in-person classes) then work, then I get the kids, then I pick up my husband, then I have half an hour to change and go to Job 2. I get home from that at around 1230AM, then I have the rest of my classes and work to tend to. I’m in bed by 3. This isn’t every day, I have two days off a week from each of my obligations. I use that time to clean the house and soothe Mr. Martini and see the kids for longer than an hour and catch up on schoolwork. Those nights I’m in bed by midnight, but if I go to bed too early I won’t be able to stay up the other nights because I’ll fuck my pattern up, and I drive an hour home from Job 2 so I can’t afford to be sleepy. I never get a day off from work unless I am fairly sick. It doesn’t leave you much room to think about what you are doing, only to attend to the next thing and the next. Planning isn’t in the mix.
When I was pregnant the first time, I was living in a weekly motel for some time. I had a minifridge with no freezer and a microwave. I was on WIC. I ate peanut butter from the jar and frozen burritos because they were 12/$2. Had I had a stove, I couldn’t have made beef burritos that cheaply. And I needed the meat, I was pregnant. I might not have had any prenatal care, but I am intelligent enough to eat protein and iron whilst knocked up.
I know how to cook. I had to take Home Ec to graduate high school. Most people on my level didn’t. Broccoli is intimidating. You have to have a working stove, and pots, and spices, and you’ll have to do the dishes no matter how tired you are or they’ll attract bugs. It is a huge new skill for a lot of people. That’s not great, but it’s true. And if you fuck it up, you could make your family sick. We have learned not to try too hard to be middle-class. It never works out well and always makes you feel worse for having tried and failed yet again. Better not to try. It makes more sense to get food that you know will be palatable and cheap and that keeps well. Junk food is a pleasure that we are allowed to have; why would we give that up? We have very few of them.
The closest Planned Parenthood to me is three hours. That’s a lot of money in gas. Lots of women can’t afford that, and even if you live near one you probably don’t want to be seen coming in and out in a lot of areas. We’re aware that we are not “having kids,” we’re “breeding.” We have kids for much the same reasons that I imagine rich people do. Urge to propagate and all. Nobody likes poor people procreating, but they judge abortion even harder.
Convenience food is just that. And we are not allowed many conveniences. Especially since the Patriot Act passed, it’s hard to get a bank account. But without one, you spend a lot of time figuring out where to cash a check and get money orders to pay bills. Most motels now have a no-credit-card-no-room policy. I wandered around SF for five hours in the rain once with nearly a thousand dollars on me and could not rent a room even if I gave them a $500 cash deposit and surrendered my cell phone to the desk to hold as surety.
Nobody gives enough thought to depression. You have to understand that we know that we will never not feel tired. We will never feel hopeful. We will never get a vacation. Ever. We know that the very act of being poor guarantees that we will never not be poor. It doesn’t give us much reason to improve ourselves. We don’t apply for jobs because we know we can’t afford to look nice enough to hold them. I would make a super legal secretary, but I’ve been turned down more than once because I “don’t fit the image of the firm,” which is a nice way of saying “gtfo, pov.” I am good enough to cook the food, hidden away in the kitchen, but my boss won’t make me a server because I don’t “fit the corporate image.” I am not beautiful. I have missing teeth and skin that looks like it will when you live on b12 and coffee and nicotine and no sleep. Beauty is a thing you get when you can afford it, and that’s how you get the job that you need in order to be beautiful. There isn’t much point trying.
Cooking attracts roaches. Nobody realizes that. I’ve spent a lot of hours impaling roach bodies and leaving them out on toothpick pikes to discourage others from entering. It doesn’t work, but is amusing.
“Free” only exists for rich people. It’s great that there’s a bowl of condoms at my school, but most poor people will never set foot on a college campus. We don’t belong there. There’s a clinic? Great! There’s still a copay. We’re not going. Besides, all they’ll tell you at the clinic is that you need to see a specialist, which seriously? Might as well be located on Mars for how accessible it is. “Low-cost” and “sliding scale” sounds like “money you have to spend” to me, and they can’t actually help you anyway.
I smoke. It’s expensive. It’s also the best option. You see, I am always, always exhausted. It’s a stimulant. When I am too tired to walk one more step, I can smoke and go for another hour. When I am enraged and beaten down and incapable of accomplishing one more thing, I can smoke and I feel a little better, just for a minute. It is the only relaxation I am allowed. It is not a good decision, but it is the only one that I have access to. It is the only thing I have found that keeps me from collapsing or exploding.
I make a lot of poor financial decisions. None of them matter, in the long term. I will never not be poor, so what does it matter if I don’t pay a thing and a half this week instead of just one thing? It’s not like the sacrifice will result in improved circumstances; the thing holding me back isn’t that I blow five bucks at Wendy’s. It’s that now that I have proven that I am a Poor Person that is all that I am or ever will be. It is not worth it to me to live a bleak life devoid of small pleasures so that one day I can make a single large purchase. I will never have large pleasures to hold on to. There’s a certain pull to live what bits of life you can while there’s money in your pocket, because no matter how responsible you are you will be broke in three days anyway. When you never have enough money it ceases to have meaning. I imagine having a lot of it is the same thing.
Poverty is bleak and cuts off your long-term brain. It’s why you see people with four different babydaddies instead of one. You grab a bit of connection wherever you can to survive. You have no idea how strong the pull to feel worthwhile is. It’s more basic than food. You go to these people who make you feel lovely for an hour that one time, and that’s all you get. You’re probably not compatible with them for anything long-term, but right this minute they can make you feel powerful and valuable. It does not matter what will happen in a month. Whatever happens in a month is probably going to be just about as indifferent as whatever happened today or last week. None of it matters. We don’t plan long-term because if we do we’ll just get our hearts broken. It’s best not to hope. You just take what you can get as you spot it.
I am not asking for sympathy. I am just trying to explain, on a human level, how it is that people make what look from the outside like awful decisions. This is what our lives are like, and here are our defense mechanisms, and here is why we think differently. It’s certainly self-defeating, but it’s safer. That’s all. I hope it helps make sense of it.
Update: The response to this piece is overwhelming. I have had a lot of people ask to use my work. Please do. Share it with the world if you found value in it. Please link back if you can. If you are teaching, I am happy to discuss this with or clarify for you, and you can freely use this piece in your classes. Please do let me know where you teach. You can reach me on Twitter, @killermartinis. I set up an email at killermartinisbook@ gmail as well.
This piece has gone fully viral. People have been asking me to write, and how they can help. After enough people tried to send me paypal money, I set up a gofundme. Find it here. It promptly went insane. I have raised my typical yearly income as of this update. I have no idea what to say except thank you. I am going to speak with some money people who will make sure that I can’t fuck this up, and I will use it to do good things with.
I’ve also set up a blog, which I hope you will find here.
Understand that I wrote this as an example of the thought process that we struggle with. Most of us are clinically depressed, and we do not get therapy and medication and support. We get told to get over it. And we find ways to cope. I am not saying that people live without hope entirely; that is not human nature. But these are the thoughts that are never too far away, that creep up on us every chance they get, that prey on our better judgement when we are tired and stressed and weakened. We maintain a constant vigil against these thoughts, because we are afraid that if we speak them aloud or even articulate them in our heads they will become unmanageably real.
Thank you for reading. I am glad people find value in it. Because I am getting tired of people not reading this and then commenting anyway, I am making a few things clear: not all of this piece is about me. That is why I said that they were observations. And this piece is not all of me: that is why I said that they were random observations rather than complete ones. If you really have to urge me to abort or keep my knees closed or wonder whether I can fax you my citizenship documents or if I really in fact have been poor because I know multisyllabic words, I would like to ask that you read the comments and see whether anyone has made your point in the particular fashion you intend to. It is not that I mind trolls so much, it’s that they’re getting repetitive and if you have to say nothing I hope you can at least do it in an entertaining fashion.
If, however, you simply are curious about something and actually want to have a conversation, I do not mind repeating myself because those conversations are valuable and not actually repetitive. They tend to be very specific to the asker, and I am happy to shed any light I can. I do not mind honest questions. They are why I wrote this piece.
Thank you all, so much. I don’t know what life will look like next week, and for once that’s a good thing. And I have you to thank.
Additionally, an interesting study was just completed that expands on the Marshmallow Study, where children are asked to delay the gratification of receiving a marshmallow with the promise of more marshmallows. The study was changed, however, when previous to this, they were promised items if they wait and were instead told that the items were no longer available, disappointing the waiting children. You can read about the new study here.
There’s a definitely a correlation between the constant disappointment of poverty and the reasons that many in that situation seem to make decisions that look bad on the outside, but make sense to those of us that have experienced being poor. This Cracked article from last year delves into it a bit more thoroughly and how systems are set up to essentially keep the poor, well, poor.
Yes, this is a lot of reading, but what else are you doing on a Monday afternoon?
Hello All! You may or may not recognize me as Disqus commenter on DotD, formally on TDW, as RedUni. I’ve decided to use my extensive background in Journalism and overall Nerd-know-how to hopefully co-contribute dope content on NitK.
My mission at Nitk: With so much controversy lately surrounding who or what constitutes a “Nerd” or “Geek”, I’d prefer we stay civil in this corner of the Internet and just enjoy the content and each other’s comments. This should be a safe place we can gather to learn about and celebrate things others might not find interesting.
Things you should know about me: I LOVE Sushi. I live in Los Angeles, California. I sometimes like using CAPS LOCK for emotional effect. I would consider myself a TV geek and film buff foremost.
Knowledge I’m pretty confident in: The late 80’s/ early 90’s was the pinnacle era for Television theme songs. Second, This was the first time Christopher Guest and Michael McKean appear on-camera together.
Most embarrassing thing I’m willing to admit: I am currently obsessed with the British reality show TOWIE or “The only way is Essex” which if you’re interested in watching in the states it’s available on HULUPLUS, but only up to season six and without the “Marbs” Specials (you’ll understand when you start watching) OR, you can see ALL the episodes from seasons FOUR-NINE online here.
So, Prepare Yourself. I like what I like and I don’t apologize for it. I hope we all get along.
pic via: reddit
Writer Karl Taro Greenfeld asked this question when he noticed that his 13 year old daughter had been spending several hours each night doing homework, while only getting around six hours of sleep. He wanted to know if the homework was actually that difficult or whether teachers and administration were going overboard with the amount of work they were sending home with each student. So, as a writer and journalist does, Greenfeld decided to do the homework alongside his daughter for one week.
Esmee is in the eighth grade at the NYC Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies, a selective public school in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. My wife and I have noticed since she started there in February of last year that she has a lot of homework. We moved from Pacific Palisades, California, where Esmee also had a great deal of homework at Paul Revere Charter Middle School in Brentwood. I have found, at both schools, that whenever I bring up the homework issue with teachers or administrators, their response is that they are required by the state to cover a certain amount of material. There are standardized tests, and everyone—students, teachers, schools—is being evaluated on those tests. I’m not interested in the debates over teaching to the test or No Child Left Behind. What I am interested in is what my daughter is doing during those nightly hours between 8 o’clock and midnight, when she finally gets to bed. During the school week, she averages three to four hours of homework a night and six and a half hours of sleep.
. . .
Every parent I know in New York City comments on how much homework their children have. These lamentations are a ritual whenever we are gathered around kitchen islands talking about our kids’ schools.
Is it too much?
Well, imagine if after putting in a full day at the office—and school is pretty much what our children do for a job—you had to come home and do another four or so hours of office work. Monday through Friday. Plus Esmee gets homework every weekend. If your job required that kind of work after work, how long would you last?
When Greenfeld contacted other parents in a mass email, they felt the exact same way about their childrens’ workloads.
That night, in an e-mail chain started by the class parent to seek chaperones for a field trip, I removed the teacher’s name, changed the subject line, and then asked the other parents in the class whether their children found the homework load onerous.
After a few minutes, replies started coming in from parents along the lines of “Thank God, we thought we were the only ones,” “Our son has been up until 2 a.m. crying,” and so forth. Half the class’s parents responded that they thought too much homework was an issue.
So what’s the reason behind all this homework? A study done in 2005 showed that there was no correlation between homework and achievement. In fact, schools in countries where less homework was assigned seemed to do much better than those schools where more homework was assigned. So why the need to pile it on?
After Greenfeld contacted the parents, he was called into the vice-principal’s office and accused of cyber-bullying after one parent who disagreed with him decided to report the entire exchange to school administration. The teachers who had been contacted reportedly felt threatened after parents began to question the curriculum and the assigned workloads.
Most people in this world are slacktivists, especially when compared to the massive groups of people who protested and fought for the basic civil liberties that we possess today. By no means am I implying that the world is totally and completely fair now, because we still have a long way to go. But thanks to women’s rights movements, civil rights movements and other movements, there are a fair number of rights readily available that previously weren’t.
But that’s the thing with rights and activism. It implies movement and action. Yet, in this digital age, how does that translate and what can we do? Are we just too lazy or are we using the technology that we have to be smarter about our action and movements?
It’s unfortunate that they didn’t get any people of worth to speak about this subject at Thrash Lab. I would have liked to hear the opinions of activists, scientists, or sociologists rather than musicians and artists who all seem to employ the slacktivist mentality.
Everyone has seen the “optional” box in job applications or resume sites where you can check your race. They always say it’s for demographic purposes or a “diversity questionnaire”, but what does that actually mean? And can your chances of getting a job be diminished because you aren’t Caucasian? One woman, Yolanda Spivey, wanted to put that theory to the test after she was countlessly denied or never considered for positions in her field for nearly two years. Would it matter if she changed her race to “White”? Here’s her story:
Before I begin, let me quote the late, great, Booker T. Washington who said, “Of all forms of slavery there is none that is so harmful and degrading as that form of slavery which tempts one human being to hate another by reason of his race or color.”
For two years, I have been unemployed. In the beginning, I applied to more than three hundred open positions in the insurance industry—an industry that I’ve worked in for the previous ten years. Not one employer responded to my resume. So, I enrolled back into college to finish my degree. After completing school this past May, I resumed my search for employment and was quite shocked that I wasn’t getting a single response. I usually applied for positions advertised on the popular website Monster.com. I’d used it in the past and have been successful in obtaining jobs through it.
Two years ago, I noticed that Monster.com had added a “diversity questionnaire” to the site. This gives an applicant the opportunity to identify their sex and race to potential employers. Monster.com guarantees that this “option” will not jeopardize your chances of gaining employment. You must answer this questionnaire in order to apply to a posted position—it cannot be skipped. At times, I would mark off that I was a Black female, but then I thought, this might be hurting my chances of getting employed, so I started selecting the “decline to identify” option instead. That still had no effect on my getting a job. So I decided to try an experiment: I created a fake job applicant and called her Bianca White.
First, I created an email account and resume for Bianca. I kept the same employment history and educational background on her resume that was listed on my own. But I removed my home phone number, kept my listed cell phone number, and changed my cell phone greeting to say, “You have reached Bianca White. Please leave a message.” Then I created an online Monster.com account, listed Bianca as a White woman on the diversity questionnaire, and activated the account.
That very same day, I received a phone call. The next day, my phone line and Bianca’s email address, were packed with potential employers calling for an interview. I was stunned. More shocking was that some employers, mostly Caucasian-sounding women, were calling Bianca more than once, desperate to get an interview with her. All along, my real Monster.com account was open and active; but, despite having the same background as Bianca, I received no phone calls. Two jobs actually did email me and Bianca at the same time. But they were commission only sales positions. Potential positions offering a competitive salary and benefits all went to Bianca.
At the end of my little experiment, (which lasted a week), Bianca White had received nine phone calls—I received none. Bianca had received a total of seven emails, while I’d only received two, which again happen to have been the same emails Bianca received. Let me also point out that one of the emails that contacted Bianca for a job wanted her to relocate to a different state, all expenses paid, should she be willing to make that commitment. In the end, a total of twenty-four employers looked at Bianca’s resume while only ten looked at mines.
Is this a conspiracy, or what? I’m almost convinced that White Americans aren’t suffering from disparaging unemployment rates as their Black counterpart because all the jobs are being saved for other White people.
My little experiment certainly proved a few things. First, I learned that answering the diversity questionnaire on job sites such as Monster.com’s may work against minorities, as employers are judging whom they hire based on it. Second, I learned to suspect that resumes with ethnic names may go into the wastebasket and never see the light of day.
Other than being chronically out of work, I embarked on this little experiment because of a young woman I met while I was in school. She was a twenty-two-year-old Caucasian woman who, like myself, was about to graduate. She was so excited about a job she had just gotten with a well-known sporting franchise. She had no prior work experience and had applied for a clerical position, but was offered a higher post as an executive manager making close to six figures. I was curious to know how she’d been able to land such a position. She was candid in telling me that the human resource person who’d hired her just “liked” her and told her that she deserved to be in a higher position. The HR person was also Caucasian.
Another reason that pushed me to do this experiment is because of the media. There’s not a day that goes by in which I fail to see a news program about how tough the job market is. Recently, while I was watching a report on underemployed and underpaid Americans, I saw a middle aged White man complaining that he was making only $80,000 which was $30,000 less than what he was making before. I thought to myself that in this economy, many would feel they’d hit the jackpot if they made 80K a year.
In conclusion, I would like to once again quote the late, great, Booker T. Washington when he said, “You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.”
The more America continues to hold back great candidates based on race, the more our economy is going to stay in a rut. We all need each other to prosper, flourish, and to move ahead.
Turns out, at least for Yolanda, that they key to getting a job and getting one quickly is omitting your race or just lying. And that is the sad, subtle racism that still exists today.
Thrash Lab explores, in their latest episode of “The Coalition,” the topic of higher education and whether the cost of that education is worth it. With the dramatic rise in tuition in the last ten years and the job market still being at an incredible low, many college graduates are finding themselves without work and burdened with massive student loans. So, is it worth it?
Confession: I never graduated college. I attended Trinity Western University in British Columbia for four-ish years (I took some time off here and there to snowboard and partake in general dickery), but never settled down on a major because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Fast forward six years later and I still don’t have a degree, but what I do have is around $60,000 in student loans that I now need to pay off. Was it worth it for me? Absolutely not, because I am as fickle as the internet itself and I still don’t even know what I would major in. But for someone else who knows what they want to do? Definitely, yes. It’s nearly impossible to get any sort of job without a degree these days (trust me, I know this firsthand).
The only thing I know with certainty is that tuition fees, at their current rates, are astoundingly ridiculous. And now alternative forms of education are looking more and more appealing, be it internships, apprenticeships, trade schools or whatever other path can take you to your end goal. I didn’t get my degree, but I started a website. And now this is what I do and what will hopefully catapult me into success someday. I sit in my pajamas all day, eat cookies and post videos (HA! TAKE THAT, MOM AND DAD!)(just kidding, I promise I’ll get my degree someday, please continue to send cookie money).
So, to you, is it worth it? Is the debt worth the education? Is the education worth the cost? Or, as Noam Chomsky says, is there something all too sinister behind the cost of education and now you’re just going to live in the woods by yourself forever because the government is probably (definitely) trying to dick you over somehow?
My feeling is that student fees are instituted, basically as a technique of indoctrination and control. I don’t think there’s an economic basis for them. And it’s interesting that, you look at the timing — like when I went to college, I went to an Ivy League university, The University of Pennsylvania. Tuition was only $100 and you could easily get a scholarship.
Students today are over $1 trillion in debt. That’s more than credit card debt. A trillion dollars of debt? That’s a burden on people coming out of college. It’s got them trapped. It (tuition) is a technique of control, and it surely isn’t an economic necessity in the richest country in the world. All sorts of things started happening — the university architecture changed. Universities that were built, worldwide, in the post-’70s and on, are usually designed so that they don’t have meeting places, designed just to keep students separated and under control. Look at the ratio of administrators to faculty: it’s gone way up the last couple of decades … not for educational purposes, but for more techniques of control.
If attending university is simply about higher education, maybe there’s a better way to go about all of this than the incredible high cost system that we’re given. Maybe we just all need to work in pajamas and eat cookies to get that message out.*
*Don’t do this. You won’t find a job or get an education doing this. However, you will be fairly versed in 4chan, so there’s that.
From her Kickstarter funded series “Tropes vs Women in Video Games,” Anita Sakeesian explores the concept of the damsel in distress and how the idea is cliched, leaving something to be desired for female gamers. Alongside her video releases, Sakeesian has also started a Tumblr which will mirror many of the other tropes that she will be exploring throughout the series.