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The Poor can’t even be Poor

(How everything, including Poverty, gets Co-opted)

There are many ways to be poor, most of them not fun. Poverty most commonly and most clearly strikes in the realm of resources. When one is economically poor they are short of basic resources like healthy food, water, clothing and shelter.

When a person is biologically poor or anatomically impoverished they may have disabilities or severe pain or deformities.

When someone is socially poor, they will likely be isolative or isolated. They will suffer loneliness and fatigues with no support. They may confuse and trouble others, leading to greater sorrow and conflict for themselves.

Sometimes poverty even strikes the mind, and you can’t think straight, can’t hold a thought, can’t read or interpret the world like most others around you can.

About the only thing the poor can claim for their own is that they exist at the bottom rung, is that they suffer the most, is that when they rise they are doing one of the most heroic things because of where their starting point resides.

But it seems now that even these little things they have are being co-opted from them. Take Thrift Stores for example. Buildings packed with goods, discount priced so that even the downtrodden can live as colorful and equipped as possible. Go into one anymore and check for yourself who’s shopping there. Watch the mostly female wealthy shopaholics crowding each other out for the 80th bra and purse the moment it hits the bin. Watch the guys walking around scanning price-tags and barcodes on watches and used books, trying to find a way to snatch a bargain and sell it online to some wealthy Saudi on the other side of the world who can’t as easily grab certain brands. The fact is, that you’ll be hard pressed to find a single mom and her struggling children searching for the lower-priced treasures which had landed in these stores to target people like her and her family.

There are other ways poverty gets kidnapped. Take for example things like Dyslexia, or Attention Deficit Disorder, or Introversion. Or just plain take “nerd” status. Dyslexia used to be a real condition whereby certain students were behind their peers, not for lack of effort or intellectual gifting, but because something in their eyes or brains was flipping letters upside-down and backwards. How quickly did this legitimate condition become a problem-du-jour for successful parents who wanted their children to have an excuse for their low performances. The occurrences started to sky-rocket. Even more so was the phenomenon of ADD. Not that no one ever legitimately had this intense inability to focus on things, but now everyone has it. And most recently, now all of the Extroverts (the Socially Skillful Smooth Swimmers of the World) are latent Introverts. Think about this. The idea before of describing certain friends as introverted was to show that it’s not as easy for some as it is for others to sail the waters of group interaction. But now that the top swimmers are claiming to have had it all along, they’ve pulled the rug right out from under the truly socially stymied, by revealing that they, the more successful, not only enjoy the graces of partying it up, but they’ve really just overcome what the other poor suckers couldn’t.

So how is it that these things come to be co-opted? Or why would anyone want to co-opt them?

Behold Prom Queen Barbie now with her “books” and “nerdy glasses”.

Part of it is fashion. But what is fashion? Is it just pretty clothes? Not hardly. Skim through the years of G.Q. and Vogue magazines, and discover for yourselves rugged and lithe beautiful enough human beings wearing dead things, covered in sweat, covered in mud or gasoline. Sometimes wearing burlappish material, other times bunny soft. There almost appears to be no rhyme or reason. Jeans low-cut, tapered, rolled, straight, baggy, torn, ripped, shreaded, barely-there-anymore. The point is that “beautiful” people may drape themselves in animal feces and sell us on the notion that this is what is “cool”, and we’ll likely follow them down the runway. We seem to not even realize we’re buying it, fooled by the bodies, noses, ears and eyes of the well-crafted models, not recognizing it is their glimmer and not what they are adorning themselves with which beacons so richly.

But why should this lead to identity theft, especially of the poor? Because people want to win in all categories. If sympathies go up for the poor, the “wealthy” want a piece of that. If bargains and charity go out to the needy, the “gifted” don’t want to miss those “treats” either. In short, people want their cake and to eat it also. You used to have to choose. Choose between things like “high road” or “low road”, “well-traveled” or “rarely walked”. Now we want to stroll the thoroughfares to “get there quickly”, but we want the recognition and virtue of “seeming to have gone it alone” and on the byroad.

What’s the solution to all of this? It hurt for many to be a nerd. They had to watch you from the outside, enjoying your great cake of so many wonderful social frostings and decadence. Join them if you would, but not to pretend you were always one of them, that you felt and feel their pain, not to take their day when their star finally rises. But to say I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let you be a nerd, be an outcast.

And when you shop, consider spending the currency you have on things meant for you and your echelon. Don’t rob from the poor what little is left out for them. Be thrifty, there’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t step on the backs of the sufferer to “get all the gold”.


-Something more poetic, also about justice, weakness and strength.

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