I wrote this, back in 2008, 2 years after being homeless. Twelve years later I still agree with this, for the most part. Since writing this I have learned more about the complexities of our society and have, what I would like to think, is a bit more of a refined view.
For those of you following me for my diary entries, they are still coming. They just take a long time to type up.
As always, I will let my young self, the one who was processing trauma while alone in the world, give her perspective.
Earlier today, before the beginning of my Aristotle class, a fellow student related a story to me about a couple in Green Bay. This story was told due to the current social political events in relation to the wealthy populations recent struggles. Through discussion and after thought I have found a few questions and criticisms which I feel the need to voice. Before I do I will tell you the story so that you will be better able to follow my train of thought.
The story, as related, is as follows:
A couple who lives in an affluent section of De Pere has recently fallen on, what they consider, hard times. The wife, a college graduate in education, spent a few years teaching, and was continually reassigned to work with lower grade levels. Because she was unable to cope with the stress of teaching 2nd graders, 1st graders, and finally kindergarten, she was removed from the public school system.
After a few years of unemployment, and with the fall of the economy, the husband ‘made’ his wife go out and apply for a job. The wife cried the entire car ride to the interview, and at the interview continually told the employer ‘I shouldn’t be here. I am not made to be employed. I want to stay home with my kids.” In the end the husband gave in and the wife has not sought any form of employment since.
This last year the husband lost his job at the company he worked for due to downsizing and what not. The husband ended up being unemployed for over six months and during this time they lost many of their assets. While the couple struggled through the effects of unemployment, neither sought employment at a job below their level of education or qualifications. From what I was told the wife did not attempt to find any form of employment at all. Instead of searching for employment, the couple lived off the husbands unemployment check. In the last week the husband has finally found employment in his field, making slightly less money than he had in the past.
As of late the media has spent a large amount of time focusing on the struggles which the wealthy are currently going through due to the fall of the economy. Around the country scenarios’ like the one this Green Bay couple has just gone through are becoming much more common.
The question I have is why the media and populace are paying so much attention to the current struggle of the rich when the poor of the nation have been going through this for years.
What I want to ask is:
“What is the difference between not working and living off of your unemployment check because you earn more from that than a job below your professional skills, and living off of welfare because you gain more money to support your family from that than you do working two full time jobs?”
The common view among those of the middle and upper class is that the poor are poor because they are ‘lazy’ or choose the easy way out by living on welfare. For over two decades the economy has been in such a state that it is more economical for a family below poverty level to work less and live off of welfare benefits than it is for them to get two full time jobs. In a country where hard work no longer equals prosperity, but a minimal income to survive off of it is more practical, and a better survival technique to live off welfare as these individuals have been doing. (The situation is of course more complex than what I have laid out, I am giving the basics to save time in reading ).
During my college career I have found that the laziest people, in terms of work ethic, which I have met, have continually been those of the middle and upper class. Daily I have conversations with friends, many of them college graduates, who complain of having minimal funds. Many of these individuals live at home with their parents because ‘they have not found a job.’
When I speak with these individuals I often find that their inability to find employment is not due to the economy and job market. Their jobless state is due to the fact that they have not found a job that they feel is worthy of them. As one friend stated:
“I am a college graduate, why should I work at McDonalds when I am worth more than that. I have a BS in biology, and a minor in education, I will accept no position less than that of a teacher.”
So the poor are lazy because they do not work, and the middle and upper classes educated are not, yet their state of existences are the same? The wealthy are cheated out of a chance to prove their worth because no one will give them the job they are worthy of, while the poor are sloth and useless because they do not make enough off of the manual labor jobs which the upper classes will not ‘lower’ themselves to do.
After my conversation with my fellow student I found myself thinking of Karl Marx and his belief that a fully developed individual is one who acts out his natural ability to create. As human beings we are creatures with the ability to reason and create. All humans who have the ability to reason as well as have self insight, no matter their socioeconomic level, agree that an individual who wastes their existence giving nothing to society, their community, or family, are the true form of ‘lazy and waste.’ Whether you are, (monetarily and socially,) as rich as Donald Trump, or as poor and alone as a beggar on a street corner at the end of the day you are the same as all others in the fact that your bodily functions and needs are the same in smell, toxicity, and need as everyone else’s. (I apologize for crassness of that statement.)
If you are an individual who chooses to live off of handouts, and refuses to put forth any effort to create and contribute to society then you are, in effect, worthless. In my opinion that couple who lived off his unemployment check, rather than seek employment in any field available, are much less of a human being than the poor who work a full time job and live on welfare. While the poor may be taking from the government, at least they are attempting to live. The couple was not attempting to live or make a life for themselves, they were attempting to maintain a lifestyle which they felt they deserved.
One of the most important character traits an individual must possess and utilize is that of action. Sitting and thinking of success, as that couple did, that is not virtue, or a goal. Acting on that will to succeed and live is the truest virtue in life. As human beings we live and act in a society. We must act in a way that is not only good for us, but benefits the social structure within which we reside. If we do not act in this way than we are not human beings but animals.
Think of it this way. I have the natural tendency to make random, low quality documentaries, which I get paid to make. To me the immediate good comes from getting paid, and being able to act out something I am good at and enjoy. If the only reasons I made documentaries were for this reason, however, than my action would not be beneficial. The true good and worth of my action comes from someone being able to view my movie, and be moved to action by a topic within it. Then that individual goes on and acts out something from that inspiration which affects another individual, and so on. That is the way society develops. That is the way in which to better society and mankind.
When someone works only for material gain, such as the husband in the couple, or does not work at all, as the wife, than they are not acting in any way that is good for themselves or the society in which they live.
When I graduate from UWGB in the Spring I hope I will be able to find a high paying job in my field. If I cannot though I will not shirk from a job opportunity a local Wal-Mart of Burger King. I refuse to act as a form of human waste using the social welfare and unemployment system as a way to support some abstract concept I have developed as to what I think I am worth as a reason for me to be lazy and take resources I do not deserve.