A Soft Ratchet

Where the smartest Chickenheads roam

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Today while leaving the farmers market and headed to the bus stop a woman sitting on the bench stopped me

She said:

“Hello, I don’t mean to bother you, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, but I haven’t eaten in 2 days. Can you help me?”

I told yes, and though I had some random produce on me (I’d be pissed if I was two days in and all i got was some lettuce) I offered to go back in with her and by her some of the hot food they had. She replied that she had fallen asleep on a bench there and couldn’t go in the market. I then offered to go by myself and bring food back. At this point she stopped and then told me she was trying to get into the convention center so she needed the money. I told her I didn’t have cash so all I could do was buy food. She told me thank you, but she would keep asking.

So the point of this story was not about how shameful it is that people lie for money (which I feel was happening here); we all lie.  We lie when we say we are ‘enthusiastic people persons” in job interviews or that we would return that $.25 cent item on one of those stupid personality/ ethic test they give u to work at big box stores. This story has less to do with the individual I spoke with and more to do with American culture. After I thought about it I realized that I had caught her off guard. Not that I was caring, sat down, listened to her life story, and gave her the pretty woman version of a Cinderella happy ending.  Instead I stopped, like more than yes I heard you, stop talking here” stopped.

Poor folk are invisible, even when they speak to us. Most of us (including other poor folk) have two reactions to poor people’s voices: Ignore- so we don’t have to acknowledge their needs or Respond –typically in a way that is either verbally ignoring (“sorry, no change”) or gives us self-gratification, i.e. the masturbatory incentive of the “I was generous and helped some” feel good hormone. I think the lady was use to people not actually hearing her and/ or only being giving in the financial sense and that worked to her advantage.

We are all in a hurry to get to work, lunch, appointments, the bar, sleep, nowhere. We are solely concerned with our needs, even our need to feel like a humanitarian, or at least to make up for treating people like shit, so we give arbitrarily. Not of our time or ourselves, but of our pockets. Why do u think rich people love fundraiser dinners? That $150 a plate would have been spent on food and entertainment that night regardless of the cause its going too. This is why companies love to advertise “a portion of the proceeds will go to…” and we don’t bother to stop and ask how much “a portion”, instead we just feel good our cabinets are full of pink ribbon cancer causing products.

We do this same thing to people in their face. A person we assume is homeless opens their mouth in our direction and we throw a $5 without breaking stride… and sometimes it’s just a hipster looking for directions. We don’t actually care. We don’t teach our kids to care {look at service projects that are couched in the personal enjoyment of the student. We can’t get kids to actually work with the people being affected, but we can do clothing drives in the form of baby showers or can drives as dunk tanks }. We teach that the issues of the minorities are invisible, not real, and the only issues are your own. We created the ME generation.

I’m not sure how I got from a story about a woman asking for food to a rant about the selfishness of America and not focus on any of the other obvious topics; but on the 1st level, levels before the system is to blame this is the issue, the same as hearing a homophobic comment and NOT saying anything or shrugging racism off as a nonissue cause ur not racist. This is an issue our personal responsibility to each other, so what the hell are we doing?

Filed under poverty ME generation homelessness selfishness society

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