punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

On Being Poor

I want to thank a long time friend, wombat1138, for showing me this link on being poor.

Some of you know a lot of these comments, and some of you lived a lot of them as well. One of the reasons I HATE credit and HATE loans stems from a lot of these phrases. Right now, I am doing okay. Before this job, I was starting to fall behind, and I want some of you to read that link and know the motivation I have never to be poor again. Part of this is the fear our family is one layoff away from packing it all up and moving to some rural area where the housing is cheap enough for a single income, and that "rural area" is getting farther and farther away every year.

One of the biggest myths that non-poor people have is based on how easy they think it is to stop being poor. Most think it's just an issue with being lazy. They always have some big story about how hard work solves everything. They quote some Reader's Digest article, or have catch phrases learned from the likes of Tony Robbins or Zig Ziglar, or spread some fable about the poor man making it good in some country far, far away. And if those quotes fail to change your reality, they try to be negative, like you're not working hard enough, you're not thinking intelligently, or you're not even trying.

Here are some of the biggest reasons poor people stay poor:

Little things snowball into big things.
This has to be the biggest thing that keeps you in the cycle of poverty. Two examples I use are cars and the dentist. Let's take a look at cars. When you are poor, all you can afford is some piece of junk that requires constant repair. Sure, you're car may run better if you change the oil on a regular cycle, have the spark plugs checked, go for the scheduled tune-ups, but that costs money. "But the oil change is only $15!" you say, because you have $15. Oil changes mean not only the $15 poor people don't have, but time off to take the car to the garage, and then there is always something else wrong with the POS car, and that $15 becomes $400 because they can't change the oil when you have a rusted-out oilpan, a rotting PCV valve backing up into the air filter, and 5 hoses that need replaced. Sometimes "just an oil change" becomes "my car won't run again." So you only take your car in for repairs when it dies, which is a lot, and then you pay the $$$ anyway, and go further into debt. To the poor, there is no "later," so when you make up some bullshit crap about "Pay $15 now or pay $500 later..." and you don't have $15 now? Now let's look at the dentist. Poor people don't have good jobs, which often means they have little to no dental plan from work. You are also probably eating a lot of sugary and starchy foods because they are cheap, can't afford new toothbrushes and toothpaste, and so your teeth are rotting in your head. The only dentists that allow you payment plans are usually the desperate kinds who prey on the poor because they know the poor probably won't sue because they can't afford lawyers. Most poor people wouldn't know bad dental work, anyway, because all they know is the pain has stopped or is at least less than it was. And then you can't make the payments, get sent to a bill collector, and the cycle continues. Between the car and the dentist, you are so deep in debt you will never be able to pay off, you will be poor forever. And there are a LOT LOT LOT more things that match these cycles than those two examples: doctors, childcare, housing, and so on.

You probably have poor education
Armchair sociologists always assume that people think like they do. When you are poor, being a philosopher is a luxury for snobs. You don't think about the whole picture, the big picture, or even where you fit into any scheme of things. You don't life for the future at all, you live for the NOW. Bills that are due NOW, medical problem you have NOW, car that needs fixed NOW, job you need to get NOW... that's why you dream about the lottery: it's as magical as the future getting better with odds of one in several hundred million. If you grew up poor, you are surrounded by poor people, went to an underfunded school and got a bum education from overwhelmed and burnt out teachers, never had money for college, and grew up where the only people who became successful and didn't abandon you are criminals like pimps, scam artists, and drug dealers. It would be a fucking miracle that you'd do as well as some kid who grew up in suburbia, with educated parents, surrounded by people who have real jobs and nice things who didn't shoot someone for it. "Getting out of poverty" is usually an outright lie, a pipe dream fed to you by the TV, your only escape from reality.

You have no valuable support base
Your friends are poor, your family is poor or often not even around, your parents don't give a shit about you, so who's going to help you out? Nobody. And you don't feel like helping anyone else, either, because you have nothing to give, and so pretty much everyone in the cycle of poverty is out for themselves. I had the worst problem pounding this concept into people's heads. I don't have a grandma to watch the kids, I don't have mom or dad to help out with a bill, I don't have siblings I can stay with until I get back on my feet. My mom was dead, my father doesn't speak to me, I have no sisters or brothers, and the nearest relatives were across the US, living in a bad neighborhood. My wife's father was missing, mother was handicapped and poor, and so were her sisters and brother. Day care was one of our biggest problems. I have friends who always have some relative they can tap, but we had no babysitter for many, many years.

You are suffering in woeful depression
I have often wished that those who think the best way to beat depression is to tell people to "cheer up" should have their legs cut off at the knees and told, "use your goddamn arms!" Depression is a real illness, caused by lack of support, lack of hope, and being surrounded by the same people. After a while, it's not just "an attitude," it's a chemical imbalance caused by stress. Depression is really just inward anger, which is why poor people riot from time to time.

So how do you break this cycle? Not easily. The only reason I was able to break it was because I was educated, had enough drive to keep going, and I had a ton of friends.
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