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The Poor Don't Keep Blogs (Mostly)

"You have thought so much about poverty--it is the thing you have feared all your life, the thing you knew would happen to you sooner or later; and it is all so utterly and prosaically different. You thought it would be terrible; it is merely squalid and boring."

That quote comes from George Orwell in Down and Out in Paris and London. Whenever someone brings up being poor, I inevitably think about it, because it contains that line about it being "merely squalid and boring." I thought about it today after reading John Scalzi's list of what it means to be poor, some of which I agreed with, and some of which I thought wasn't real poorness. But being poor is an experience for the individual and, no matter what, I'll tell you right now I've never considered myself poor. Being poor is relative to the world you live in, and I've always known people in worse situations, I've never starved and I've never slept in the streets. The dead kept me from that as a child, and it's simply not anywhere close to being a situation that could happen to me tomorrow, so you'll never hear me make that claim seriously.

But after I read the list, I wondered what my definition of being poor is and I realised, really, it's simple.

Being poor is living in a small world. You don't live in a country, you don't live in a State, and you don't live in a city. You live in a neighbourhood. It becomes your world. Hope and loss and every other human emotion plays out in it like anywhere else. So you grow up in it. You go to school in it. You make friends in it. You get jobs in it. You get married in it. You have children who restart the cycle in it. And, finally, you die in it. It is not just the poorness of the individual that surrounds you, but rather it is in the social fabric, it is a part of the culture. It holds you and the thousands in your neighbourhood simpy because you were born into it and you don't realise the difference between you and others and unless someone points out the choices in life you don't have. That might sound like I'm saying being poor is ignorant, but I'm not. Just a different view of the world. When you're poor you don't think of botox injections.

But mostly, being poor means you have nowhere to go and no-one to turn to when your world gets fucked up.

That's my definition, for what it's worth. Take it, leave it, whatever. The mileage is different for everyone.

Comments

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bodhichitta0
Sep. 3rd, 2005 01:19 pm (UTC)
My dad's job was the only thing between us and poverty when I was growing up. If he got laid off or had to go on strike, things got *really* bad. I've never been homeless, but I've definitely been without a safety net and I was lucky that that was at a time in my life when I was young and healthy.

I like your small world metaphor. The poorer you are, the smaller that world. Here in the U.S. it's making it to your next paycheck. In other parts of the world, it might be trying to make it to your next food or water.
benpeek
Sep. 3rd, 2005 01:35 pm (UTC)
that was a messy paragraph i had. man. i ought to pay more attention when i blog. anyhow, cleaned up.
rdsp
Sep. 3rd, 2005 02:26 pm (UTC)
Growing up in poverty I can say you're right on the money. We had no car until I was 16...believe me, when you have to walk or take cabs and public transportation (outside of a metropolis) it really limits things for you.
jackolantern
Sep. 4th, 2005 02:30 am (UTC)
Very well put. (Patty's linked to it from SA.) Orwell's book is wonderful.
benpeek
Sep. 4th, 2005 05:32 am (UTC)
hey jack. i haven't been to the SA forum for ages. probably should drop by, say hi.
badbh
Sep. 5th, 2005 02:04 pm (UTC)
Being Poor
Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away
Being poor is hoping your kids don't have a growth spurt

from: http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/003704.html
benpeek
Sep. 5th, 2005 10:06 pm (UTC)
Re: Being Poor
yeah, i saw that. it's linked. most of it i don't think of as true poorness, but being poor is relative to your understanding of it, so to each their own.
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