Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pello ex Deo

My father has always hammered into my head: get a degree, get money, continue onto life and avoid poverty. When I was younger it made perfect sense. But the older I get, the more it settles uneasily with me. College is my goal, that's true. But it's not so I can get more money or settle myself into a capitalist world. It's so I can have a foot in the doorway of change. A chance to change my community. Maybe college will be a colossal waste of money, maybe I'll end up working minimum wage for the rest of my life. But at least I'll have checked off one of my goals in life. But aside from that, here's my rant:

I'm starving, I'm poor, my living situation is up in the air, but I'm not even going to get into that. My problem right now is with how all of us are forced into debt. By who? The government? Not really. Corporations? Yes they do have a part in it, but they are not the fundamental cause. The ugly truth is that: we force each other and ourselves into debt. The more I think about; the more I read about; the more I hear about the middle class, the more I become solid in thinking this. The middle class and the upper lower class are so concerned with status quo that we put ourselves into poverty trying to keep up. It's nothing new that we are a nation of debt. It's nothing new that the world of consumerism puts constant pressures on us to buy newer and better things through the medium of advertising.

But the ultimate evil is the one that we commit on our own: vanity.

It's not enough to have a working TV. We now have to get a flatscreen TV. Why? Because an office mate or friend was bragging about "how wonderful the picture is and how it just can't possibly be beat." (By the way, HD and regular television on a TV with a decent projection really is not that different, it's all in the mind). It's not enough to have a decent working car, we have to have the luxury model, the newest, the biggest, the meanest, etc.

To be honest (and yes this is speaking from experience--I lived with a boyfriend before he flipped shit and joined the army), if a couple who works minimum wage split a decently sized apartment (one bedroom or studio) that went for a $500+ a month, carpooled to work with the acquisition of a no-frills car with good gas mileage, invested in finances/stock markets/CD folders/etc (if that fits with your lifestyle), kept a minimum on their credit (maybe for that car they just bought or utilities) and focused on the bare minimums of necessity and frivolous luxuries--think how much better off they would be.
Instead women constantly redecorate their apartments and houses. Re-tile their kitchens, paint walls, buy Ethan Allen couches, designer brand trim, nag their husbands to buy espresso machines and new drapes every six months. Men buy Xbox360s, Playstation 3s, expensive televisions and electronics, power tools, and other gadgets. Most of these purchases are made beyond their means and/or on credit. Consumerism is to blame of course, but think about it: who are these people trying to impress? There is consumerism to meet personal satisfaction, and there is consumerism that is committed to meet the status quo.

The lower class are ashamed of looking lower class, so they go beyond their means to appear middle class. The middle class struggle to look a step above the middle class they are, so they go beyond their comfort limits to appear so. And of course the upper class sits there on their thumbs enjoying their wealth and oblivious to the rest of the world below them. Imagine how much more comfortably the middle class could live if they did not strive to achieve a status quo, or demonstrate to other members of their community just how affluent they are. Instead of buying a newer and better car, they could save that money to go to Spain or some other country. If they refrained from completely relandscaping their already green yard, they wouldn't be so hard pressed to pay for a dermatologist for the youngest daughter. The middle class indulge in extravagances that press their means in order to define themselves in the eyes of others.

I've been guilty of status quo consumerism in the past, and it has been something I have become increasingly aware of. Every time I pick something up I now ask myself:
1) Do I need it?
2) Can I steal it instead?
3) Who am I benefiting by buying this product? (corporation-wise and socially speaking)

I've now posed myself a challenge: to practice what I preach I consider myself an anarchist, and now is the chance for me to prove it. My challenge is: live with the basic necessities, and indulge myself in everything that is free. I realize it's a broad statement when I say this. And that's a dangerous thing to make. But I've narrowed down what I want my challenge to be:
1) Books and movies- My goal is to get all my reading materials from the library. But I aim to buy them second hand if I must buy them. I suspect the internet will be a useful tool in this. In both terms of pirating and purchase. I'd much rather give an individual money for an item than a corporation. My wonderful friend Marie who's a photographer in Chicago wrote on her site that "punks do not recognize the difference between corporate capitalism and personal capitalism, and therefore do not contribute to the communal good by learning the difference."
2) Clothing- second hand. I've actually found that clothes at thrift stores fit me WAY better than having to struggle with department store brands. Also, I've gotten better at tailoring my shirts to fit me. Sub-rant: Why....WHY IS IT SO FUCKING HARD TO FIND A SHIRT THAT FITS?! I have a modest bust, wide ribcage, triangular waist but HUUGE hips/love handles (depending on the fluctuation of my weight), so I invariably wind up with a shirt that makes me look like a raging clown. No more, my sewing machine is now my right hand. End sub-rant.
3) Food- I've boycotted fast food restaurants for coming up seven years now. It won't be ending any time soon. I'm now extending my boycott to all national chains. I'm instead focusing on local chains, family owned businesses or just downright fresh food. The more money that stays in a communal pool the better.
P.S. Boycott Tyson meats for the love of god, please?
4) Volunteering- I've recently become super-active in volunteering and I love it. I can't see myself stopping any time soon. My goal is to split my 'work' hours 50-50 between a paying job and volunteer work.
5) Work- I quit my job at my medium-town market chain store. And while I could live with that job economically speaking because it was a medium town marketed store with reasonable prices, the politics made me sick. It's nowhere near the par of Walmart which is why I'm going to refrain from bashing it too much. But the turnover rate was ridiculous. Why? Because of the lack of employee benefits (as well as respect) and the lack of decent store managers. I'm determined to make my next job one that contributes to the community instead of sapping away money from it as well as one that actually treats the employees like human beings.
6) Transportation- Now that it's spring/summer, I'm going to take full advantage of the bike my father's amazingly sweet girlfriend (and no it's not sarcasm, I really do love the woman) gave me (oh middle class that buys expensive sports machines and then leaves them to rust in the back yard....I love you, your loss is my gain). I want to see just exactly how much gas I save. Especially since both towns I live in on a rotating basis are relatively bike friendly.
6) Human interaction- I've been guilty of being short-tempered and standoffish towards others for a variety of reasons, many which I don't wish to get into now. I now realize how much I'm missing out on by doing this. I've got so much humanity in my heart that it kills me, and I think it's my responsibility to extend it towards others.

That's my sporadic, isolated, disjointed rant of the day/night. Enjoy.

Le Femme