Ah, retirement! Such balm. Such a respite! Finally, time to do the things you always meant to. A Grand Progress; months, hanging out in Italy. Feng shui the garden. Redo that green velvet wallpaper. Sort your files and photos from the 70’s. Visit the grandkids on the other side of the country. Write that book about wacky things gerbils do.
Because how are you going to afford it? Not on social security. On your home equity? That’s just eating your seed corn. On the hummingbird nest egg you managed to nurture and protect the last few years since the “crash”, or perhaps your lottery winnings? But let’s look at the shiny side. The Government, that endless pit of ill-spent tax money, surely will have something left over for you, no?
Well, yes & no. Maybe you are old enough for Medicare & SSI (which, don’t forget, you paid for). Maybe your community has a strong senior citizen presence, with programs and support. Classes in coupon wrangling & decoupage. Free soup. Geriatric exercise classes and a shuttle or two. But we all know those safety nets are frayed, porous, and surely won’t be there for the kids, sliced away by Congress and the razor claws of the bloody succubae they dance with.
Or No. Embrace the dreariness of scraping by, mining bar happy hours for chicken wings and companionship, counting nickels, tipping small… or even merely trying to find someone to talk to. Forget genteel poverty here in the US of A. That’s so two centuries ago.
Which brings me to the reality many of us face. We worked hard for years, paid too many taxes, maybe bought a house and did our civic duties, tried to be decent people, even outlived a lot of our friends, enemies and relatives, and now…what? You thought middle class problems were tough? Welcome to the world half of America already lives in: pretty damn poor or way poor. Yes. Half the country is “poor or low income”. You can look it up. Feature this quick intro …
“Recent census data shows that half the population qualifies as poor or low income, with one in five Millennials living in poverty. Academic contributors to The Routledge Handbook of Poverty in the United States postulate that new and extreme forms of poverty have emerged in the U.S. as a result of neoliberal structural adjustment policies and globalization, which have rendered economically marginalized communities as destitute “surplus populations” in need of control and punishment.” Around 44% of homeless people are employed.
Can half the population really be such inept, undeserving welfare sucking schlubs as to create, maintain or expand this imbalance? Probably not. Or is there something structural at work to insure this outcome? Come on! It is too thoroughly, invasively designed. Somebody wants it this way. They are not your friends.
How often do you run out of money before you run out of month? A little blip in some Wall Street algorithm or a severe medical problem and your station in life is evaporated toast. Move into the garage, sublet the house to help cover rent, property taxes or mortgage; shop at Salvation Army & the Expired Pull Date Market; sell the car; cancel cable. Your kids can’t help. If they don’t already live in your basement, they grew up into a flat-lined economy, still paying off student debt, or with two crappy jobs, trying to stay afloat. But they probably won’t want to live in that garage with you. Or have you living in theirs if they have one: its already sublet.
Well, Yes, this is America & of course there are solutions! Like Siddhartha in the third stage of life, get ahead of this, before the sheriff evicts you. Eschew the dominant paradigm. (aka: “Screw all this BS. I’m over it”). Finally embrace the lost shadows of your long gone youthful search for meaning, wisdom and a vocation. Renounce striving for material things and vain honors, the illusions of power. Go vagabond. Touch the nerve! Discover what life feels like without All That Stuff. Walk away from the mortgage. Have a final yard sale & cash out. ‘Borrow’ a shopping cart, buy a sleeping bag & tarp, toss in a few necessaries, & you are set. Don’t forget sunscreen! Keep a post office box and a cell phone, and you are free to roam* (*depending on your cell plan). Screw the 1/10th of 1 percent and their superyachts and planes and villas on a dozen coasts. You are a kosmic kamper. You are free!
There is a bonus, folks. You still have Options! Proudly parade that shining ornament of your newfound freedom! You still have style! How you present never stops being critical.
What color shopping cart waves your hair? Amerikan Red, White or Blue or perhaps go with Alternative? Would you prefer Wire or Plastic, Maam or Sir? Mini or SuperSize?
Red, for the daring flamboyance you are finally realizing? White for your purity of heart? Blue for the clench-jawed determination you feel, bravely taking your life to the streets in the last pair of decent shoes you may ever own?! Or Black? Well maybe not such a good idea. Kind of depressing, easily shows dirt, and it might make you more of a target for the Man… Green? Is so… Now, so Eco-Logical. But it’s also the color of Money you ain’t got. Purple? There’s an assertive statement sure to bolster your standing amidst your peers under the freeway overpass. Or perhaps a nice Grey, so you don’t stand out too much when people you once knew and hung out with drive by.
And then there are the amenities of life in the urban wild. No claustrophobic office walls. Open sky, or at least a little strip of it. Attuned to nature, like the ebb and flow of the seasons, the ebb and flow of rain and snow, the ebb and flow of traffic and pigeons and cops…
Downsides? Well, how about the meth crazies with their machetes roving around your squat at 3:00 am? Now that’s entertainment! But you’ll probably be fine if you just be sure to hone your negotiating skills to apply before they try to abscond with everything you own (after klonking you on the head a few times). It is the Jungle, after all.
Before this all happens, maybe it’s just time to take that dull gnawed-on feeling of being shut out of the common weal right to the doorstep (or at least the private gates) of THOSE TO WHOM WE HAVE ABDICATED THE POWER TO SCREW UP THIS COUNTRY AND WORLD! It’s time to spit in their pampered, well fed, self-satisfied faces and make them get real jobs. And remember, there are only 535 members of Congress. Exactly who are they working for? Though you must understand, we will never vote money away from the owners of Capital. So how to get there from here?
Well, believe it or not, the answer is lurking in our not-so-distant past. Unions. Yes, unions. And not the top heavy bought-off fat‘crats running the union shows now. Nah. Try this: who are the real problem? Do you really think it’s the (insert / different / ethnic / religious / preference group you are being told to hate / fear) down the street or across the world? They don’t have much of anything more or less than you, especially viewed in terms of the few who have SOOO MUCH! And those with SOOO MUCH are living off all or our labor and revenue! We are paying the rich to be rich! while the rest of us scuffle for crumbs! Now is that upside down and dumb as dirt, or what?
The post WWII boom was brought to you by unions. Simple as that. The power of labor, starting in the thirties, united and solidified people across color / religious & preference lines. Big strikes got the attention of the plutocrats. Scared ‘em silly. And guess what? They are scared again, because We the People are seeing through their lies and charades, at least enough to feel motivated, for the first time in a generation, to try and shake it up! (Thank You, Bruce Lesnick).
Get with it! WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE! You & you & you & I! There is no excuse. Get some genuine political education. Shut off mainstream news. It’s mostly lard and baloney, smeared over a thin slice of truth. Hard to stomach. Read Counterpunch.org with your friends and neighbors! Forget emailing petitions to your CongressCritter. Disrupt the march of Capital. Imperialism is a kick…. In the face. We can do better. Form a local coalition. Plan a General Strike. Don’t take NO for an answer. Push ‘til we hear Yes! or we’re lying face down in the street.
Every rational person knows at least part of what needs to be done. Be FOR something good for people! Cut off corporate welfare subsidies. Demand Single Payer Health Care. Tax the heck out of inherited wealth. Create millions of jobs by switching our infrastructure from bombs and death to sustainable energy. Choose Life! Starve the military, not education. Overturn Citizens United and make lobbying a major federal felony. Discorporate corporations that kill people and toxify the environment for profit. Oh, and what about those rumors of global climate change? Welcome to Purgatory, Home of Everybody! Again, don’t forget that sunscreen! Time is short. Demand POLITICAL REPURPOSING NOW with your body in the street.
After all, you are heading there anyway!