I am worried about our society and the attitudes we have toward each other. My worry is anecdotal, something I sense in my occasional dips into the passing Twitter stream. In the past month or so, I have read tweets about poverty and what seems to be an increase in discussion about the haves versus the have-nots. On their own, these articles might easily disappear in a tweet stream. Putting a few together in a little blog post might get at least one more person thinking about these topics and possibly coming up with better ways to fix these broken bits of our society.
Then this article came along: Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, Poverty Thoughts. The writer describes what poverty is to her. She does say these are not all her experiences, but a conglomeration of experiences. The subsequent backlash on Twitter is that “no poor person can write that well”, etc. I guess the idea is that poor people should stay quiet on their patch of cardboard? I did want to know if this was genuine. In my search, I found Erin Kissane and others discussing the reality of povery and sharing links like Being Poor, a 2005 blog post from John Scalzi, and The logic of stupid poor people. Today, when I decided to put these thoughts into a blog post, I discovered an article that calls out the “Poverty Thoughts” essay as false: That Viral “Poverty Thoughts” Essay Is Totally Ridiculous.
I don’t know what is true or what is false, but I do know that having this discussion is important. I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed” some years ago and found it quite shocking. When I got back from my overland trip to India and Nepal back in 1978, I looked at all the pictures and their captions in Jacob Holdt’s “American Pictures” and pretty much freaked out. I had seen poverty on my trip and now I was seeing some pretty awful examples in “my own backyard”. What in the world was the meaning of life? Why such disparity? I was able to have a roof over my head and three meals a day, but should I or could I do something about those who couldn’t. This moment really shook up my 20-year-old complacency for about a year or two, but I never did try to start any revolution. Something is wrong with this picture, I thought, but I had no idea how to save the world on my own.
Shortly after the Twitter discussions about poverty, I came across a different type of article that was at the societal level. Cyrus Farivar shared this article on Twitter or Facebook: S.F. tech companies’ civic image at stake as backlash grows, and I found this on my own: In This Silicon Valley Tech Culture and Class War, We’re Fighting About the Wrong Things. Then Cennydd Bowles shared a tweet that led me to this article: Silicon Valley Is Living Inside A Bubble Of Tone-Deaf Arrogance.
I was shocked at the arrogance and the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots. There was also something that reminded me vaguely of distopian, post-apocalytic science fiction movies. Suddenly, it seemed like scriptwriters weren’t making things up, but were looking at what was happening to society today. It was David and Goliath IRL.
There is no conclusion to this blog post. I want to raise awareness about these issues and thought they deserved more than 140 characters. I felt a need to share them in the hope that others out there talk and think about these issues. Maybe one of us will have a constructive idea and a way to carry it out.
One way to start this conversation is showing a lot more respect toward each other. Stop the labels! I’ll close with one more thought-provoking piece – a 2006 blog post from Ted Drake that Jennifer Sutton shared on Twitter. It’s about racial comments, but I think it applies to any of the labels we apply, consciously or subconsiously, throughout our day.
Come on, people. Let’s be nice out there.