Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Miserable Pursuits

[Auf Deutsch. Vielen Dank, Mrs. Mop] 

As I write this, I am on the train to Washington, to attend a conference sponsored by the Community Action Partnership on "The New Reality: Preparing Poor America for Harder Times Ahead." The agenda will include in-depth discussions of employment, food, housing, health care, security, education, transportation, and even the somewhat touchy-feely subjects of community cohesion, communication, and, last but not least, right before the cocktail hour, culture. The recommendations will be rolled into a report and the conclusions will be presented at CAP's annual conference later this month.

Poor America would conceivably be a place of few good jobs, nasty food, dilapidated housing, unaffordable health care, oppressive yet ineffectual security, education programs replete with dinosaur-riding Jesuses, transportation networks composed of run-down pickup trucks and potholed roads, not much more community cohesion than there is now, and communication still dominated by the corporate media.

But then what about that strange little topic showing up at the very bottom of the list—culture? We'd expect the poor to be uncultivated, unlettered and uncouth, but beyond that, shouldn't we expect a culture of poverty to evolve, as an adaptation to being poor? To an anthropologist, culture is an adaptive mechanism that evolves in order to enable humans to survive and thrive in a wide variety of environments. To others, it may be a matter of dancing a jig or of strumming an instrument while crooning. To me, culture is, first and foremost, a matter of literature.

The Russian author Eduard Limonov wrote of his experiences with poverty in America. To his joy, he discovered that he could supplement his cash earnings with public assistance. But he also quickly discovered that he had to keep this joy well hidden when showing up to collect his free money. It is a curious fact that in America public assistance is only made available to the miserable and the downtrodden, not to those who are in need of some free money but are otherwise perfectly content. Although it is just as possible to be poor and happy in America as anywhere else, here one must make a choice: to avoid any number of unpleasant situations, one must be careful to hide either the fact that one is poor, or the fact that one is happy. If free public money is to be obtained, then only the latter choice remains.

It is another curious fact that vast numbers of Americans, both rich and poor, would regard Limonov's behavior as nothing short of despicable: a foreign author living in America on public assistance while also earning cash! It seems reasonable that the rich should feel that way; if the poor can't be made miserable, then what exactly is the point of being rich? But why should the poor particularly care? Another cultural peculiarity: what dismays them is not the misappropriation of public funds. Tell them about the billions wasted on useless military projects, and they will reply with a yawn that this is just business as usual. But tell them that somewhere some poor person is eating a free lunch, and they will instantly wax indignant. Amazingly, Americans are great believers in Lenin's revolutionary dictum: "He who does not work, does not eat!" One of the rudest questions you might hear from an American is "What do you do for a living?" The only proper response is "Excuse me?" followed by a self-satisfied smirk and a stony silence. Then they assume that you are independently wealthy and grovel shamefully.

Most shockingly, there are many poor Americans who are too proud to accept public assistance in spite of their obvious need for it. Most Russians would regard such a stance as absurd: which part of "free money" don't these poor idiots like—the fact that it's money, or the fact that it's free? Some Russians who are living in the US and, in trying to fit in to American society, have internalized a large dose of the local hypocrisy, might claim otherwise, but even they, in their less hypocritical moments, will concede that it is downright foolish to turn down free money. And rest assured, they will mop up every last penny of it. Mother Russia didn't raise any dummies.

But let us not blame the victim. What causes these poor souls to leave money on the table is just this: they have been brainwashed. The mass media, most notably television and advertising, are managed by the well-to-do, and incessantly hammer home the message that hard work and self-sufficiency are virtuous while demonizing the idle and the poor. The same people who have been shipping American jobs to China and to India in order to enhance their profits want it to be generally understood that the resulting misery is entirely the fault of the miserable. And while the role of the pecuniary motive may be significant, let us not neglect to mention the important fact that producing mass misery is a high-priority objective in and of itself.

You see, these are very difficult times to be rich. It used to be that having a million dollars made you a millionaire—but not any more! Now, to be perfectly safe and completely insulated from economic reality you need at least ten million, if not more, and the more you have, the more unnerving become the wild undulations of the financial markets and the dire prognostications of the experts. It is getting to the point that you can make a plausible guess at a person's net worth based on how nervous and miserable they look.

Recently, I had a chance to see this misery on display. We spent a week vacationing on outer Cape Cod. We sailed there and back (the wind is free) and anchored while there (the municipal moorings are quite affordable). We rowed ourselves ashore and back in our home-made plywood dink and bicycled around picking edible mushrooms along the bike path. This time of year, this part of Massachusetts is overrun by stampedes of shiny late-model SUVs with New York and New Jersey license plates. They are driven by various subspecies of the middle-aged well-to-do American Office Ogre—the lawyer, the doctor, the dentist, the banker, the lobbyist and the corporate businessman—the people who are attempting to run off with all the loot. The majestic scenery is somewhat spoiled by these surly, scowling, raspy-voiced ogres and their flabby, overmedicated wives with voices like an unoiled hinge. When not aimlessly driving around, they sit in upscale restaurants, toying with their food and gossiping menacingly. They have long forgotten what it means to be happy and carefree, and their labored attempts at feigning enjoyment are painful to watch. You can be sure that the sight of poor but happy people makes them quite livid.

I am not gloating. I do feel sorry for these poor rich people, and I even have good news for them: their condition is far from incurable. I know people who went prematurely gray, lost weight and often woke up screaming while watching their last $500,000 in savings dwindle to nothing, buried under a pile of debt, but once the cash is burned off and the dour creditors abscond with what remains of the property, there is much less for them to worry about, and this gives them a chance to reevaluate what is important, what is essential, and what gives them pleasure. And so, where there is sorrow there is also joy, and we need not grieve for the poor rich people excessively, because the way things are going their problems are likely to resolve themselves spontaneously. Keep in mind that, compared to the formidable, often insurmountable challenges faced by those who attempt to escape poverty, becoming downwardly mobile is as easy as falling off a log, and, with a bit of foresight, can be done in comfort and style.

I have good news for America's poor as well. Although they are exceedingly unlikely to ever become any richer, they are, in fact, quite rich enough already. Recently I heard a story on NPR about a poor family that went around looking for discounted food items at various groceries and stopping at the food pantry—in their own private minivan! And so here is a poor family that owns what in many parts of the world would amount to a bus company! When they couldn't find enough discounted foods to buy, they still had enough to feed their children, while the adults skipped meals. This is healthy: hunger is symptomatic of a good appetite, and, given the excessive girth of most Americans, periodic fasting is a prudent choice. What's more, they sounded reasonably happy about their lot in life.

And so, a poor but happy and carefree future may yet await a great many of us, both idle rich and idle poor—one happy though rather impoverished family. But in order to achieve that we would have to change the culture. Let it be known that free lunch is a very good thing indeed, no mater who's eating it or why, and never mind that Lenin said that "He who does not work, does not eat." And while we are at it, let's also dispense with the hackneyed adage that "Work will set you free" (Arbeit Macht Frei) which the Nazis liked to set in wrought iron atop the gates of their concentration camps. Let us consign the communists and the fascists and the capitalists to the proverbial scrapheap of history! Let us instead gratuitously quote Jesus: "Behold the lilies of the field, how they grow. They labor not, neither spin. And yet for all that I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his royalty, was not arrayed like unto one of these... Therefore take no thought saying: What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or Wherewith shall we be clothed? ... Care not therefore for the day following. For the day following shall care for itself. Each day's trouble is sufficient for the same self day." Amen.


Tony said...

Thank you! Ah, a smile and a laugh is worth 10 million dour essays on how doomed we all are. I have no money, so why should I care about the stock market?

akarlin said...

"It is another curious fact that vast numbers of Americans, both rich and poor, would regard Limonov's behavior as nothing short of despicable... But tell them that somewhere some poor person is eating a free lunch, and they will instantly wax indignant."

I think it's the principle of hierarchy at work. Everyone has an interest in maintaining a set pecking order. It's obvious why for the top dogs - they're at the top. Not so obvious for the downtrodden, but here goes: if hierarchy is delegitimized, the system devolves into anarchy, and risks of destitution and death rise for everyone - not just for those at the top of the pole, but also (and even especially) those at the bottom of it. The under classes will not only be exploited even more arbitrarily and savagely than before by the new roving bandits, but they will also be the first to suffer from economic/welfare sector & agricultural collapse.

While reinforcement of hierarchy harms the poor at the individual level, I think the behavior does make sense when looking at them as a group and hierarchic society as a self-preserving organism.

forrest said...

Due to something you very truly observe: that we've been trained to demand wretchedness from anyone poor we enable to keep eating, breathing, etc.-- the amounts we actually disperse are as meager as the dis-services are generous. And so, for genuinely poor families (at least in my own county) it is not only the adults who go hungry at the end of the month. The pattern as it's been explained to me: For the first week a family will buy nutritious food and everyone will have enough. From that point on both the size and the quality of the portions decline for everyone, including the children, until a few days of token junk-scraps at the end of the month, somewhat mitigated by the fact that if one stands half a day in a very long line (apropos the Russian experience?) one gets a box containing a mix of nutritious expired food discards and expired junkfood discards, plus an invitation to attend whichever church is distributing this largess. It is no substitute for simply paying people adequate amounts for doing good things for one another, but that of course would be "unaffordable."

Bev said...

I look forward to your blog posts and this one really caught my attention. Somehow, somewhere, we're taught, or at least get the distinct impression that if we don't have the money or at least a plan for every financial situation we are likely to face until we die, it's quite unseemly to get a good night's sleep. I don't know how not to be middle class, but I sure like the idea that we'd all be better off poor. I really see it as the only solution to the crises of energy, environment and economics, but everybody I know sees it as a problem.

rewinn said...

It's funny, is it not, that we demand our poor be unhappy?

Albert Bates said...

Can you name one US Christian politician or Christian public figure who would agree with the economic statement that you just quoted from Jesus? "Christian," like "conservative," is a term that has been co-opted and turned on its head.

Sixbears said...

I must admit to laughing too loud. Living well is . . . living well.

Helps to surround yourself with poor happy people. Like a secret club, we get together and have a good time.

Home cooked food, homemade booze, and homemade music. Darn good times.

Nice to not have to worry about taxes going up. Won't earn enough taxable income for it to matter.

Must admit to eating a few meals on food stamps myself. When you know how to cook, eating well is a lot easier.

Always enjoy your posts.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post.

Poor is ok. Poor with a bit of land and you can eat better than a king.

Tony said...

@ Sublime Oblivion

I think it's more the principle of mind control at work. The rich and the poor alike have internalized the notion that wealth comes from hard work, rather than (nominal) wealth itself. It's a classical positive feedback affect, and earlier generations of Americans understood that somewhat better, which is why the estate tax (the republicans' hated "death tax") was so high. It was meant to stop the endless dangerous democracy-destroying loop of wealth breeding wealth breeding indolence and an increasingly stratified society.

But anyway, we've come to believe the delusion that if you're poor, you deserve it, and if you're rich, you deserve it; hence, the rich ought to be (deservedly) happy and the poor (deservedly) wretched. I think the poor continuing to believe this clearly does them no good at all, as it makes their lives demonstrably miserable, and also helps to perpetuate the system that tells them they ought to be poor and miserable in the first place.

I'm poor but not impoverished, but I'm fairly content with my personal life (if not the national political life that sweeps me along). I do, however, think I'm underpaid! Oh well :-)

Unknown said...

That was unbelievably wonderful. Thank you so much!

VK said...

Bravo Dmitry! More brilliant insight from you. Wonderful insight as always into the absurdities of modern life and living.

Round Belly said...

as i am reading this I am contemplating what to make now that our groceries ran out. We are mostly out of all things fresh, but behold.... all the ingredients for cookies are at hand. So instead of eating fruit or cereal today my kids will be eating cookies for breakfast, and they ain't never been happier. For dinner we will have dry beans (soaked and cooked, of course) and what ever greens and tomatoes are ready to pick in the garden.

archipelagian said...

If culture is an adaptive mechanism, then American culture is very weak and will likely not survive the era of resource scarcity. From BBQ to loud electrified music to the nuclear family, American culture is almost entirely dependent on abundance of cheap resources. The cracks are already starting to show, but Americans are amazingly resilient (stubborn may be more apropos) and barring a rapid collapse, it may be decades before American culture adjusts.

Unknown said...

This reminds me of one of my favorite movie lines from Richard Linklater's Slacker. "I may live badly, but at least I don't have to work to do it."

Patrick said...

I really appreciate your calling it rude to ask what someone does for a living. I realize it was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but the question resonates with me. I am 50 years old, and still dread that question from people. Because I have no pat answer. I paint pictures, I keep up with the house, I build things, I cook food, I lend help to my children & wife, I do volunteer work in the community. In other words, I make very little money! I grew up thinking a man's worth was based on how much money he makes - and I still can't quite shake it. So I have no quick and easy answer to the question, such as, "I'm a dentist." Sometimes I think, with a laugh, that I could say "I'm unemployed," to make it simple. But it's not true. I'm always employed with something.

Shadowfax said...

I think Dmitry could be a successful stand up comedian with his insight and humour.Great,great postings.

For the last year I have been lucky enough to not have to go to a job.
I spend my time finishing my 32foot sailboat.
I am constantly asked either- working yet?
2.what do you do for a living?
I laugh and I say I am working,see that boat?

greatblue said...

@Patrick Most people around here do "a little of this and a little of that," depending on the season. Maybe that answer will work for you. People tend to be satisfied after the second or third activity...

Dmitry Orlov said...

Anon by email:

Reading Ryszard Kapuściński's "The Shadow of the Sun, My African Life" opens a window on desperate poverty and the ingenuity it brings to survive. One story, of a woman with children, cooking a pot of food to sell out of which she was able to feed her children shows economics at its basic, and the absolute heartbreak when the cooking pot was stolen. The terror of living in such poverty can be assuaged somewhat by knowing it can be done but the living is mean and unrelenting and poverty has no holidays. Ryszard's travels are an exercise in love and love for Africa in all its diversity. Recommended read, just for the horizons it adds.

jpwhite said...

Thank you for that, Dmitry. I have recently had the misfortune to stay at two marinas in Seattle that are full of the creatures you describe in your post. The only point of disagreement I might have in your description of them is that their wives aren't flabby, in fact most of them seem to have been cosmetically enhanced to within an inch of their lives. It's interesting to try to watch them relax during what is supposed to be their free time, but they seem to me to be still hopped up on the adrenaline and aggression that gets them through their working lives.

I stayed for a month in a slip right next to what appeared to be a miniature battleship, but was in fact a large power yacht of perhaps 70 feet. It had been polished and waxed to perfection, and sat in a slip behind a sister vessel of similar ostentation. They never went anywhere, they just sat there being refurbished by a platoon of dock workers. They looked ridiculously unseaworthy, even more so than the cruise ships that regularly dock at Pier 91. A few times I saw what appeared to be a high roller pacing the top deck and barking into his cell phone. The owner, I presumed, and he apparently wanted everyone within earshot to be aware of that fact.

One fine day (and we seem to have had surfeit of them here, at least according to the locals. Climate change?) the cleaning crew showed up. This consisted of two young lovelies in abbreviated clothing swabbing the deck. I thought at first they might be the owner's daughters, but then it hit me that this was likely a "service" that catered to the powerboat set. Interestingly, the woman that runs the most successful boat cleaning service in Seattle says that 95% of her clients are power boat owners (Sailboat owners being DIYers, evidently).

I recall a young couple walking up the dock and pausing to gaze at these boats in awe. "That's money, right there," said the man. That's what impresses Americans, all right. I wonder if they'll be as impressed when the rising cost of diesel turns these craft into expensive paperweights. Yeah, probably. As long as they're still shiny and perfectly useless, which I suppose is the whole point.

Lance M. Foster said...

Well, as a poor guy (grossed under 9K last year to support two people on), and 50 years old now and have been looking for "a regular job" for 4 years with nothing to show for it (I have TWO degrees), and one who doesn't take "free" money, I'll tell you why.

When I was a kid (oldest of five) we had to go on food stamps for a while to help when my dad was hurt. It shamed my mom greatly when the store people gave her that attitude, and she was the workin'est Mom who would scrub floors or anything, but it wasn't enough for five kids to eat on. Then when I was homeless I signed up for stamps when I was in my twenties for a couple of weeks to eat in between jobs. The way they made you feel like a piece of crap, "why don't you get a job?", even though I was standing in line with 200 other people for one gas-pumping job.

THAT's why I don't go to food banks, or sign up for "help." Screw them, their attitude, and the scraps they sweep off the table for us dogs underneath. I make do with soup off bones after I eat the meat, supplement with wild greens (the currants are ripe now, and chokecherries soon). Hey Mr. Orlov, how do you know which mushrooms are safe anyways? I hear Russians are very good at finding the edible ones.

The rich people don't have use for us? Well I ain't got no use for rich people. I buy what -I- need or want to buy, when I have the cash money. I have no credit. RIght now I am saving up to go to the dentist to get some fillings. I don't subscribe to the insanity spiral our culture seems to be in. Mr. Orlov and Mr. Bageant know what they are talking about.

The famous clawhammer banjo player Stringbean once had this exchange with Grandpa Jones while fishing off a dock:

It's a great day for fishin' today, ain't it String?
It is, it is. It's a day for fish.
How're you fishin' today, String?
I'm fishin' off the bottom, Grandpa. That's where the big ones are.
They are huh?
Yeah, they ain't like people. Instead of workin' my way up to the top, they start at the bottom and like it there.

Stuart said...

You must be a good carpenter because you keep hitting the nail on the head par excellance.
I remember once whilst working in Britain renovating timber framed barns turning my car around one early morning and going home to my wife because it was a beautiful summers day and saying F**K it!
We then caught the morning train into London for the day and travelled along with the morning communte,what a sight.

There is nothing worse than seeing a grown man in his late fifties,early sixties dressed in an expensive suit running too his office because he was late.These men were probably CEO's of companies yet they were running to the office,RUNNING TO WORK?

We are not on this planet to pile up treasures,something i was taught as a child by my father.

" cannot take it all with you when you die" was the advice the advice my father gave to us all and he was right, no matter how many billions you have in the bank when you die you die!

Unless your going to be buried stood up in a chariot you cannot take it with you.

Unknown said...

I think a big part of unhappyness that poor people suffer is becouse they see how much wealthy other people are and see they get their wealth from the poor people.

Brain washing is part of the reason poor people suffer wanting to be rich and enslave themselves to get richer, not getting richer frustrates them.

Here in Mexico I see all you talk about in the article, to far from god and so close from the US is a common saying here. But there are many happy poor people, specially in rural areas and small towns. It is funny how many of us profesionals come to rural areas to tech them to live well, yes we can share a lot of usefull things, but we can and should learn even more.

I wonder if university could teach a profesional poor carreer.

Anonymous said...
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Kevin said...

Another brilliant post. I very much appreciate the way you anatomize American society and its foibles: without jaundice, but with unsparing accuracy.

Lance, I can relate. Food banks insult you twice: by handing you food which often turns out to be rotten (no one else expects to be thanked for handing you a rotten orange, do they?), and by treating you disdainfully while they do it. It's really an exercise in getting people to grovel while being kicked.

I too would like to hear more about Russia. I was sorry when the last post on that topic was not satisfactorily received. Anything that relieves the darkness of American ignorance is to be welcomed.

Kevin said...

I neglected to mention that I strongly agree with your observations about brainwashing, and also with Laucaku's. I very seldom watch any of the talking heads on TV, but whenever I catch a glimpse of them - when, say, passing through a sports bar - I feel a flash of anger, knowing that their job is to disinform and deceive people.

Over the past few decades it has been a most dispiriting experience to watch the United States go from being on the cusp of becoming a prosperous social democracy (circa 1974) to instead confirming its identity as a despotic plutocracy, all at the urging of these same insidious talking heads.

Crowsnestingale said...

Thank you, Dmitriy. We are going through a different phase of the cycle here in Russia, and our rich are given to exuberance. When people have money to burn, they... well, they burn it. From my place on the other bank of the Volga I can see and hear lots of fireworks, rockets and crackers. That is money, right? And our private fleet is being replaced with powerboats from Europe and the US. They guzzle enough gas in a year to buy a new dinghy. How long will they last? As my boat bobs in their wake, I think sometimes: ‘Alright, guys, see you at your wake’. I know that my little sailboat will outlive them.

Anonymous said...

Good article!

Sorry to hear about attitude and quality of food at some food pantries though. I've never had to get food at a food pantry, but sometimes we've delivered eggs to one of the local churches that helps with assembling bags and boxes of food, and all the food looked fine to me. And of course our eggs are fresher than the big corp. eggs, usually only a few days old vs. the weeks or months of most store-bought eggs. Sometimes there is fresh fruit or veggies in the boxes that go out as well. I guess we're luckier here than some places. Although, with times continuing to be tough, the pantries are having a harder time coming up with the resources to keep providing food... perhaps we may go that way yet...

Right now we don't have enough eggs to sell to the pantry as well as to all our regular customers, and for sure they can't really pay enough for the eggs, but we think it's better to sell them at a loss for a good cause, than to just let them go to waste. I guess some folks don't see it that way, since there's a lot of waste in our society.

Tony said...

kollapsnik, I thought this might interest you:

The Pavlovsk Experimental Station vs. Russia's Ministry of Economic Development

The Pavlovsk station is operated by the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry, a research center founded by botanist Nikolai Vavilov in 1926. (Before the current controversy, one key fact about the Institute was that several Russian scientists starved to death at its headquarters when Leningrad was under siege, because they refused to eat their collections.) The station in Pavlovsk includes thousands of samples of berries, apples, cherries and other fruits, most of which do not exist anywhere else, but unlike this James Bond-ish vault in the mountains of Norway, the Pavlovsk station is not a seed bank. Some uncooperative plants can't be replicated exactly from frozen seeds, so keeping them and their fruits alive, in the dirt where they are, is the only way to preserve their genetic information.

So the uproar was understandable when, last Christmas, Russia's Ministry of Economic Development transferred rights to the Pavlovsk station land to a state-run fund for residential development. This transfer was possible because the information-laden dirt Pavlovsk uses is public land—and anyway, in a land-use conflict between a scientific research institute and the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, there's probably no contest.

Maggie in Tally said...

I'm a relative late-comer to your blog. Playing catch-up on the posts at the moment. Definitely thought-provoking.

An old man once told me that our democracy would survive only until the people figured out they could vote themselves largesse from the Treasury. It seems we're well on the way. Why is it wrong to feel indignation at folks who do not NEED assistance but sign up for it anyway? When we reach that point where more 'free money' is being grabbed than is going into said Treasury, the crap is really going to hit the revolving blades. The longer we can forestall such, the better off we will be. So yes. I bitterly complain when I see folks who do not need it getting 'free' money. And I do my best to get in the middle of the process and stop them. For all of our sakes. Meanwhile, I am working at becoming self-sufficient so the 'thud' at the bottom is less. Comments? Isn't that best for us all? Aren't we supposed to care for each other's welfare?

Dmitry Orlov said...

Maggie -

Welcome to the blog. I dare say, you do have some catching up to do! There is no treasure in the US Treasury—just a pile of bad loans: the country is bankrupt. In due course, the choice for most people will come down to collecting whatever Permanent Emergency Benefits (PEBs) are still available, or starving slowly. A few lucky ones might be able to feed themselves (mostly) but this is starting to look like the exception.

I dare say your attitude, righteous though it seems, is not helpful. It is like complaining about children stealing apples while ignoring the bulldozers roaming around the apple orchard knocking trees over—because you can't do anything about them—bulldozers like the defense establishment, the medical establishment, fossil fuel and agricultural subsidy systems and other destroyers of nature and public wealth. It's a distraction, and it doesn't reflect well on you because this attitude is, in essence, miserly and self-defeating.

messianicdruid said...

Great insights!

My nephew once told me he wanted a job. I asked him why. He said he wanted to get a car. I said why don't you just get yourself a car. He said you have to have money, and I said well just get the money and skip the job. Then he asked how?

I explained that you must find someone with money that needed something and then try to get it for them. Work is not the same as a job.

The quote, "He who does not work, does not eat!" is a mattoids twist of the words of Paul. Work is honorable, allowing half your productivity to feed parasites is not.

If it is a sin to collect usury, it must be at least WRONG to pay it.

Unknown said...

I thought along the same lines, when I lived in the US. But then I got sick! It took me half a year to pay for the bottle of antibiotic pills which cured my sinus infection (which refused to heal itself.) Now I live in China, where I can afford care when I need it.

RRLittle said...

I'm one of those almost working poor. Okay, poorly phrased; I'm lower middle class. But my day job allows me interaction with the wealthy, and yes, some of the comments you hear about "the less fortunate" can raise eyebrows. For them, being poor is a contagion they wish to avoid contact with at all costs. For them, many of whom are trust fund children, the poor are poor because they simply haven't tried hard enough. They lack motivation, are lazy, perhaps not smart enough.
Of course, privilege never comes into their equations.
The ones among the wealthy who consider themselves Christian often find solace in the words of Jesus; "the poor will always be with you." There; Jesus said it, what can we do about it? And of course, the poor must always know their place. They must be humble, servile, downtrodden. Showing joy is certainly not allowed.

vasilache said...

just wondering,kollapsnik, is the system really going down?
I agree there is no treasure in the Treasury, but one can argue there never was one and nothing (important) collapsed; depressions came and went, poor remained poor and manipulated, the rich always find ways to stay in power and maintain their priviliges.
what's more important, the rich need the poor, otherwise the wealth would be irrelevant, a billionaire by himself on a deserted island would have no use for the money.
remember Voltaire:
"The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor.

whatbox? said...

Brilliant Senor Orlov! Fellow Or-love-ians, let us raise a CapsLOCK to D Orlov, whose tone is unmatched in modern anthrobioengineerclevercurrenthistomythic literature, especially as found expressed in le Blog.

I wish I had his tone, but feel my thoughts are in resonance. With his permission (please remove link and post comment DO)

There is a rare community, in it's seed stage, forming in India. India is under a hidden spotlight, geo-politically critical and nationally, collectively numbed by the media.

And to this blog, I tell people all the time to come by to rural India and see happy poor. Miserable poverty is a product of urbanization, because in urbania, every cubic foot of space is actually spoken for. You have to buy or rent your own. You only see miserable poverty in cities.

But poor is not a bad thing. I've been poor in America and it was fantastic. I still drove a BMW (900 USD, 1987 528e, Beauty, absolute blast to drive, but I was broke) and got to hang out with other people who had stepped off the treadmill. We all would look outside the window of the Open Secret Bookstore, reading Gurdjieff and singing Bhajans, sipping excellent Chai at $5 a cup and loving it. Last fiver would go for a chai. And at that speed in life, you start to "get" more. Life's natural pace is far slower than the industrial age will have us believe.

I joke that the only "driver" who can safely speak on a cell-phone while driving is a bullock-cart driver. ;-)

Play on DO, DO play on!

jpwhite said...

Slightly OT, but rumors and allegations are flying fast and furious about BP's having "fixed" their little mess in the GOM. This was ominous, and fits well with Dmitry's narrative about this being another Chernobyl:

Corexit Being Sprayed at Night

Unlike exploding methane bubbles and extraterrestrial intervention, this conspiracy seems to hold water; even the scientists are saying it's true. And the people on the Gulf Coast know it too, in spite of the propaganda blitz.

It's got to be significant that this happened in the most culturally conservative part of the nation, to the people who have been hitherto willing to support the American Empire with their lives and fortunes, no matter how obviously they were getting screwed in the process. Lose these people, BP and Mr. O, and it's game over. As Dmitry pointed out, loss of legitimacy was what killed the Soviet government, and it looks like it's about to happen here.

Another brilliant call by Kollapsnik. It's almost scary how prescient you can be.

Lance M. Foster said...

Voting! Good God Ya'all. What is it good for? Absolutely Nothin'! I'll say it again.

So what is our alternative, that's the question no one is asking.

1. vote for the Democrat, and get more of the same. and probably increasing political unrest

2. vote for the Republican, and get more of the same (and WORSE if you aren't in the highest income brackets). and more when their solutions don't work either and the poor are on the streets in greater numbers = police state

3. Don't vote at all and get what you get. probably a Republican because people vote conservative when they are scared.

4. Vote for a third party candidate, who won't get in, and you get what you get. ditto #3

shit, shit, shit. we are royally screwed two ways from Tuesday anyway you slice it

I just pass on the mantra to everyone I meet: garden and learn more about food preservation, learn as much self-health care as you can, re-build bonds with family, neighbors, friends, and learn practical skills you can trade with others: sewing, welding, repairs, etc.

I'm just glad I listened to my grandparents and other old people on what it was like to try and get by during the Depression
2 seconds ago · Like ·

Unknown said...

Gerald Celente shares your opinion, very interesting comments and scenes at the end of the video, 30 thousand people trying to get section 8 Housing in Atlanta scene is just amazing...

America Won the Cold War But Now Is Turning Into the USSR, Gerald Celente Says

-A rotten political system
-Crony capitalism
-Military-industrial complex
-Afghanistan - "graveyard of empires"

Full article at:

Kevin said...

I can't read their minds, and am not skilled in the arts of divination, but at a guess I would say that Deutsche Bank probably haven't squarely faced the realities of peak oil nor the energy requirements of electric vehicles, and are saying this to make themselves and their investors feel better, thus maintaining for as long as possible the illusion of Business As Usual: in short, that they are engaging in wishful thinking. But I am open to hearing alternative theories.

Kevin said...

Lance, you nailed it. At the national level especially, voting is just a matter of selecting from among the usual corporate-backed candidates to give the public imprimatur to whatever policies said corporations wish to impose on the public that they rule more or less absolutely. That many Americans still believe in the putative legitimacy this process is a great success of the American propaganda industry, which is probably the most sophisticated that has ever been.

At the local level there may be some hope of real democracy - albeit of a fiscally impoverished variety - especially as things continue to fall apart. State governments tend to be dogs wagging their tails in hopes of handouts from their federal masters.

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Unknown said...

Dmitry, I just love your quirky way of re-interpreting the conventional view!

You really need to expand on this "free money" idea as it pertains to higher education. Do you know that the country's most elite and most expensive colleges (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, etc) give students a free ride on tuition and other expenses if their family's income is under $60K a year? Since when is $60K a year considered poor? The once or twice I managed to bounce near that income level, many years ago, I felt I was loaded; we had enough to pay for the mortgage, a stay-at-home wife, 2 homeschooled kids and an extended international trip every year.

Naturally, the odds of getting into these elite colleges are high -- from one in 10 to one in 14 -- but, compared to odds for getting a good job, those odds look positively reasonable. The private elites are becoming the place to go for those who can no longer afford the state schools!

Anonymous said...

I give up. For every pessimist expert there is an optimist counter expert.

I watched the interview between Brown and Heinberg, and I haven't seen a direct refutation of Brown's viewpoint.
With so many views and counter views, knowing who to believe regarding the future of energy rapidly becomes immensely complex and technical.
I haven't got the time or technical skill to graph exponential renewable energy growth curves on top of projected fossil fuel energy output curves to see where they diverge or converge, and that's what I need to know who is right.
If anyone knows where that graph is, please point me to it because I and a few others would like to see.

Dmitry Orlov said...

hexsquared -

You have a couple of options.

One is to be patient. If you want to be optimistic about renewables picking up the slack from fossil fuels, then patience is as much a requirement as optimism. Gullibility, too.

Another option is to follow the money. There's definitely money in talking up renewables; not so much in telling the truth about renewables (à la Heinberg). Money is a great motivator for lying to people.

So you do have some choices.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't know why people like Heinberg and Brown should differ even though studying the same fields.
However, I probably wouldn't know how far off the mark official sources are when it comes to describing the energy situation if it wasn't for people like them and Mike Ruppert and yourself, so thanks.

Anonymous said...

Cue a wry smile?