We were burglarized lots of times, when I was growing up. Sometimes we had a TV, but sometimes we'd come home and it would be gone. Sometimes they'd even come in at night, when we were sleeping. One Halloween, trick-or-treating with my parents, we were mugged for our Halloween candy. This is not good for a kid's sense of safety and security in the world. My mother tried to plant vegetables in the backyard, but the soil was full of motor oil and broken glass.
I've thought a lot about what I really mean, when I comment on poverty. How much of my problem has to do with the lifelong pattern of economic disadvantages? How much of this country's problems are rooted in economic struggle, inequality and the unrest that causes? I think of it more in terms of how it impacts human behaviour, psychology, socially, institutionally. I'm more concerned with the impact it has on a citizen's capacity to contribute to their community, their motivation and self worth.
FOX News memes have been making the rounds again, about how so-called poor people actually own televisions, phones, and even refrigerators Yet, what of those who can't afford to live anywhere near their baseline idea of what a normal life is supposed to look like? This is more an issue of wealth inequality, capitalism run amok, and the impact this has on a civilization. A highly consumerist society in which half of us just get to watch the other half consume, while struggling just to pay for heat and healthcare.
From our inner cities, to our trailer parks, does anyone even bother to test for mental health problems? It doesn't get framed that way. The American poor, the people who aren't really starving to death, many of which can even afford iPhones, do commit far more crime, indulge in more self-destructive behaviors, addiction, recklessness, interpersonal dysfunction. We don't bother voting, we underachieve, we eat badly, get less exercise, we're slobs, we litter, and we die younger for all sorts of terrible reasons.
These are awful stereotypes, but having lived in a lot of poor neighborhoods, having known all sorts of poor people, there are truths about what it's like that aren't socially acceptable to discuss. It's a situation that diminishes people in all sorts of ways. I'm not much of an exception, though I do try not to litter. The guy who lives above me though.. wtf.
So, why is that? We sort of try to tackle all these issues, but look at the trend, here. Maybe it's essentially a mental health epidemic, the natural product of a modern American society that treats half its citizens like crap. We barely make it past childhood, before realizing that our dreams and ambitions are better left there.