Tag Archives: empathy towards the poor

Heart of Darkness: Not the Conrad Novel

Before I begin this latest blog rant, I want to reply to a question I received about my recommendations, which I write about at the end of each post.

I do provide links to news stories, products, movies, TV shows, etc that I recommend.  I do this so you can find them easily.  I have never, ever been paid to do this, nor do I receive any compensation for it. In fact, it hadn’t even entered my mind until someone emailed me to ask.

So, no, if you click on those links they won’t do anything but take you to a site related to whatever it is I am recommending. And if a link is broken, please feel free to tell me so I can delete it and/or put up a new one.

Right.  I think it’s obvious to my Facebook friends that I am in a fairly bad mood these days.  It’s because I am so tired of waiting for people to grow up or shut up.

Ever since Trump announced his candidacy, and continuing to this very day, a certain percentage of people have decided that all their little resentments that have built up through the years can now be fully expressed everywhere, and often.  Even if they didn’t vote for Trump and think that he’s an ignorant narcissist.

Some of the same prejudiced remarks Trumpites and Trump himself and incidentally most Republicans and some Democrats and definitely 3rd party people express are now leaking out amongst people who claim to be free of that kind of hate.

“People should lose their benefits because they voted Trump in”.   This assumes that most people who voted for Trump are poor.  As I pointed out in a previous blog post, the average salary of the average Trump supporter is $72,000.   These are not poor people, not by a long shot.

“The Republicans now will make poor people work instead of getting benefits.”  This is just plain stupid.  There has been a work requirement for people under 55 who are not out of work due to a disability for a long time.

Of course, I suppose they could be talking about single mothers with children, the oft-used target of mean and ignorant people everywhere.  I thought that way of thinking went out with the “welfare queen” crap that died out years ago.

People who I never would have thought would harbor such erroneous and hateful thinking have been surprising me at a fairly constant rate since I have gotten into checking Facebook again.  Some of them I just unfriended.  Others I just accused of being mean-spirited.

Finally, I just posted a status that called them all dickheads.

Look, how many of these people ever had to rely on social programs?  How many of them are white and male?  Why, especially now that we have an incompetent president-elect who has surrounded himself by barely-humans whose main delight in life is dismantling every entitlement program there is, are the attacks on the poor and people of color increasing?

Almost as bad are the “progressives” who feel the need to apologize to indigenous and other people while at the same time attempting to hijack the same peoples’ movements because they think they “know better”.

Or they think they need absolution for their guilt, which is a hell of a lot easier than looking inward at their own shit and being aware of how their privilege plays out in American society – which they do nothing about.

These are the same people who run “non-violent protest training” (can you see me rolling my eyes?), or who finance their “activism” so they can make claims, such as one white male environmentalist did, that they are the leadership of the battle over the pipeline at Standing Rock.  Oh, PLEASE.

Even on “Giving Tuesday”, when I posted a plea on Facebook for people to do just ONE kind act for someone who really needed it, I got 2 “likes” and a comment from a friend (who is also on disability) who told me to “not hold my breath” waiting for people to respond.

No one – not one person – related a kindness they had performed.  Uh, except for me, because I took my EBT card and bought *gasp* holiday candy to give out to others on the bus – because in this area, everyone who rides the bus is poor.  Wasn’t much but it was what I could do.

I state that not to brag, but to point out that NO ONE ELSE reported making any attempt to do something nice for someone else.

Thank you, you know who you are, for doing something nice for me.  Which I am still enjoying to this day.

Instead, there were the usual snarky remarks about poor people (but none about Black Lives Matter, because I unfriended everyone who would post “Blue Lives Matter, Too!” and other clueless remarks long ago), even wishes that we all would lose our benefits, and other equally repugnant thoughts.

There were – and still are – dire warnings about how this new administration is going to screw everyone over.  They’re right, the warnings are mostly accurate.  And I have no problem with people pouring out into the streets to protest Trump and his policies.  I think that’s a good thing.

But let’s not make a cottage industry about it, ok?  Why in hell does anyone need “training” for a demonstration (which probably at some point includes passing the hat)?  I was 14 when I was a marshall at a demonstration, which meant I (and many others) walked along the sides of the demonstration and told people to stop agitating.  IT’S EASY.  NO TRAINING REQUIRED.

I even saw a post from someone who insisted she needed training to make a banner!  What??? Get a sheet, get poster paint, write your slogan.  Again, something I did often as a teenager, no training required.

Does anyone doubt that people charge for trainings or t shirts or banners or whatever?  Or at the very least decide they need entertainment at a demonstration, of all places?  That’s rather self-centered and besides the point, don’t you think?

The exception in the past would probably be the first Earth Day, but that wasn’t promoted as a demonstration.

My point is this: try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, really do it.  Really think about what his/her life is like day-to-day, life that I continually try to illustrate for y’all so you can truly understand what it’s like to be poor and ill.

I am trying to grab you by the shirt collar and pull you up to force you to look, to see, to notice. Not so you can feel guilty and/or ask for forgiveness, but so you can DO SOMETHING.  It can be a small something, or a large something, I don’t care.  It just has to mean something to someone else, to make a dent in the horror of existence that is poverty/illness/bigotry.

You can empower others instead of trying to lead, especially if the struggle is not yours.  Even if you justify your attitude by saying something pithy like, “Clean water is everyone’s struggle”, you need to look inside yourself and ask yourself why you think indigenous people are incapable of leading their own struggle.  Hint: it’s a form of racism, sorry to break it to you.

Because if you cannot look inward, if you cannot examine your motives/attitudes, you are more of a hindrance than a help.  You are not only getting in your own way, in terms of personal growth, you’re getting in other peoples’ ways without even being aware of it.

My main work as a therapist was to promote awareness of self.  It’s really not even hard or painful, it’s just change.   It takes practice, every day.  But it becomes a part of you, like driving a car or other “automatic” behavior.

Then you can pass that skill on to others, by example or even by pushing a bit.  In that way, there eventually comes a cultural/political shift – you know, like the one that enabled President Obama to be elected twice.

But make no mistake, it wasn’t enough of a cultural/political shift so we could celebrate the demise of racism.  Oh no, the latest election should have taught you that, if you weren’t already aware that we don’t live in a “post-racial” world.

It was movement in the right direction.  Just treating people as if they are human, recognizing suffering and trying to relieve it when you can, and at the very least not causing further harm.

You know, acting like a caring, intelligent adult.  Easy.

Today’s weird news isn’t really weird, but I like Grumpy Cat, so…from the website SeattlePi, Grumpy Cat’s Top 10 Pet Peeves:

http://www.seattlepi.com/entertainment/article/Grumpy-Cat-counts-down-to-the-new-year-with-top-10632403.php

Today’s recommendation is for something you probably already watch: the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC.  I like her because she does her research, explains things in historical context, and often knows things no one else does (or at least she knows them first).

Be good.  Be kind.   “Life is real only then, when I am.” – Gurdjieff  (ask)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Let Them Eat Cake”, Replied the Food Bank Staff

No, I don’t know any food bank staff who said this.  And yes, I know Marie Antoinette never said that (here is a link explaining the possible origins of that phrase).

It’s just a title to get your attention.  But, yes, this post will be about hunger and public attitudes.

I felt a need to write another blog post because I was in tears coming home from my volunteer gig yesterday.

It sometimes feels as if my words – either in print or verbally – have no impact, no matter how often I repeat them, explain them, or try to appeal to peoples’ humanity.

Yesterday, the bigwigs at the hospital held a holiday dinner for the volunteers.  It was pretty good.  And, aside from the administrators standing by the buffet, all in a row, wishing everyone who got food a “Merry Christmas”, it was a nice thing to do.

The administrator “line-up” is something one sees a lot in situations like these.  And, as an employee/volunteer, you are expected to thank them humbly, each and every one of them. They, for their parts, stand there looking every bit of “noblesse oblige” with smug smiles on their faces.

But, hey, I can play that game so it just pinched my heart a tiny bit.

I took my food and went back to the gift shop, as much to avoid some other volunteers for whom I did not have patience that day as avoiding the atmosphere in the room.

When I got back, the manager was there with a friend of hers who works in some department in the hospital – clerical, not clinical.  The manager is nice, and I enjoy working with her.

Her friend had always been nice and friendly, so I didn’t have a problem with her…until yesterday.

The first thing out of her mouth was, “I thought you needed your cane to walk, but I was surprised to see you go get your food without it.”  She was smiling as she said it, though the smile did not reach her eyes.

I was caught off-guard by this.  I am not used to people making personal remarks like that.  And, as usual when I am surprised, I default to the truth.  Instead of just not answering, which clearly would have been the normal option.

I said to her, “I usually do use it, but when I know I have to carry something I don’t, because then I will have several people making a fuss and trying to carry things for me, and I am not comfortable with that.  But it will make it hard on my back the rest of the day.”

She smirked.  She actually smirked!

I decided to just eat my food and let it go.

But apparently she had a bee in her bonnet or something because she decided to continue to talk to me.

“How’s the food?” she asked.

“Better than at many places I’ve eaten, like at the senior center,” I replied, since she had wrinkled up her nose as if she wouldn’t deign to eat the dinner.

“Yeah, they really don’t serve very good food at places like that,” she continued.  Then she turned to the manager and said, “I hate to even drive by those places, because I see people with shopping carts full of free bread!   They shouldn’t take so much!  I can’t afford to buy that much bread!”

I remained quiet, and continued to eat, not even looking up.

She added, “And they’re on food stamps!  What do they need so much bread for?  They’re lucky to get any food from the food bank.”

I looked up.

“It’s hard because the food bank often doesn’t have good food,” I explained.  “For example, many people give large amounts of canned corn and unhealthy food like ramen, so maybe some people supplement by using bread,” I suggested.

I added, “When I have used the food bank, it’s mostly donations of baked goods, corn, high sodium canned goods, and a lot of unhealthy things I cannot eat.  With choices like that, sometimes the bread is the healthiest, most filling option.”

And here it came…

“People who are hungry have no right to decide what they should get from the food bank.  If they’re really hungry, they’ll eat it.  And, like I said, I can’t afford to buy 6 loaves of bread, why just last week I was at JC Penney and I had to spend $24 on a pair of slacks…”

I tuned her out.

I looked at this woman, who claimed she couldn’t afford 6 loaves of bread – she had on full makeup, her hair was salon perfect, she had very nice clothes and jewelry on, as well as very expensive shoes.

My first reaction was to want to reach in my wallet, pull out $6, hand it to her, and say…

“Here you go, now you can buy 6 loaves of out-of-date bread.”

But, of course, I didn’t.  Because this woman is not worth me losing my gig over.

I tried again.  I know I shouldn’t have, but I did.

“I don’t know many people who have food stamps and also use the food bank who take more than their share,” I stated.  “And for someone to be pushing a shopping cart through the streets of Altoona during winter suggests to me that they might have a mental health issue.”

She ignored me, continuing on….”Some old woman told me that she hates food bank food because it has bugs in it!  Can you imagine?  Here she was, getting free food, and…”

Her voice took on the “wah wah wah” of a Peanuts cartoon, when the adults talk.

The last thing I heard her say was, “And that’s why I never donate to charity.”

I tuned her out for good this time.