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

Posts tagged ‘stephen colbert’

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

 

God bless America!… Well, someone should… If not God, then whom?

Whew, that last blog was a mangled mess of verbiage: words tossed together and plopped haphazardly onto a blog like some sort of twisted verbal salad, or like the mishmash on your daddy’s supper plate. “It’s all goin’ in the same stomach,” he used to say as you watched in awe…

Eating that mess is one thing. But having to read it? Well, sorry. Might just go ahead and delete it till I have time to rewrite the darn thing.

I promise you, I wasn’t drunk when I wrote it, nor was I insane. I was, however, mad. Mad as heck…  But that’s a given. Just look at this blog’s title.  But ya’ know…

“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow, roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop, and everyone goes, “Awww!”    –Jack Kerouac (No one would write anything like that today and become successful, and that’s fodder for a future blog. He died in 1969, just as freedom as we knew it was on its slow, demoralized way out.)

Anyhow, the previous blog entry does need some serious editing, and perhaps one day I’ll get to it. But, as you’ve probably noticed, the time to edit just isn’t there.  (The time to do just about anything that we aren’t paid for isn’t there for most of us overworked and underpaid Americans these days, is it? Leisure time is virtually nonexistent for most of us these days. And frankly, I think that’s a part of the plan–no leisure time to think, to blog, to write, to ponder the mysteries of the universe or just to hone our typing skills. Certainly, there’s little time for political action, involvement or protest. Everything we do spend time on needs to bring us back some money, or else it just isn’t worth anything, as far as our falling society is concerned (and as far as our landlords, mortgage bankers, bosses, social service workers,  bill collectors, politicians and next-door neighbors are concerned.)

Perhaps what we need is a blessing. Which brings me to this latest blog entry. Is there a God? And would He, could He, please bless us, America? If there were a God, a Higher Power, a force of all that is good, a universal Creator, would he, could he (or she?!) bless the USA?

Uh, no. Apparently not.  And the answer, my friends, comes from a surprising source: Bobcat Goldthwait. A friend of mine once said that she never met a comedian who was not some sort of genius. Goldthwait seems to prove the point.  This oddball comedian  has come out of the closet, as it were, to reveal the  genius behind the weirdness. Who knew?

To wit:

“My name is Frank, but that’s not important. The important question is, ‘Who  are you?’ America has become a cruel and vicious place. We reward the shallowest, dumbest, the meanest and the loudest. We no longer have any common sense of decency, no sense of shame. There’s no right and wrong. The worst qualities in people are looked up to and celebrated. Lying and spreading fear are fine, as long as you make money doing it. We’ve become a nation of slogan-saying, vile-spewing hate mongers. We’ve lost our kindness. We’ve lost our soul.

What have we become? We take the weakest in our society and we hold them up to be ridiculed, laughed at for our sport and entertainment, laughed at to the point where they would literally rather kill themselves than live with us anymore…”

And with that said, Frank goes on a killing spree, slaughtering all the rude, discourteous, ugly Americans he can find.  Oh yeah. He’s a nice guy who does something that’s very much not nice, i.e., killing people who aren’t nice. So his dissatisfaction with the way things are corrupts him. He becomes, in a sense, meaner than the mean people he destroys. But perhaps he’s not really killing them for being mean. Perhaps it’s the stupidity, the dumbed-downedness that really irritates him. In that sense, he is triumphant. He succeeds in killing off some of the dumbest and most irritating people in our society–reality show stars, spoiled, rich brats, etc.

I admit, I didn’t enjoy the violence or the blood and gore but I think it was fitting nevertheless.

In fact, it is ingenious:  a movie about the decline of American culture that uses violence, blood and gore to make its statement, thus reeling in the ugly Americans who thrive on such titillation who will want to see this film but who probably won’t recognize themselves in it.

Actor Joel Murray nailed the role of the soft-spoken, polite, mild-mannered everyman, Frank, so well that I nearly cried when he beseeched his neighbor to please move his car. (The neighbor  repeatedly blocks Frank’s car.) Far from apologetic, the neighbor replies using what has become commonplace American “logic” these days:  “it’s your own fault if you’re a victim of my selfishness and greed.”

“You blocked yourself in, bro'” he says to Frank. Meanwhile, the neighbor’s wife is overheard in the background saying, “Tell him to park his car away from us.”

Frank is already late for work. He likes to park his car in front of his apartment. Finally, the neighbor reluctantly walks toward his car with the intention of moving it but he takes his time, looking over his car to see if there are any scratches on it before moving it out of Frank’s way. He’s also careful to reprimand Frank with, “Dude, you need to leave yourself more room.”  An American flag proudly displays in the man’s front window, just above the a/c and a bumper sticker remembering 911 is on the back of his car. He’s patriotic, proud of his country and the mean-spirited selfishness and greed that have become so much a part of it.

There is, however, some brilliant, thought-provoking dialogue here (Bobcat Goldthwait wrote this?), and that makes me think this movie could never possibly become a hit in the US, though it may develop a loyal cult following. As the film itself suggests, Americans don’t like intellectual discourse. They/We prefer cheap titillation. Instant gratification. Or whatever brings in a buck. Violence, explicit sex, blood and gore, yes. But thought-provoking dialogue? Where’s the remote? Next!

“It’s not nice to laugh at someone who’s not all there. It’s the same type of freak show distraction that comes along every time a mighty empire starts collapsing. I’m done, really. Everything is so cruel now. I just want it all to stop…”

“Nobody talks about anything anymore. They just regurgitate everything they see on TV or hear on the radio, or watch on the web. When was the last time you had a real conversation with someone without somebody texting or looking at a screen or monitor over your head? You know, a conversation about something that wasn’t celebrities, gossips, sports or pop politics? Somethin’ important or somethin’ personal?…”

“Oh I get it, and I am offended, not because I got a problem with bitter, predictable, whiny, millionaire disc jockeys complaining about celebrities or how tough their life is, while I live in an apartment with paper-thin walls next to a couple of Neanderthals who, instead of a baby, decided to give birth to some kind of nocturnal civil defense air raid siren that goes off every f—‘in night like it’s Pearl Harbor. I’m not offended that they act like it’s my responsibility to protect their rights to pick on the weak like pack animals or that we’re supposed to support their freedom of speech when they don’t give a f— about yours or mine.”

Frank is speaking to his coworker who completely misses the intriguing points just raised. Fancying himself as the intellectual know-it-all, the coworker responds to Frank: “So you’re against freedom of speech now? It’s in the Bill of Rights, man.”

Frank patiently takes a moment to restrain himself then begins with:

“I would defend their freedom of speech, if I thought it was in jeopardy. I would defend their freedom of speech to tell uninspired, bigoted, blow job, gay-bashing, racist and rape jokes all under the guise of being edgy, but that’s not the edge. That’s what sells. They couldn’t possibly pander any harder or be more commercially mainstream because this is the ‘Oh no, you didn’t say that!’ generation where a shocking comment has more wit than the truth.

No one has any shame anymore, and we’re supposed to celebrate it. I saw a woman throw a used tampon at another woman last night on network television—a network that bills itself as ‘today’s woman’s channel.’ Kids beat each other blind and post it on youtube. I mean, do you remember when eating rats and maggots on Survivor was shocking? It all seems so quaint now. I’m sure the girls from Two Girls, One cup are gonna have their own dating show on VH1 any day now. I mean, why have a civilization anymore if we are no longer interested in being civilized?”

Oh yes, indeed. Why have a civilization anymore when we are no longer interested (or perhaps capable of) being civilized?

Indeed. Indeed. I would say the only dispute I’d have with the film’s statement would surround the scene in which Frank loses his job. A receptionist of his employer accuses Frank of possible sexual harassment.  (He’d bought her flowers then sent them to her house. She hadn’t given him her address.) I appreciate the moral statement behind the scene. Yes, we as a society are too paranoid. Yes, we need to be more friendly, more loving and forgiving toward one another. Yes, we need to be free to connect with each other again and not be so afraid of others who are trying to connect with us.

Yes, yes, yes!

However…

Sexual harassment is a reality that many women experience. (I wish more men had empathy for women!) I can point to specific situations in my own life when certain men have made the workplace uncomfortable for those of us they found attractive but were unwilling to reciprocate. Basically, if you’re not interested in sleeping with them, some of those guys get vindictive. They’re bullies essentially, and they expect to get what they want. Or else. It’s one more glass ceiling women hit in the workplace. Sleep with that guy! Or at least respond favorably to his advances. Or else.

But as usual, I have my own take on everything I see. Yep, this is why I have no money. I think for myself. I express my own personal opinions. I think outside the box. And, sadly, I live in the USSA, er, the USSR, uh, I mean, the USA. And American society doesn’t like that sort of thing, especially when the thinking comes from us ladies.

No, no, no!

Are you with me, women? If you’re a woman and others think you’re “pretty” or (heavens to Betsy!) “sexy,” some men expect you to be available to them. If you don’t play the role of sex object (using your bod, ala Anna Nicole); if you insist on keeping those clothes on and developing your intellect and/or talent rather than keeping the focus on your, uh, endowments, then you’ll hit that glass ceiling so fast you won’t even know it hit you. (And ouch! That really hurts!) This is especially true if you try to get men to see you as a person and show no interest whatsoever in ever, EVER sleeping with or being fondled by them.

Point is, the receptionist at Frank’s place of work had reason to be a bit standoffish and concerned. Women do deal with stalkers, unfortunately, and violence against women is a reality and a part of our society’s problem.

But the ruthless reaction of Frank’s boss doesn’t make sense. No one talks anything over. There’s no diplomacy nor due process for Frank. He is accused of something and then he’s out–just like that. His coworkers seem happy that he’s being taken away. Dog-eat-doggedness and unhealthy competition is common in most offices these days. Americans have learned to compete with each other, to fight with each other, to fear each other, while at the same time displaying that flag and that ‘Remember 911’ bumper sticker as though the meanness we show each other is somehow negated by those superficial attempts at being a whole, cohesive society of people who truly love and support one another.

Well, I didn’t intend on writing a movie review, but here it is. Great film (except for the violence, though I understand why it is there. Americans won’t go to see it unless there’s plenty of violence.) Well-written. Great dialogue. Intriguing. Glad I got to see it. Maybe you will too?

And here’s hoping Goldthwait will continue to be successful in this country, in spite of his pesky habit of thinking. Perhaps he needs therapy? Ah, but don’t we all…

“god bless america” (lowercase?) was written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait and presented by Darko Entertainment in association with Jerkschool Productions.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/16/bobcat-goldthwait-god-bless-america-movie_n_1519387.html


Aside

Why occupy?

Here’s an UNEDITED comment I just posted on Facebook (of all places) in response to critics of the occupy movement. Again, I don’t have time to edit, so it is what it is….on my way to work again… (at my low-paying, stressful, dead-end job for which I am way overqualified, mind you…)  But I”m so lucky to have a job in this economy. Woo-hoo!

XXX contends that public camping is not a protected right by the US Constitution. S/he refers to a US Supreme court decision. The decision of the court reflects an interpretation only (and interpretations can be wrong) of the US Constitution and, I believe, it is misguided

Second, if you read the Constitution, it does state that the rights not specifically spelled out by the Constitution automatically revert back to the people. Since the Constitution does not specifically state that people cannot camp out in public places then it is up to us, the people, to decide whether or not we should have that right.

And we’ve decided.

Third, the colonists camped out on land that was owned by the Native Americans (Indians), so they couldn’t possibly advocate laws forbidding camping out in public spaces. (Otherwise, what they were doing in coming to this land and taking it over would have been illegal.  Wait a minute…it was illegal…)

Fourth, many Americans are losing their jobs and homes and are having no choice but to camp out somewhere as homeless shelters are overwhelmed with the increasing need (and are often dangerous and unpleasant places to stay anyhow.) Those of us who are suffering greatly in this economy need to confront those in power with our poverty. “Look at what you’ve done to us,” is what we are saying to them when we camp out in front of their luxury office buildings and add some discomfort to their luxurious lifestyles.

Living in their gated communities in affluent areas and traveling in their limos and private planes, it is easy for them to ignore us. (They’ve been ignoring us for decades. Read Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickeled and Dimed.” It was written over ten years ago!)

But when we’re camped out in front of their well-manicured faces, they can’t ignore us! That’s why the occupies are so important. We need to take back public spaces.

Ironically, we Americans have become a lot like the Indians or the illegal immigrants we claim so much disdain for in our own country and in direct result of this very system we have set up. We are now suffering, in part, due to our own unjust laws and policies. We need to take responsibility for our mistakes now and be the change we seek in the world.

Occupy is our big chance to do just that!

Fifth, the great thing about Occupy encampments is that they give us that chance to learn to live together, to share and cooperate with each other again. Camping out together, we have the opportunity to formulate a new system that truly is democratic. It’s not easy and there have been lots of problems and conflicts at the Occupy in my own city (as I’ve written about in previous blog entries), but those conflicts exist because we have all been influenced by this corporate-controlled society. We’ve been conditioned to think dog-eat-dog and fight with each other. The Occupy movement is our chance to work on ourselves and create a new way of living and looking at the world and each other.

My question to the anti-occupiers is this: why are you so against the encampments? Is it because it forces you to confront what you’d prefer to ignore, i.e., the suffering of others and the real truth about the US–that we are NOT democratic, NOT free, and most certainly NOT the land of opportunity?

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