Thoughts on poverty and homelessness in the U.S.A.

Posts tagged ‘corporate America’

The rich have the means to get mean and meaner… “the Rich are Getting Mean” revisited

I’d written in the past about a poor, struggling man I’d met in a city building. Both of us were there to resolve tickets we’d received by law enforcement, essentially, for being poor. What I mean is, it’s a crime in the US to be poor. Poor people seem to acquire all sorts of legal problems. In Southern California, for example, jaywalking is a serious crime. Mostly only poor people walk over there, of course. And if you can’t afford to pay the jaywalking ticket…well, you can end up in the slammer. Yep, people go to jail for crossing the street in California. I kid you not! A person’s entire life can be ruined by a single act of crossing a street when the walk signal (light flashes an image of a little androgynous human) stops flashing.

http://www.thestreetspirit.org/Dec2006/criminal.htm

But I told myself this blog would be extremely short. So here goes: My little experiment in writing more frequently but shortening the size of each entry…

This poor unfortunate man I’d met had serious health problems and was collecting disability. He was suffering quite a bit and struggling to pay his medical bills. “The rich are getting mean,” he lamented as we’d gotten into a discussion about the social injustice of our needing to constantly defend ourselves legally. (It’s as though we have to defend our very existence. Do the rich want us dead? Why do they hate us so much?) There’s always some ticket to pay, some ordinance or law to be violated, when you’re poor.  My car was ticketed and I had to go to court to defend myself for driving such an old, beat up used car. So I dropped my car off to a junkyard and proceeded to watch my life fall apart, as it was nearly impossible to find a decent job without a car. When I went to court, I had to show proof that I’d given up my car. I wanted to say, “I’m sorry I’d been driving such a stinky car and that it was polluting your fine California air. But I’d drive a much nicer and less stinky car if I could afford it. Really, I would.” But instead, I showed them the proof that I was carless and then began risking getting mugged by taking Southern California’s wonderful and exciting (nearly was assaulted several times!) “public” transportation system. Once I no longer had a car, I found that opportunities diminished for me in so many ways. People looked down on me because they saw me–horror of horrors!–walking in LA.  Basically, a lot of people didn’t want to be my friend. I couldn’t socialize with them anymore as I had no way of getting to the places where they went. (Unless, of course, a friend offered to give me a ride, but that would mean giving, helping, assisting another human being. But, of course, that would involve socialism and most of my friends were against socialism, so they wouldn’t dare help me in any way. I’m very grateful for that, though, because it gave me a chance to see what kind of people they really were. You don’t always get that chance when you have a lot of money and your life is going well.) And, as I said, job opportunities were very limited for me once I had no transportation. Most available jobs these days are not on the bus line and as public transportation increasing gets cut, that problem is increasing. (Hmm… so I wonder how it benefits society to force poor people to give up their cars when their cars don’t meet the strict environmental inspection standards set up by wealthy bureaucrats? But then I’m always wondering how it benefits society to allow the government and big banks to take away people’s homes just because people can’t afford to pay their bills. Yes, people should pay their bills but…do we really want to take away people’s homes and create a new population of homeless people?)

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/fr/bryan_stevenson_we_need_to_talk_about_an_injustice.html

(Okay, I’ve tried to embed the above video of Bryan Stevenson’s talk, but, for some strange reason, it won’t embed on this site. Every time I type in the code, it disappears once I save this blog. Yep, I type it in, hit “save” then open up the blog and everything I typed is gone.  This happened with my previous blog entry also. As you can see, though, the other videos embedded just fine.  Not sure what’s going on here.  A virus on my computer perhaps? A glitch on WordPress? Perhaps it’s the NSA virus? Anyhow, it’s odd. But I’ve got the URL typed up there, so if you’d like to view this wonderful video about poverty and crime, please click on that link.)

But this doesn’t affect the rich or even much of the middle class, so why do I even bring this up?  Yes, the rich are getting  mean, but so, oddly enough, are the middle class. They may not be the so-called “one percent” but they sure do think they’re better when they live in their gated communities far, far away from the riff raff, i.e., the poor.

And yet, perhaps ironically, the word “mean” as a noun refers to money, property or wealth. Yes, the rich have the means to be mean.

( Above video is from youtube.com/user/KafkaWinstonWorld )

So here it is–my first blog of the year!  And an attempt to make it a short blog entry.  Okay, I didn’t do as well on that as I’d hoped, but I’m getting there…  😉

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/149094/february-11-2008/philip-zimbardo

 

Having kids is so much fun: women are getting pregnant so they can collect welfare!

Letter I sent to radio host George Knapp of Coast to Coast AM:

Dear Mr. Knapp:

Last night a caller named Scott from Iowa called to complain that he believes that people (particularly immigrants) are working 40 hours per week then collecting a welfare check. He added that his neighbor is “partying” all the time and that whenever she gets close to getting a job she “turns around and gets pregnant.”

The ignorance behind that man’s statement really sickens me.  As someone who grew up with a lot of disadvantages and obstacles that I’ve fought (unsuccessfully) to overcome my entire life, I am saddened that so many Americans think like Scott.  Scott, do you know what it’s like to be poor and to have people judge you, look down on you, treat you like dirt?  Yet when you try to get a job you can’t find one or you just get low-paying, dead-end jobs that provide no benefits and you’re worse off than you were when you were on welfare because then, at least, you got your health care paid for?  Do you know what it’s like to work and work and work, and still not have enough money to pay your bills because your wages are just too small?  Scott, do you know what it’s like to not get hired or promoted because you’re female or black? Or because you’re over 30?  Or worse, over 40?  There’s a such thing as social injustice, unfairness, discrimination and inequality.  That is why, statistically, women and people of color make up most of the poor people in the world.  (No, Scott, it’s not because women and people of color are inferior to you.  There are very few people in this world who are inferior to you, Scott.)

Mr. Knapp, I truly appreciate your thoughtful response to Scott.  The amount of money people obtain from welfare (and other social programs) is indeed very small.  Also there are a lot of limitations and restrictions placed on people who collect public assistance.  These regulations prevent some people from bettering themselves & getting off welfare.  The regulations also prevent other people from getting proper assistance when they need it.  Ironically, the mean-spirited assumption that poor people are taking advantage of the system is what prevents services to the poor from being adequately funded, so that poor people don’t really get the assistance they need.  And THAT, my friend, is the true reason why people stay on welfare for years and years.  Want to get them off welfare?  Then provide people with real assistance that empowers them and elevates their spirits rather than this half-assed assistance that demeans and degrades them so that they no longer have a self-esteem or enough time and energy (after jumping through all the hoops they must jump through in order to get assistance) to obtain a decent job.

Everyone wants to feel that his/her unique talents and skills are valued by society.  It’s embarrassing to apply for assistance–makes you feel like a victim.  By contrast, it builds one’s self-esteem to feel that one can contribute & that one’s talents are appreciated. It’s humiliating when you find that no one wants you. You apply for jobs you’re perfectly qualified for but are told you’re just not right for their work environment.  And working at a job that doesn’t pay an adequate wage doesn’t help anything.  You just fall further and further behind on your bills. It’s impossible to catch up while working at jobs that don’t pay a living wage.  Yet because you’re working you don’t qualify for assistance and aren’t considered disadvantaged, so, again, you’re just stuck.  (And, of course, everyone attacks you for not paying your bills!)

I myself suffer from chronic back pain that is turning into a permanent disability as a result of years of working hard and not having the money to get my back pain treated properly.  If I end up on disability or being hospitalized that will cost this country a lot more money in the long run than it would have cost to have just provided me with the health care I needed in the first place.  Also forcing employers to provide decent work conditions and decent pay (so that we can improve the quality of our lives) helps prevent employees from developing chronic health problems.

Scott, you’ll be happy to know that it’s not easy to get assistance of any kind in the US (unless you’re a large corporation).  I personally don’t qualify for assistance even though I’m unemployed.  The jobs I’ve had have been part-time and with no benefits, so I can’t get unemployment.  I’m not an alcoholic, drug addict, mental patient, disabled, nor do I have a criminal record, so I don’t qualify for most types of assistance.  I inquired about a job-training program recently and was told I’d be disqualified if I mentioned my college degree, so I have to pretend I don’t have one in order to qualify.  (Presumably, I shouldn’t be unemployed with a college degree?)  I have a college degree and lots of skills but can’t find a decent job.  I can’t teach because I’m required to go back to college to get a license and can’t afford to do that.  The jobs I’ve been getting the past few years haven’t been paying the bills, and my debts are increasing.  As I mentioned, my family’s dysfunctional and poor, so I can’t get help from them.  So…homelessness, here I come!

Yet I am unable to talk to anyone about my dilemma because most people I meet think I shouldn’t have any trouble at all finding a job.  Like you, Scott, they just don’t believe me.  After all, I’m intelligent, highly skilled and educated, right?  However, I’m told I’m “overqualified” for the low-paying service and entry-level jobs I apply for and not experienced enough for jobs that require my education and skills.  (Most of this is due to age and gender discrimination, but there’s nothing I can do about that.)  Fact is, there are just too many people competing for the few jobs out there.  Employers are taking advantage of that and choosing to pay their employees tiny wages.

There is also tremendous discrimination.  Not just against women and people of color but against those of us not between the ages of 18-28 who are looking for work.  Many employers blatantly advertise they’re hiring “recent college grads.”

And laws are increasingly working against people.  For example, if you fall on hard times and can’t afford to pay your bills on time, bill collectors can charge hefty fees on the balance–making it impossible for you ever to pay those bills!  I was unemployed and owed the state $325 for overpayment of my unemployment benefits but couldn’t afford to pay it–as I was unemployed, remember?–so I didn’t have any money in the bank.  I mean, really, hello!  So the state charged over $1000 in fees on the balance and continues to charge interest on the amount I owe.  This has made it impossible for me to ever pay the balance. If I had trouble saving up $325, obviously, I can’t save up $1500.  It’s not that I don’t want to pay the bill.  I just can’t pay it.  When I apply for jobs and only get hired (after months of searching) for $8 per hour jobs, I can’t even afford to pay my rent much less get caught up on my bills.  My debts just keep increasing because the amount I’m bringing in is just too small.  Honestly, it’s not rocket science, Scott.  Do the frickin’ math!

I also owe money in student loans.  A law passed at the end of the 90s (SallieMae, a for-profit corporation, lobbied for it) penalizes students REGARDLESS OF THEIR INCOME for not paying off their loans.  Yet most financial aid students are required to take out loans as a part of their “financial aid” package.  It’s ridiculous because my BA doesn’t qualify me for anything, and I can’t go back to school to get an MA or a BA in something else because I don’t qualify for financial aid until I pay off my loans!  I owe almost 70k, so there’s no way I’ll pay off those loans–unless I get a job that pays 100k per year pretty soon.  So I’m stuck.

But it’s not just me.  There are thousands of us.  We’re intelligent, motivated, hardworking.  But we’re not being allowed to contribute to society.  Do you understand, Scott?  Our spirits, hearts and minds are being broken by this self-centered, selfish, mean-spirited greed that has taken over the country.

Meanwhile, it was announced on the news that the US is falling behind other countries because fewer Americans are now going to college.  Well, why not stop punishing those of us who do go to college by forcing us to take out mortgage-sized loans?  I personally, warn as many people as I can—not to go to college, unless your family’s rich and can afford to pay for it.

I was homeless just a few years ago.  It was a painful experience.  Anyone who says homeless people “choose” to be homeless is misinformed, to say the least.  Homeless people may turn down offers for “help,” but it’s not because they “choose” to be homeless.  It’s just that most offers of “help” have too many strings attached to them and do not address the needs of the homeless.  A woman who worked at a shelter for the mentally ill told me, “Some of them won’t stay in the shelter and refuse to take their medication.”  My response to that is, yes, they refuse to take their medication because the medication isn’t helping them.  But our society refuses to seek alternative treatments for the mentally ill, so we keep forcing medication on people even when it’s not helping then we wonder why some people are afraid to seek help.

I began making a documentary film about homelessness–while I was still homeless, believe it or not!  That is just an example of how proactive I am as a person.  It’s called “Rocky Mountain Homelessness.”  I’ve also written a book, “Diary of a Mad Bag Lady” about my experience and keep a blog at theMadBagLady.wordpress.com.  But rather than providing me with the catharsis I expected, making the film and writing about my experience has just made me angrier and more disillusioned.  I am appalled everyday by the Scotts I meet–the ignorance, the lack of empathy and compassion on the part of the average American.

We’re told the US government can’t afford to provide us with universal health care or free college tuition for low-income people yet billionaires get their tax breaks extended and corporations get tax cuts for outsourcing jobs to third world countries.  Yet Scott (and many others) thinks that welfare “cheats” are the problem.  The division between the rich and the poor in this country is rapidly increasing to a shocking degree, and we are moving toward becoming a third world country–but let’s just blame the poor for how bad things are… It’s really disgusting.

I’ve been struggling for several years now, and the only way I’ve been able to constructively deal with my pain has been to turn it into art (writing and filmmaking).  However, no one seems to be listening.  Americans are incredibly hostile toward the poor–even now while so many people are losing their jobs and homes.  Many people don’t realize that people like me who don’t get the assistance we need will just deteriorate.  We can’t pick ourselves up by our bootstraps because we don’t have the bootstraps to pick ourselves up with.  Do you understand, Scott?  Or am I speaking the language of rocket science.

My back condition has gotten a lot worse over the years and it worries me.  My mental health has also been affected by the things I’ve had to endure due to poverty.  And it’s amazing how many friends you lose when you lose your financial stability.  Americans really place a high value on money and material things, and many people just don’t want to know you at all if you don’t have any.  I’m finding I’m “unemployable” despite all my skills.  I can’t acquire new skills, as I have no money to go back to school, so I’m just stuck, trapped.  But there are thousands of people out there just like me.  And that should scare the heck out of most Americans.

Because, contrary to what current, corporate, media propaganda will claim, poverty is not caused by a character flaw–quite the opposite.  Poverty can create character flaws—or worse.  Poverty can lead to a ton of social problems, including crime, domestic violence, child abuse, drug & alcohol addiction, mental illness, etc.  That is why most intelligent, educated leaders of democratic societies attempt to eliminate poverty.  We’re going to see serious social problems increase because we refuse to address the needs of our poor.

Oh, and by the way, if you haven’t given up on reading this lengthy e-mail by now, the thousands of us who owe money for our student loans can’t collect social security when we retire.  That’s part of what Sallie Mae lobbied for in the 90s.  So I have no safety net–no social security, no unemployment, no welfare, nothing.  Thanks, America!  A few years from now, we’re going to see thousands of elderly people with no safety nets–no social security benefits!  What are we going to do about that?  Exterminate people when they grow too old to work?

Most other wealthy, industrialized nations provide better safety nets for their people than the US.  We have the greatest division between the rich and poor of any other wealthy, industrialized nation in the world. (Some statistics say Mexico and Russia are worse than us in that regard, so if you consider them wealthy, industrialized nations, then perhaps we rank third.)  Nearly 25% of African Americans live in poverty in the US–and that’s according to the US government’s statistics that are notoriously inaccurate. The US govt hasn’t properly updated its facts on poverty for about 40 years (one reason the minimum wage is so low.)  So the real percentage is probably closer to 50%.

Here’s another thing I’d like to say to Scott: women do not “get pregnant” on their own.  And here’s another news flash, Scott: giving birth to and raising a child is a lot of work–some would say it is more than a full-time job.  So suggesting your neighbor gets pregnant so that she doesn’t have to work doesn’t make sense—unless, of course, you devalue women’s work.  But that wouldn’t be true of you, would it, Scott?

Again, I apologize for the long e-mail, and I realize you may not read it as a result.  But all of this (and so much more) needs to be said.  No one is saying it!  The corporate media has Americans brainwashed into believing poverty is a choice and that it is somehow “fun.”

In fact, poverty leads to a lot of social problems and the reluctance of Americans to take care of their poor is the primary reason why this country is falling apart. Sadly, I’m falling along with it.  Unlike most of those suffering, however, I will not go quietly.
http://www.theMadBagLady.wordpress.com

Scott:  “I don’t want to stomp on a lot of people’s toes when I mention this, and it goes back on the nation’s deficit.  It’s, well, it’s the abuse of the welfare system.  We got immigrants that’s comin’ in (sic).  We give ‘em welfare, give ‘em housing—the whole nine yards.  They go in, they pull down a forty an hour…uh…a forty hour day checks (sic)…or a week checks (sic)…  And, uh, we’re still given ‘em the welfare money. I’ve got a neighbor here that, uh, she’s a career woman on welfare.  Soon as she, uh, gets close to havin’ to possibly go out and get a job she turns around and gets pregnant.  And I know this ain’t right, and I know it’s on a lot of people’s minds, but when you go to turn ‘em in for like, in her scenario, she’s always partying and getting’ drunk and so forth, seems like nothing’s getting’ done.   But I know it’s been ran (sic) across several people’s minds and, uh, I’m just wonderin’ if I was the only one that, uh, felt that way, that I think our government should go back and pull these records and start cleaning house…”

Et tu, flower child?

I thought that Wavy Gravy was just a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor, but then I saw this (and “Saint Misbehavin”’ is a perfect title, by the way):

(“Saint Misbehavin'” trailer)

and this:

(“Woodstock Nation” documentary)

and this:

(Wavy Gravy at Woodstock)

and this:

http://www.rippleeffectfilms.com/wwwavy  (“Saint Misbehavin'” documentary film official web site)

“What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000…  In fact, it’s everybody.  We’re all feeding each other.  We must be in heaven, man.  There is always a little bit of heaven in a disaster area…”

Wait a minute, wait a minute.  Wait.  Wait just one darned minute here.  I am NOT feeding anyone else here but myself.  Personal responsibility.  Self responsibility.  I take responsibility for me, myself and I.  That’s all.  You need to take responsibility for yourself.  I work hard for my money and I have just enough food for myself, thank you very much.  I am not giving any of it to you, Mr. Moocher.  Get your own food.  Get a job.  Go to work and make some money and buy your own food.  How is it my fault that you made the choice to come to this concert, to listen to music?  You could have stayed home.  You chose to commute out here just to listen to some music, and you don’t have the money to pay for your food, to pay the musicians, to pay the promoters, pay for your spot on my land?  So how is that my problem?  Do you know how much money we put into producing this concert?  How dare you come here on my land and dirty it up with your unbathed bodies, and then you want free food too?  Who the heck are you?  My fellow American?  Ha!  How do I even know that you’re even legally in this country?  Can you prove that you’re a U.S. citizen?  Show me some I.D.  Ha, again!  You’re all a bunch of moochers!

And while we’re on the subject.  I have plenty of money to see a doctor when I’m sick, so don’t come whining to me that you can’t afford to see  a doctor, that you don’t have health insurance, blah, blah, blah.  Stop being such a lazy, whining, moocher and take self-responsibility.  Get $30,000 out of your pocket and pay for those medical expenses yourself!  If you don’t have $30,000 then work for it.  Take on a second job.  Or a third job.  Or a fourth.  Heck, you don’t need to sleep at night!  Work!  Take responsibility, work, and pay those bills.

Ehem.  (She stops to clear her throat, taking responsibility for her own phlegm, of course.)

The Mad Bag Lady has spoken!

Point is, we no longer live in a society.  (A society being people working, living and cooperating together, i.e., as a group.)  We are now, hundreds of millions of us, a bunch of rugged individualists who happen to live upon the same continent but separately.  We don’t want to share.  We don’t want to care.  We are individuals accepting responsibility only for ourselves, not for each other, nor for what we do or say to each other but for ourselves as individuals only.  What I say and do to myself matters.  What I say and do to you does not.  Do you understand?  I am here to help myself not you, to get what I can for myself, not you.  Comprendez?

Oh yes, now I understand exactly what you’re telling me.  And there’s only one small problem with what you’re describing:  That is not a society.  What we have here in the U.S.A. is a former society.  Some might call us a failed society.  Rugged individualists who only care about themselves, not the greater good, not even their neighbors do not form a society.  They’re like men trying to be islands.  Can’t be done.  We’re all dependent on each other in some way or another.  When we try to do it all on our own…  Well, it might appear glamorous when we tell stories of ourselves riding off into the sunset–the loner, the rebellious lone ranger whom no one understands.  But in reality, outside of the story, doing it all alone just doesn’t work.  Yet we insist on remaining a society of loners.  Our selfishness and greed have made us lonely.

But, apparently, this was not always true, as the footage above suggests.  Apparently, there was a time, not so long ago, in which many people, perhaps the majority of Americans–believed that we were all in this together, a society of people working, living, playing, enjoying music–together.  Yes, we can exercise our individuality by experimenting with different musical, clothing and living styles, but we are all connected, united–though our individual states may vary.

–Rod Serling understood this, by the way:

In the”Time Enough At Last” episode, Henry Bemis finds that, as last man on earth, he no longer needs to make compromises in order to deal with other people.  He is now, seemingly,  free to do whatever he wants.  Yet he is unable to even read a mere book in this destroyed world.  Everything that he took for granted–the entire society that he had lived in–had been created by other people who’d come before him, his parents, grandparents, and a surrounding community.  Now, along with his fellow human beings, everything the human race had collectively created (and was about to create) was gone.  Could Bemis possibly rebuild an entire world–a world that took billions–no more than that!–of people to create over a period of centuries?  All by himself?  In one, single lifetime?  Now Mr. Bemis has all the time in the world to read his books.  To be the rugged individualist, at last!  And no other human being can stand in his way.  But when his glasses fall and break, he realizes, there is no other human being alive to repair them.  So his new-found freedom really isn’t freedom at all.  He is limited by his own personal resources.  Without a community of other people to help him, he can’t even read a book–though books surround him.  And, it goes without saying, it took an entire human race to write, publish and produce those books.  Just as it took a human race to create the technology for glasses, contact lenses and LASIK surgery.)

But it’s interesting to note that Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” series aired during the 60s.

So what happened to us?  Flower child, where did you go?  How did your ideals change from peace and love, seeking the greater good to seeking what’s greater for Numero Uno, the biggest, baddest iPhone, iPod, I…I…I?  What made us change from singing songs about “love is all you need” and “put a little love in your heart” to “Move, B—ch, get out the way…I’m about to punch your lights out…” (Ludacris), “F–k You” (Cee Lo Green) or “We R who we R… Tonight we’re going hard, just like the world is ours, we’re tearing it apart…” by Ke$sha (and she actually spells her name with the dollar symbol?  Can she make it more obvious why she’s in the music business?)

Watch this old interview with Jimi Hendrix and tell me, honestly, could we possibly hear a rock star TODAY speak with such down-to-earth, philosophical candor, humility and intellect?  Name one current celebrity who could say these words in a televised interview:

“We’re playing for our sound to go inside the soul of the person…and see if they can awaken some kind of thing in their minds…’cause there are so many sleeping people…  I don’t really live on compliments.  Matter of fact, it has a way of distracting me.  I know a whole lot of other musicians and artists that are out there today, they hear all these compliments…so they get fat and satisfied, and then they get lost and they forget about the actual talent that they have and they start living into another world…  Money is getting to be out of hand now…  Musicians, especially young cats, they get a chance to make all this money and…they lose themselves and forget about the music itself.  They forget about their talents. They forget about the other half of them.”

Whew.  Would someone like Jimi Hendrix even “make it” today?  And further, in this age of Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, would a mild-mannered, soft-spoken, thoughtful talk show host like Dick Cavett have any success today?  Perhaps if he changed his attitude and became aggressive, rude, loudmouthed and overbearing.  Yes, that would be more entertaining.  Why do we find that to be more entertaining?

Don’t get me wrong here.  I’m not on a “kids today are listening to the devil’s music” rant.  (I’m a bag lady, not an old lady, remember?)  And I like Katy Perry’s “Firework” which is currently number one on the USA Billboard charts.  I’m sure there are some nice, kind, soft-spoken, thoughtful, introspective, intellectual rock stars out there.  Somewhere.  Perhaps not in the US.  Perhaps not successful or famous.  Perhaps not anyone I’ve ever heard of.

But when we look at our culture, at the music, the films, the books, the everyday human interaction in today’s society how can we not see the death of idealism, the lack of community and the lack of love?  My question is, what happened?  It was little more than forty years ago, and now, suddenly, we’ve entered this era.  Not an era of “we” but of “me.”  We won’t gather at Woodstock, or anywhere else, unless we’ve got the money to pay for the tickets.  Partying, enjoying music, enjoying life in general is now a luxury reserved only for the wealthy.  (But then again, why gather anywhere with anyone when we can stay home and watch it all on TV?)

Yet many of us continue to lament the loss of the sixties.  We ask repeatedly, where did the hippies go?  Why did they betray us?  Did they all just “sell out,” deciding there was more money to be made in corporate America than in t-shirts, jeans, peace signs and good music?  Did those hippies who refused to let go of their ideals end up homeless and destitute, rejected by a society that no longer shares the same values?  Perhaps some of them have died off, following in the footsteps of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix who died “before they got old.”  Or perhaps they’re hiding behind suits and ties, heels and briefcases, afraid to rebel against authority, conforming in appearance, but wishing, secretly, that the 60s would make the reruns.

In a video above, Wavy Gravy refers to Woodstock as a disaster area.  Why?  Did he feel sorry for the crowd of young people who lacked food and other resources on their nomadic journey toward fun and good music?  Yet we look back upon that “disaster” and wish we could live it today (or relive it for those of us who’d experienced Woodstock the first time around.)  If that disaster looks so attractive to us today, then what does that say about us?  Could it be that the money and material things we’ve accumulated aren’t making us happy after all?  That hundreds of thousands of people gathering on an undeveloped plot of land without food, water or a chance to take a bath attracts us because we’re just that lonely?  That all we really need, rather than money and material things, is just to be around each other?  And to be without material things would just be “heaven” if we could all just be together, love each other and hear some great music?

If we know the above is true then why do we continue to work so hard just to accumulate more material luxuries?  Why have we stopped working at being better people and at getting along with our friends and neighbors and chosen instead to emphasize the need for material possessions in our lives?

The irony is that we could, collectively, bring back the 60s in a heartbeat.  Yes, anytime we’d like.  Right now, for instance.  But not as individuals.  As a society.  If a large number of us chose collectively to believe in, to support, once again, the ideals of community, of giving, of peace and love, kindness, of non-material things… If we chose to enrich our spirits rather than our bank accounts, to value the soft-spoken over the loudmouthed, the musician over the icon, the peace and love over the paycheck…If we made this choice to be the peace we seek in the world, and we did this all at once…all at the same time…

Would we hear the high-pitched scream of Wall Street, dying in agony for the last time?

Tag Cloud