class rage speaks
Ruminations on the personal experience of being poor and my journey toward being fully myself in spite of classism's silencing and setbacks. Here's to feeling a little less alone.
They pay you less than a living wage to keep the cost of the product down. So the only products you can afford are the ones that contribute to the oppression of those just like you. And you keep buying things at their low low prices, letting them say “hey, we’re only selling it this cheap and paying our employees this little because it’s what the customer wants!”. Because when you’re getting paid minimum wage behind the grill and a McDonalds burger costs about a quarter of an hours work, and something decent costs you three hours work, and you’re working 80 hours to make rent so you don’t have time to cook proper meals anyway, you have to buy the cheap shit they mass produce using your blood, sweat and tears, and the cycle continues. When the disability benefit adds up to about 3 quarters of the average rent for a bedsit slum in your area, they wonder why you work yourself sicker or commit fraud. When the bar has heating and your bedsit doesn’t and a pint of beer is only £2, they wonder why you drink.
And then these liberals, these yuppy liberals come to me and say, “hey, Cydne, why do you shop in places guilty of using child labor? Why do you eat McDonalds? Why don’t you shop in local stores, why don’t you go vegan, why don’t you live like I live?” When they’re earning £25,000+ a year and I can’t even reach £5,000, and they’re wondering why I’m more likely to pay 99p for a KFC snack wrap than £5 for a meal at the local organic hippy cafe? Are you kidding me? And you’re wondering why I eat meat, when a pack of vegan sausages is £3 and a pack of cheap pork sausages are £1, and I’m having to work out what I can eat while autistic?
And that’s the real crime we commit, isn’t it? Living-while-poor, the greatest crime, to both liberals and conservatives alike. One side demonizes us for being lazy and stealing from the government and having high rates of crime, the other demonizes us for not being able to live as liberally as they do, because if we hate the system so much, why do we contribute to it so much? Because they don’t give us the choice not to. Because they push us into this corner where it’s between buy cheap shit from disgusting companies, or go without shoes and food.
And if you dare to chastise us for the choices we make to survive, you better work out how to get us into a situation where we don’t have to buy from these companies to survive, because no matter how much change you dropped in the donation bucket at Glastonbury this year, no matter how many wrist bands you wear, no matter how much shopping you do at charity stores for your thrift store chic look, I’m still poor.
Powerful and true.
I’ve had the good fortune to mostly know people (through Tumblr, especially) who are sensitive to how financial limitations can influence things like wanting to buy ethically made clothing, or eat vegan, or otherwise constrain one’s own choices in service of a particular ethical consideration. Knowing these people has broadened my understanding and led me away from stereotyping all vegans or all people concerned with ethical clothing as inherently classist or ignorant. However, I’ve spent enough time among wealthy liberal or even radical-identified people to have seen the opposite as well: people who care deeply about a particular social issue, which is fine in itself, but who out of simple ignorance or downright classism fail to consider how others’ choices are constrained by poverty and oppressive systems, as the OP describes.
I admire and support those who work to live in a way that is more humane and less oppressive, even when (as with some arguments in favor of vegetarianism) I don’t necessarily agree with their assessments of what is necessary. I especially admire those who can do so on a tight budget, knowing from my own experiences how difficult that can be, and in deciding for myself how I want to eat and what I want to buy, I often find the suggestions and information they provide useful. But I find it incredibly exhausting to be around or listen to people who have (legitimate) concerns about ending oppression on a large scale, but fail to incorporate an understanding of oppression as it works with regard to the people right in front of their faces.