Friday, May 09, 2008


One of the projects I was developing was a book about the complexities of being poor, how a great deal of these complexities are self-perpetuating, and how they are made worse by the people who make money from taking advantage of them. While researching what else has been done along these lines, I found this, "Being Poor", an essay by John Scalvi following hurricaine Katrina, in response to all those people who asked "Why didn't they just leave?....". Bookmark it and come back when you can read the comments as well as the original essay. It does what I was hoping to do and more, partially because of the additions from the readers. "Fate of A Technicolor Romantic" was about the identity issues surrounding growing up poor... how they never really go away, no matter how secure your life gets. You never really feel safe, even when you are. I have always wanted to do more class-based work. His essay brought back so many memories, some of them in the not-so-distant past, and was like a punch in the gut. I still can't get up from my chair.


Blogger Sheree Rensel said...

I just read the Scalvi essay and found myself going down the list and saying "Yep, Yep, Yep, etc." Being truly poor is a kind of "walk in my shoes" situation. All though my twenties, I didn't have a "pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of" I juggled happily until I had a baby. Then, it got freaky. I sat in auditorium size rooms waiting for my number to be called by social workers. Once sitting before them, they would say "You can't get help because you own a car." Huh? Yeah, I owned a rat trap with wheels. I needed that to get the baby around and look for jobs. I didn't matter to them. I remember dragging my daughter around by the hand picking up aluminum cans so we could buy dinner. There were no credit cards. There were no bank accounts. I am in a very different place now. However, I work with people who don't understand what it is like to be really poor. They too ask "Why didn't they leave" when Katrina hit. They have always had a middle class existence. They have always had salaries and benefits. They have always HAD.
It is true, once you have been very poor, it is hard to feel secure. To this day, I think someone is going to come and take away everything. However, there is a positive(?) side to being poor. I know I can live and deal with life in the face of catastrophy. It wouldn't be fun, but I know from experience I would be able to survive.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I cannot imagine going through these sorts of things with the added responsibility of having a child. Those are amazing stories...

I think that it is true that there is a confidence that comes from surviving those kinds of experiences... you know you can handle just about anything that comes your way. And you are forced to come up with creative solutions.

Material posessions, having them or not having them, is nothing compared to the feeling of having no safety net. It is impossible to describe that experience to someone who has always had a person they could call to borrow money if they really needed it.

On the up side, I feel quite proud about what I have achieved in my life, as compared to, say, someone who had parents who helped put them through school. Plus I have all of those experiences and emotions to make art about....

5:47 PM  

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