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.