The Bell Curve is a bitch.
Unless this one is true. In which case, I take back everything I just said. If the Big Dick Chronicles ever folds, I think my next blog will be called The Standard Deviants.
But that’s not why I’m here.
In America, where there are no strict barriers against upward mobility, most poor people are going to stay poor. You can offer them access to all the information they need to improve their lives and most of them won’t use it. What is worse, most won’t even try.
Some will escape their poverty and move on to better things, but not many. I wish it weren’t true, but it is.What is really frustrating is trying to understand why they will stay poor.
Some are going to endure legitimate hardships that they can’t overcome; they will be injured, or develop a life long illness, or be born with diminished capacities.
For example; I have a cousin whose mother drank like a fish when she was pregnant. He qualifies as functionally retarded, but he’s also just…retarded. He went to jail for stealing a newspaper vending machine. There is no mystery here. His future is quite clearly established.
Some will try and fail. They will work hard to develop a life and it simply won’t pan out.
But not most. Most will simply be content to stay where they are. In fact, they may even find it preferable. They will continue in the ways of their fathers and they will pass on their dysfunctional ways to their children.
Normally, I try to include some relevant data in my posts to back up my points, but not today. Today I’m speaking anecdotally about my upbringing. So its possible that we were the only dysfunctionally poor family in America and none of this applies to the rest of you.
But we weren’t. What I’m going to describe took place all around me. So perhaps it was just my small town.
But it wasn’t. I moved to the other side of the state and found the same things happening. So I’m just going to continue and you can judge for yourself whether you’ve encountered any of these problems.
What do I mean “poor but arrogant”? Don’t confuse it with the phrase, “poor but proud.” I am not talking about your hard working farmer or blue collar worker who works his ass off every day to eke out a living and is content with what he has. There are many amazing people out there who understand the value of a honest days work. They keep their homes and equipment in immaculate condition. They wouldn’t steal a penny to save their life.
I know those folks exist, but they aren’t why we’re here.
I’m talking about those who find no shame in being unable to meet their own basic needs. Who don’t feel guilty that they contribute nothing of value to society. Those who don’t realize that there actions almost guarantee a life of failure for their children. This was the world I was born into.
To help you understand what I’m describing, here are five mindsets that were typical of the “Poor but Arrogant” culture I grew up in.
1. “This is just my lot in life.”
The idea that their situation could change is completely foreign. Some people are just always going to be poor (that unspoken bell curve) and there is nothing you can do about that. Their only hope is to win the lottery.
They are exempt from any personal responsibility on the basis of bad luck.
2. “Someone owes me a living.”
Employers are the bad guy. They would rather live on unemployment than go work some minimum wage job making some asshole rich.
My aunt (the one that offered me drugs, more on that later) told me she was better off not working. She got more in welfare and food stamps than she would make at a job. If she got off her ass and worked 40 hours a week, she would lose money so fuuuuck that.
3. The man is just trying to keep me down.
When Johnny goes to jail, it isn’t because Johnny broke the law. It’s because those prick cops get a hard-on hassling people. When the bank repossesses his car for non-payment, it isn’t his fault. Those greedy bastards took advantage of him when he tried to borrow money that he couldn’t pay back for a car that he couldn’t afford.
Here is an example. My younger sister, who dropped out of high school, called me one day to ask me to co-sign on a car loan for her and her husband.
Her: “We can afford it, but they won’t give us the loan without a co-signer.”
Me: “That’s because you can’t afford it. They know you won’t make the payment. Let me ask you, how much money do you have in the bank right this minute?”
Her: “I don’t know, maybe three, four hundred dollars.”
Me: “Girl, you don’t have a car payment now and you still don’t have enough money to pay the taxes to license the car. Don’t tell me you can afford a car payment.”
Her: “Fine. Thanks a lot.”
Guess whose fault it was that she couldn’t get the car?
4. I’ll always be poor, so I might as well enjoy what I’ve got as best I can.
Go to the rent a center and pickup that 50″ big screen for $45/month. Spend all your money on video games, cell phones, mud tires for your pickup and booze. This is all you can hope for out of life, so take it where you can get it.
Here’s a quick quiz to determine if your poor.
Congratulations. If you recognize that name, you’re poor. And an idiot.
Full disclosure; I only included that because I was that idiot who bought a stereo out a magazine, on payments, because I didn’t qualify for a credit card. Hey, some lessons come later that others.
5. There is no such thing as preventive maintenance.
This was a concept that I didn’t even know existed until I was an adult. When you are poor, everything you own is disposable. You buy cheap with the understanding that it isn’t going to last long enough to bother maintaining.
The first eight vehicles I owned cost me an average of $500 each. Consider that; most of my automobiles cost less than the new set of tires they always needed.
For example! I drove a ’64 Ford pickup truck to college. It looked like this
The concept applied to where you lived, what you drove, your furniture, and worst of all, your health. You eat as much as you can as often as you can. You eat cheap because packaged food cost less (not in the long run, I know) than fresh food. You don’t go to the doctor. You don’t exercise. You drink or smoke what you can as often as you can.
Can you see how difficult it would be to make any progress in life if this is how you see the world?
I want to tell you about my upbringing and how I managed to escape this self-defeating world view. I have to be careful not to overstate my accomplishment, because in the end, I’m going to tell you that it was surprisingly simple. The main theme I want you to see is that the opportunity to improve beyond my situation was always present.