Posts Tagged poverty
Hunger Games: Prenatal Oxygen Hunger and Its Political Imprints – Greed, Oppression, Sycophancy, Class War, Revolution: 21st Century and Its Discontents, Part 17
Kaleidoscope of Postmodern Life, Part Seventeen: Fetal Malnutrition and Politics: Prenatal Roots of Greed, Sycophancy, Class War, and Revolution
Prenatal Roots of War
In a previous section I mentioned how our human tendency to warring has its roots in the uncomfortable crowdedness we experience in the late stages of gestation—a pain and trauma that stays with us for life and drives us to act it out in trying to push back lines and make more room (womb) for ourselves in many areas of our lives, including politically. I said our psychological state preceding wars, in line with deMause’s work in this area, is akin to feeling stifled and wanting to “breathe free.”
Hunger Games – War and Aggression
So of course our aggressions against others are connected to the long period of difficult immovability in the womb, but we can already see it is related to the reduction of oxygen at that time as well.
Looking into the feelings of latent oxygen panic rooted in fetal oxygen hunger, we see it has many more political implications, even, than war and aggressions toward others over space…over lines and perimeters and rooted in the feelings of being hemmed in—that constellation of “crowded” feelings I’ve previously teased out.
In the “gasping” or oxygen deprivation trauma of late stage gestation, we can’t get enough oxygen, we feel suffocated…suppressed, stifled, repressed, oppressed. It is out of these feelings carried over and restimulated again and again as adults that we create class wars, revolution, and culture wars. For we feel there to be an oppressive force inhibiting our self-expression, keeping us from “breathing freely.”
Hunger Games—Greed and Oppression
But more: On the other side of those panicky feelings of suffocation we are driven to gobbling up more resources than we need—greed. We experienced oxygen poverty in the womb, so poverty and reductions in finances feel stifling and suffocating. It is less desirable to not have money, of course. My point is that this prospect drives us to overreact and build our lives around major act outs of it, as so:
Suppression, Oppression, “Sucking” From
(1) Being politically oppressed, we feel we can’t move freely (the crowded feeling), but, interestingly, we feel we can’t “breathe freely.” We act this out on both sides of class war and revolution: One side always feels this lack because it has roots in the unconscious and cannot be satisfied and so over overcompensates and in doing so “sucks” up all possible resources (oxygen) from those lower on the totem pole…it “suppresses” the “masses”…it “sucks from” the masses.
Liberals hearts may “bleed” but not conservatives. For releasing blood is losing oxygen and conservatives have a prenatal “knowing” that you need every smidgen you can get to survive. You may even go so far as to try to “squeeze blood from a stone” (the aging placenta).
Sycophancy, Conformity, “Sucking Up”
(2) From another side of this discomfort we have a prenatal sycophancy showing itself. Conforming underlings, in a country’s economic array, act out their prenatal oxygen panic by investing all their energy in “sucking up” to those above them … seeking to insure a steady supply of resources (money, oxygen) by sucking from the rich stream (blood stream) of money “circulating” among those on rungs above them on the economic ladder.
Suffocation, Starvation, Being “Sucked” From
(3) And the other component in this political triangle—those poor and working class directly opposed to the greedy forces “sucking up” from the masses—feels this suppression as suffocation, starvation, and stifling unto death. So it wants to “overthrow” or “throw off” the forces weighing down upon and suppressing/suffocating them.
Basically, if you’re not “sucking” resources (oxygen) from below, you are either “sucking up” to those above you or being “sucked from” and wanting to “overthrow” them to “breathe more freely.”
Hunger Games—Freedom and Revolutionaries
Injustice, Inequity, Struggle – Throwing Off
This does not mean that revolutionary forces are act outs of early trauma and not real. It does not mean that oppression does not actually exist; it does not mean that struggles for economic justice are overcompensations. No. It is no more true that these are unreal than that struggles to save the environment are act outs. For we must remember that the prenatal forces drive us to actually manifest conditions that re-create our womb states. And just as we are driven to despoil our air and waters as act outs of our fetal malnutrition, so also our fetal oxygen panic causes us to create situations of dire inequity by pushing unnecessary greedy acts creating gross economic injustice. And these greedy forces are aided in their suppression by their sycophantic underlings, driven by their underlying panic of resource loss. Between the two, they are able to create human societies of economic inequality, suppression, and oppression which mirror the conditions of resource lack in the womb for the majority of folks throughout history and virtually everyone on the planet in these strange days.
Free Speech – Stifled, Inspire, Expire, Express…To Breathe Free
Interesting aspects of this oppression-revolution dynamic rooted in the fetal dynamic is the focus on free speech: The one side wants to suppress expression (expiration—release of air) of inspiration (to inspire—to take in air), thus directly slowing down the masses’ political equivalent of breathing, “stifling” its expression (its ability to “breathe out”). The revolutionary side of this wants the opposite: Folks want freedom of speech. They want to be able to speak freely (breathe freely), to be inspired (take in air or spirit), and to express this uninhibitedly (expire, let air out). These same dynamics apply to freedom of religion as well.
The oppressed masses feel they are deprived, can’t get enough of what they need (oxygen), want to “breathe freely,” and so need to assert self-expression, to expire (express) one’s inspiration freely as part of that “struggle.”
Hunger Games—Sycophancy and Conservatism
Reactionary and Conservative Thinking = Prenatal Conformity – Don’t Move Too Much, Don’t Stand Out, Maybe You’ll Get More (Oxygen)
But the basic dynamic is about resources: One side out of oxygen panic wants to suck up resources from everywhere around and wants to keep those resources from others. And the other side wants to take theirs back. And that third part is the conforming fetus hoping to get more resources from “above”…to “suck up”…by not moving too much, by staying compliant with outside forces, by not being too obvious or “standing out,” and if moving to do so only in ways remembered as safe…strictly prescribed, ritualistic ways.
For our prenatal memory tells us that doing so is the way of getting a little more in the way of resources (oxygen). We experienced that by not struggling, by not moving around too much…and further complicating and constricting the blood flow through the arteries to the placenta (the bank)…more oxygen (money) seemed to flow. Also, by not moving too much, by “conserving” our energy, “holding our breath” as it were, we might be able to survive…that being too “radical” and free risked death.
Hunger Games—Culture War
Oppressors Orchestrate a Panicked Population for Their Profits
One final aspect to this prenatal dynamic acted out politically is the culture war that comes of it: The greedy forces manipulate the latent panic of the masses in order to suck more resources by telling each segment of the masses that another sector of the population is actually the part that is sucking all their resources, stealing all their benefits and money (oxygen). So we have the creation of minorities and scapegoats out of this interplay. But the reason it happens unerringly in societies is because it works so well. And it works so well because the forces of manipulation are orchestrating powerful drives and forces within the masses—tendencies of people born of desperation and panic, which have roots in the earliest months of one’s individual existence.
Next: Hunger Games—Human Rights and Racism
More Mass Manipulation Around Bigotry and Anti-Semitism … Vampires and Blood Libel, Too
In the next section we look more deeply into this manipulation of the masses, this scapegoating of minorities. We see how racism, bigotry, and anti-Semitism are themselves constructed out of prenatal pushes and pulls. We find out why we look at others the way we do, so that our errant ideas can be further used against us by the greedy ones. And we stumble upon the underpinnings of some of the most curious of human concoctions of thought—as in the ideas of vampires and blood libel.
Continue with Hunger Games – Vampires and Culture Wars … Fetal Roots of Racism, Bigotry, Anti-Semitism … Blood Libel: 21st Century and Its Discontents, Part 18
Return to How We Look to the Gods and Prometheus Redux … Building More Nukes and Drilling More Holes – Icarus Keeps Flapping and the Gods Can’t Stop Laughing: 21st Century and Its Discontents, Part 16
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This is a brilliantly written article illuminating the events in London. .. really brilliantly….
London is our future,
the Middle East is our future,
Mars is our future.
Tuesday, 9 August 2011
Here comes the future, you can’t run from it – if you’ve got a blacklist, I wanna be on it…
Panic on the streets of London.
I’m huddled in the front room with some shell-shocked friends, watching my city burn. The BBC is interchanging footage of blazing cars and running street battles in Hackney, of police horses lining up in Lewisham, of roiling infernos that were once shops and houses in Croydon and in Peckham. Last night, Enfield, Walthamstow, Brixton and Wood Green were looted; there have been hundreds of arrests and dozens of serious injuries, and it will be a miracle if nobody dies tonight. This is the third consecutive night of rioting in London, and the disorder has now spread to Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham. Politicians and police officers who only hours ago were making stony-faced statements about criminality are now simply begging the young people of Britain’s inner cities to go home. Britain is a tinderbox, and on Friday, somebody lit a match. How the hell did this happen? And what are we going to do now?
In the scramble to comprehend the riots, every single commentator has opened with a ritual condemnation of the violence, as if it were in any doubt that arson, muggings and lootings are ugly occurrences. That much should be obvious to anyone who is watching Croydon burn down on the BBC right now. David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, called the disorder ‘mindless, mindless’. Nick Clegg denounced it as ‘needless, opportunistic theft and violence’. Speaking from his Tuscan holiday villa, Prime Minister David Cameron – who has finally decided to return home to take charge – declared simply that the social unrest searing through the poorest boroughs in the country was “utterly unacceptable.” The violence on the streets is being dismissed as ‘pure criminality,’ as the work of a ‘violent minority’, as ‘opportunism.’ This is madly insufficient. It is no way to talk about viral civil unrest. Angry young people with nothing to do and little to lose are turning on their own communities, and they cannot be stopped, and they know it. Tonight, in one of the greatest cities in the world, society is ripping itself apart.
Violence is rarely mindless. The politics of a burning building, a smashed-in shop or a young man shot by police may be obscured even to those who lit the rags or fired the gun, but the politics are there. Unquestionably there is far, far more to these riots than the death of Mark Duggan, whose shooting sparked off the unrest on Saturday, when two police cars were set alight after a five-hour vigil at Tottenham police station. A peaceful protest over the death of a man at police hands, in a community where locals have been given every reason to mistrust the forces of law and order, is one sort of political statement. Raiding shops for technology and trainers that cost ten times as much as the benefits you’re no longer entitled to is another. A co-ordinated, viral wave of civil unrest across the poorest boroughs of Britain, with young people coming from across the capital and the country to battle the police, is another.
Months of conjecture will follow these riots. Already, the internet is teeming with racist vitriol and wild speculation. The truth is that very few people know why this is happening. They don’t know, because they were not watching these communities. Nobody has been watching Tottenham since the television cameras drifted away after the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985. Most of the people who will be writing, speaking and pontificating about the disorder this weekend have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up in a community where there are no jobs, no space to live or move, and the police are on the streets stopping-and-searching you as you come home from school. The people who do will be waking up this week in the sure and certain knowledge that after decades of being ignored and marginalised and harassed by the police, after months of seeing any conceivable hope of a better future confiscated, they are finally on the news. In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:
“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”
“Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”
Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere ‘’’
There are communities all over the country that nobody paid attention to unless there had recently been a riot or a murdered child. Well, they’re paying attention now.
Tonight in London, social order and the rule of law have broken down entirely. The city has been brought to a standstill; it is not safe to go out onto the streets, and where I am in Holloway, the violence is coming closer. As I write, the looting and arson attacks have spread to at least fifty different areas across the UK, including dozens in London, and communities are now turning on each other, with the Guardian reporting on rival gangs forming battle lines. It has become clear to the disenfranchised young people of Britain, who feel that they have no stake in society and nothing to lose, that they can do what they like tonight, and the police are utterly unable to stop them. That is what riots are all about.
Riots are about power, and they are about catharsis. They are not about poor parenting, or youth services being cut, or any of the other snap explanations that media pundits have been trotting out: structural inequalities, as a friend of mine remarked today, are not solved by a few pool tables. People riot because it makes them feel powerful, even if only for a night. People riot because they have spent their whole lives being told that they are good for nothing, and they realise that together they can do anything – literally, anything at all. People to whom respect has never been shown riot because they feel they have little reason to show respect themselves, and it spreads like fire on a warm summer night. And now people have lost their homes, and the country is tearing itself apart.
Noone expected this. The so-called leaders who have taken three solid days to return from their foreign holidays to a country in flames did not anticipate this. The people running Britain had absolutely no clue how desperate things had become. They thought that after thirty years of soaring inequality, in the middle of a recession, they could take away the last little things that gave people hope, the benefits, the jobs, the possibility of higher education, the support structures, and nothing would happen. They were wrong. And now my city is burning, and it will continue to burn until we stop the blanket condemnations and blind conjecture and try to understand just what has brought viral civil unrest to Britain. Let me give you a hint: it ain’t Twitter.
I’m stuck in the house, now, with rioting going on just down the road in Chalk Farm. Ealing and Clapham and Dalston are being trashed. Journalists are being mugged and beaten in the streets, and the riot cops are in retreat where they have appeared at all. Police stations are being set alight all over the country. This morning, as the smoke begins to clear, those of us who can sleep will wake up to a country in chaos. We will wake up to fear, and to racism, and to condemnation on left and right, none of which will stop this happening again, as the prospect of a second stock market clash teeters terrifyingly at the bottom of the news reports. Now is the time when we make our choices. Now is the time when we decide whether to descend into hate, or to put prejudice aside and work together. Now is the time when we decide what sort of country it is that we want to live in. Follow the #riotcleanup hashtag on Twitter. And take care of one another.
It’s as bad as I feared…. and experienced. (the mo-fos)
Barbara Ehrenreich speaks out on the issue everyone is overlooking, except for those who have no voice. We are becoming a fascist nation. In the cities, people already live in fear of harassment for just being alive and not looking the right way, having enough money, having a place to go, or needing to sleep or go to the bathroom. It has become illegal to be human, unless you can pay some invisible toll.
Our brown shirts are blue shirts, but they are hardly different. This fascism will spread like poison to the strata above the poor.
In fact, all the outcry from the middle class is only an indication that it is rising, spreading. This is no exaggeration. I have been experiencing it myself and been among and talking to others who have for the last year and a half.
The middle class participates in this scapegoating. They choose it in all the ways they want their communities to hide the truth of poverty in America and so in so many ways beat down and out of sight those who remind them their precious comfort is threatened and their vaunted middle class reality is a precarious house built on the ruined lives of the broken.
But the middle class ignore the totalitarianism that exists on the side roads to their peril. London shows Americans what they are reaping at this moment, even as the middle class seeks to maintain its privileges at the expense of the poor, in the same way that the filthy rich build their castles on the ruins of middle class dreams and portfolios.
How America turned poverty into a crime
— Barbara Ehrenreich
The poor aren’t just struggling during the recession; they’re being actively hounded by urban officials
Media attention has focused, understandably enough, on the “nouveau poor” — formerly middle and even upper-middle class people who lost their jobs, their homes, and/or their investments in the financial crisis of 2008 and the economic downturn that followed it, but the brunt of the recession has been borne by the blue-collar working class, which had already been sliding downwards since de-industrialization began in the 1980s.
In 2008 and 2009, for example, blue-collar unemployment was increasing three times as fast as white-collar unemployment, and African American and Latino workers were three times as likely to be unemployed as white workers. Low-wage blue-collar workers, like the people I worked with in this book, were especially hard hit for the simple reason that they had so few assets and savings to fall back on as jobs disappeared.
How have the already-poor attempted to cope with their worsening economic situation? One obvious way is to cut back on health care. The New York Times reported in 2009 that one-third of Americans could no longer afford to comply with their prescriptions and that there had been a sizable drop in the use of medical care. Others, including members of my extended family, have given up their health insurance.
Food is another expenditure that has proved vulnerable to hard times, with the rural poor turning increasingly to “food auctions,” which offer items that may be past their sell-by dates. And for those who like their meat fresh, there’s the option of urban hunting. In Racine, Wisconsin, a 51-year-old laid-off mechanic told me he was supplementing his diet by “shooting squirrels and rabbits and eating them stewed, baked, and grilled.” In Detroit, where the wildlife population has mounted as the human population ebbs, a retired truck driver was doing a brisk business in raccoon carcasses, which he recommends marinating with vinegar and spices.
The most common coping strategy, though, is simply to increase the number of paying people per square foot of dwelling space — by doubling up or renting to couch-surfers.
In Los Angeles, housing expert Peter Dreier says that “people who’ve lost their jobs, or at least their second jobs, cope by doubling or tripling up in overcrowded apartments, or by paying 50 or 60 or even 70 percent of their incomes in rent.” According to a community organizer in Alexandria, Virginia, the standard apartment in a complex occupied largely by day laborers has two bedrooms, each containing an entire family of up to five people, plus an additional person laying claim to the couch.
No one could call suicide a “coping strategy,” but it is one way some people have responded to job loss and debt. There are no national statistics linking suicide to economic hard times, but the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reported more than a four-fold increase in call volume between 2007 and 2009, and regions with particularly high unemployment, like Elkhart, Indiana, have seen troubling spikes in their suicide rates. Foreclosure is often the trigger for suicide — or, worse, murder-suicides that destroy entire families.
“Torture and Abuse of Needy Families”
We do of course have a collective way of ameliorating the hardships of individuals and families — a government safety net that is meant to save the poor from spiraling down all the way to destitution. But its response to the economic emergency of the last few years has been spotty at best. The food stamp program has responded to the crisis fairly well, to the point where it now reaches about 37 million people, up about 30 percent from pre-recession levels. But welfare — the traditional last resort for the down-and-out until it was “reformed” in 1996 — only expanded by about 6 percent in the first two years of the recession.
The difference between the two programs? There is a right to food stamps. You go to the office and, if you meet the statutory definition of need, they help you. For welfare, the street-level bureaucrats can, pretty much at their own discretion, just say no.
When the Parentes finally got into “the system” and began receiving food stamps and some cash assistance, they discovered why some recipients have taken to calling TANF “Torture and Abuse of Needy Families.” From the start, the TANF experience was “humiliating,” Kristen says. The caseworkers “treat you like a bum. They act like every dollar you get is coming out of their own paychecks.”
The Parentes discovered that they were each expected to apply for 40 jobs a week, although their car was on its last legs and no money was offered for gas, tolls, or babysitting. In addition, Kristen had to drive 35 miles a day to attend “job readiness” classes offered by a private company called Arbor, which, she says, were “frankly a joke.”
Nationally, according to Kaaryn Gustafson of the University of Connecticut Law School, “applying for welfare is a lot like being booked by the police.” There may be a mug shot, fingerprinting, and lengthy interrogations as to one’s children’s true paternity. The ostensible goal is to prevent welfare fraud, but the psychological impact is to turn poverty itself into a kind of crime.
How the Safety Net Became a Dragnet
The most shocking thing I learned from my research on the fate of the working poor in the recession was the extent to which poverty has indeed been criminalized in America.
Perhaps the constant suspicions of drug use and theft that I encountered in low-wage workplaces should have alerted me to the fact that, when you leave the relative safety of the middle class, you might as well have given up your citizenship and taken residence in a hostile nation.
Most cities, for example, have ordinances designed to drive the destitute off the streets by outlawing such necessary activities of daily life as sitting, loitering, sleeping, or lying down. Urban officials boast that there is nothing discriminatory about such laws: “If you’re lying on a sidewalk, whether you’re homeless or a millionaire, you’re in violation of the ordinance,” a St. Petersburg, Florida, city attorney stated in June 2009, echoing Anatole France’s immortal observation that “the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges…”
In defiance of all reason and compassion, the criminalization of poverty has actually intensified as the weakened economy generates ever more poverty. So concludes a recent study from the National Law Center on Poverty and Homelessness, which finds that the number of ordinances against the publicly poor has been rising since 2006, along with the harassment of the poor for more “neutral” infractions like jaywalking, littering, or carrying an open container.
The report lists America’s ten “meanest” cities — the largest of which include Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Orlando — but new contestants are springing up every day. In Colorado, Grand Junction’s city council is considering a ban on begging; Tempe, Arizona, carried out a four-day crackdown on the indigent at the end of June. And how do you know when someone is indigent? As a Las Vegas statute puts it, “an indigent person is a person whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to apply for or receive” public assistance.
He had been enjoying the luxury of an indoor bed until December 2008, when the police swept through the shelter in the middle of the night looking for men with outstanding warrants. It turned out that Szekeley, who is an ordained minister and does not drink, do drugs, or cuss in front of ladies, did indeed have one — for “criminal trespassing,” as sleeping on the streets is sometimes defined by the law. So he was dragged out of the shelter and put in jail.
“Can you imagine?” asked Eric Sheptock, the homeless advocate (himself a shelter resident) who introduced me to Szekeley. “They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless?”
The viciousness of the official animus toward the indigent can be breathtaking. A few years ago, a group called Food Not Bombs started handing out free vegan food to hungry people in public parks around the nation. A number of cities, led by Las Vegas, passed ordinances forbidding the sharing of food with the indigent in public places, leading to the arrests of several middle-aged white vegans.
One anti-sharing law was just overturned in Orlando, but the war on illicit generosity continues. Orlando is appealing the decision, and Middletown, Connecticut, is in the midst of a crackdown. More recently, Gainesville, Florida, began enforcing a rule limiting the number of meals that soup kitchens may serve to 130 people in one day, and Phoenix, Arizona, has been using zoning laws to stop a local church from serving breakfast to homeless people.
For the not-yet-homeless, there are two main paths to criminalization, and one is debt. Anyone can fall into debt, and although we pride ourselves on the abolition of debtors’ prison, in at least one state, Texas, people who can’t pay fines for things like expired inspection stickers may be made to “sit out their tickets” in jail.
More commonly, the path to prison begins when one of your creditors has a court summons issued for you, which you fail to honor for one reason or another, such as that your address has changed and you never received it. Okay, now you’re in “contempt of the court.”
The second — and by far the most reliable — way to be criminalized by poverty is to have the wrong color skin. Indignation runs high when a celebrity professor succumbs to racial profiling, but whole communities are effectively “profiled” for the suspicious combination of being both dark-skinned and poor. Flick a cigarette and you’re “littering”; wear the wrong color T-shirt and you’re displaying gang allegiance. Just strolling around in a dodgy neighborhood can mark you as a potential suspect. And don’t get grumpy about it or you could be “resisting arrest.”
In what has become a familiar pattern, the government defunds services that might help the poor while ramping up law enforcement. Shut down public housing, then make it a crime to be homeless. Generate no public-sector jobs, then penalize people for falling into debt. The experience of the poor, and especially poor people of color, comes to resemble that of a rat in a cage scrambling to avoid erratically administered electric shocks. And if you should try to escape this nightmare reality into a brief, drug-induced high, it’s “gotcha” all over again, because that of course is illegal too.
One result is our staggering level of incarceration, the highest in the world. Today, exactly the same number of Americans — 2.3 million — reside in prison as in public housing. And what public housing remains has become ever more prison-like, with random police sweeps and, in a growing number of cities, proposed drug tests for residents. The safety net, or what remains of it, has been transformed into a dragnet.
It is not clear whether economic hard times will finally force us to break the mad cycle of poverty and punishment. With even the official level of poverty increasing — to over 14 percent in 2010 — some states are beginning to ease up on the criminalization of poverty, using alternative sentencing methods, shortening probation, and reducing the number of people locked up for technical violations like missing court appointments. But others, diabolically enough, are tightening the screws: not only increasing the number of “crimes,” but charging prisoners for their room and board, guaranteeing they’ll be released with potentially criminalizing levels of debt.
But at least we should decide, as a bare minimum principle, to stop kicking people when they’re down.
Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of a number of books including “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” and “Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.”