The Lonely Poverty of America's White Working Class
Yeah, I complain a lot about being poor on here. It's not easy.
"The larger context of this isolation and alienation is America’s culture of individualism. It, too, can worsen the despair. Taken to an extreme, self-reliance becomes a cudgel: Those who falter and fail have only themselves to blame. They should have gotten more education. They should have been more prepared. On this score, too, the U.S. deviates from other wealthy nations. America’s frontier spirit of rugged individualism is strong, and it manifests itself differently by race and education level, too. White Americans, for instance, are more likely to see success as the result of individual effort than African Americans are (though not Hispanics). The less educated, particularly less-educated whites, also share this view to a disproportionate degree."
They are right about the isolation and alienation in the American culture of individualism. Get out your bootstraps! As they destroy the job market and options to survive, they have told us at the same time, "It's all your fault!". What a set up! I believe while other races suffer more hideous things, including racism itself, among whites being poor, it can mean more shame especially if we were born into a higher class and sunk down the ladder. The attitudes are different in some minority communities, more people admit the system is broken, they do not see the poor as at fault but the outcome of injustice in society.
"As organized labor in this country has withered, an extreme individualism has stepped in as the alternative—a go-it-alone perspective narrowly focused on getting an education and becoming successful on one’s own merit. This works well for some, but for others—especially the two-thirds of Americans over the age of 25 who don’t have a bachelor’s degree—it often means getting mired in an economy of contract work, low pay, and few, if any, benefits. These prospects suggest that this is an age of diminished expectations for the working class."
I am a huge union supporter. The extreme individualism has lent itself to extreme social Darwinism and all those libertarian types. Yes some unions went corrupt but the working man has been oppressed via the destruction of unions. The contract work is being foisted on the college educated now too.
This is one thing that hasn't hit the notice of the chattering classes. It's impacting the college crowd too. They are downgrading and outsourcing everything. Even the pay for transcription and some online work my husband does has gone down in the last few years. This is the outcome of globalization. There's only contract work, lowering pay and no benefits.
"Yet there is clearly more to the despair of the working class than empty wallets and purses. Patches of the social fabric that once supported them, in good times and bad, have frayed. When asked in national surveys about the people with whom they discussed “important matters” in the past six months, those with just a high-school education or less are likelier to say no one (this percentage has risen over the years for college graduates, too). This trend is troubling, given that social isolation is linked to depression and, in turn, suicide and substance abuse. "
Often the working class are forced to move often, trying to move up, trying to get decent jobs, or even just to survive. Moving all the time breaks social ties. Definitely. When you are poor in America, the culture here is one of shame and being hidden away. The poor are hidden away, always at the side of life. Some of us fake it and "pretend" but then you can't really talk about your life in depth with people. You nod and smile as they talk about vacations, shopping and other pursuits. The cultural precepts are that if you are poor, you HIDE IT. My real life does not share the outspokenness on this blog.
The poor especially in white American culture, are trained to hide their distress. Sure you can tell very close friends but even there you can be hurt and told if you end up with any false friends, that your emotions and faults have bought you the poverty to begin with. Poor people are told, "If you only you tried harder", If only you weren't so afraid", If only you made better choices". You are told over and over that you are a "bad" person in various ways. I've heard it all!
We saw this happening to other communities where no prospects for jobs and severe poverty destroyed inner city lives. I remember telling people years ago after my time in the ghetto, that when the USA economy continued it's descent, that family-break-up, gangs, depression, and drug-use would become prevalent everywhere else.
The common factor I saw in my social work travels, was economic hopelessness. It was part of my own life too. They were told to "try harder" too and were the canaries in the coal mine for the coming economic devastation that very few listened to. The elites have unleashed the dogs of oppression now on the white working class that was more reserved for other groups. Sadly some are lined up thinking a racist sociopathic billionaire will save them! Others don't realize that the politicians are all about lining their pockets, and that both parties support and advocate the globalism that has destroyed the USA economy.
This sort of isolation was common among the people I talked to. Many said their faith was helping them get through their ongoing troubles, yet they rarely or never went to church. Some felt ashamed to be around people because they were out of work. For others, their religious belief was somewhat a source of self-help, rather than a source of community. For example, one of the workers I interviewed said that being out of work for so long had filled him with a constant rage. To calm his mind, every night he would pick up his Bible and read a dozen verses. He had given up on the church and what he described as its superficial ways. “I want to go to hear the Word—I don’t want to go to see what you’re wearing,” says the man, 53 and from Flint, Michigan. The other way he copes is going outside for a smoke.
This article admits that isolation. I noticed in this article they said many had faith but no longer went to church. That is definitely is my experience. While there is some charity to be had in the church world mostly given to the "OTHER" instead of those within the church body, most of the evangelical world is invested in shaming and oppressing the poor, with their love of Republican politicians who have brainwashed them to believe poor people are failures, and "immoral".
The churches are geared towards the middle class and above and focused on getting tithes for the middle class and above pastors to maintain their lifestyles. I understand the rage of the guy turning to the Bible. Being poor can make you angry, and the longer it lasts the more frustrated you get. The feelings of low self esteem and being called a "loser" can mix into a toxic stew of rage, and despair. It puts even the most strong Christian to the test. One reason Walter White was so appealing to the masses is because there is a guy who literally got barrels of money but then if Walter White was real, he definitely would be burning in hell. I am glad God's Word has helped him in calming down. There is a lot in the Bible about how the wicked prosper in this world and how oppression of the poor is a given but give the poor hope to press on. If not for my Bible or God, I'd probably be across the street now getting drunk at the bar with my few last dollars or would have given up.
One form of social support that many in the working class are going without is marriage. I’m reminded of another worker I interviewed, a jobless 54-year-old white woman who used to work at a Ford plant. Her husband left her, she says, when the paychecks stopped coming. “Jesus Christ,” she told him once. “I didn’t think that our relationship was based on the amount of money that I brought in.” Unable to pay her mortgage, she lost her home and had to move in, as she puts it, with a “man friend.” She is depressed, unable to sleep at night, and constantly worried about falling into poverty. “I’m a loser,” she says.
Marriage is under extreme stress when you are poor. Many poor people cannot find mates. I have been told to divorce because my husband is so poor, and to get someone who can really support me and who has a stable income. Those messages hurt more then they helped.
Some people will leave people over poverty and seeing no future, hoping to find a mate that will give them a chance at a "better life" I have seen many divorces happen because women were unhappy with men who faced chronic unemployment and/or unemployment. Many men who cannot find secure work, never marry and now this can apply to women as well. I feel sad for this woman above, I have heard these stories over and over. I noticed the "family-first" evangelicals ignore this stuff, they never look at the broken jobs as a causation for the failing families but they are.
"But it’s important to note that there is an economic dimension to these trends, too—as the frequent separations and divorces I saw among the long-term unemployed made plain to me. Those struggling financially are less likely to follow the traditional path of first comes marriage, then comes a baby. And if they do choose to get married, there is little room for unemployment. As the Detroit man who lost his job told me, he and his wife split up “because she’s working, and … I don’t have any money coming in.” They had been fighting over finances even before he lost his job, he points out, but the arguments grew more heated afterward. In a lone-wolf economy, as sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas have argued, why take a chance on a partner down on his luck when you’re just barely surviving yourself?"
The constant stress over finances never let up even for the closest of married couples. Men especially face despair and divorce when unemployment comes knocking. This is something influencing society in a very detrimental way.
"For this man and many like him, there is no one to talk to, no one to rely on. “Nowadays, you got people you really can’t trust, man,” he says. “You can’t call everybody your friend.” As the ties that bind them to others have unraveled, the working class has become an ever lonelier crowd."
Many condemn the poor for having made "bad" life choices. There's many forces in society covering up what is really happening with the fake unemployment rates and articles about the economy improving. While our "two-party plutocracy" will talk about those who failed and didn't prepare, the fact of the matter is, they are profiting off the betrayal of the working class. They want the poor alone and silent.