Feeling unworthy can lead to a premature death – a death rooted in despair . . .
Back in January 2018, I wrote a piece called “Balance,” where I began collecting economic statistics for the US.
I’ve been updating it from time to time and my last update was on January 27, 2019. You see, if you start looking at actual numbers, instead of listening to politicians’ drivel, you will get a better sense for the economic struggle that many Americans face. You will also get an idea about how the 1%ers do everything they can to shape the laws to keep them in their elevated class and keep everyone else below them.
And part of the strategy has been to sell the American public on a number of myths. The biggest of those myths is that everyone has the control and power to realize their economic dreams, and if for some reason someone fails to achieve wealth, it’s because they are simply lazy.
The next most important myth being shoved down the collective throat of America is that if you’re not wealthy, then you’re not just lazy, you totally suck. You are unworthy. You, and anyone else like you, should be despised. Only the rich are worthy of admiration. Perhaps all poor folk are worthy of is a premature death.
I think Kurt Vonnegut said this quite well in his book Slaughterhouse Five:
“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: ‘if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register.
Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.” ― Kurt Vonnegut
A recent study has just added some numbers to this equation.
Yes, the stock market is booming, but that doesn’t reflect the wealth of the average wage-earner. Never has. In fact, a full twenty percent of prime-aged males are out of the workforce. Many are simply no longer counted in the unemployment roles due to the way those numbers are skewed.
Americans are not only experiencing the greatest income inequality in history, but also the greatest level of “well-being” inequality and more physical pain than any comparable country. These factors have resulted in an overall increase in mortality, and particularly premature and preventable mortality. And it would seem the group most affected are non-Hispanic, white males living in the heartland.
These premature mortality trends are concentrated in those individuals without a college education, and in areas where mining and manufacturing jobs have disappeared. And in contrast, there is a significantly quantifiable increased optimism and decreased death rate in economically diverse urban and coastal places.
The modus operandi of these so-called “deaths of despair” include suicide, prescription drug (opioids) overdoses, and alcoholic liver disease.
This also makes me wonder if this pool of white males over-laps with the pool of desperate, mid-aged, white, lower-class, single males, being the source of the recent rise in 30-something angry, white-male-orchestrated mass shootings.
The study further pointed out that:
“Our earlier work shows that the geographic patterns in lack of hope, worry, reported pain, reliance on disability insurance, and deaths of despair are remarkably consistent across these places. Monnat and Brown (2017) find that counties with higher levels of poverty, obesity, deaths due to drugs, alcohol, and suicide, more non-Hispanic whites, individuals on disability or other safety nets, and smokers were the same places where Trump “over-performed” in terms of predicted votes 2016.”
Seems sort of ironic, that the population dependent upon social welfare programs have been taught to hate those programs, and hate themselves and their own kind, and would vote for an alleged billionaire, who would certainly not represent their interests.
But so goes the power of myths.
I can only say that I have been extremely fortunate. I’ve had many opportunities and have experienced different aspects of this country’s economy. From living in my car and national forests, to having the dream house, at least temporarily, and now sliding into a different kind of home base. A more simplistic, yet more satisfying in many ways, lifestyle.
I’m happy to say I don’t hate those less fortunate. I don’t find them to be lazy. In my travels, I’ve discovered a rich diversity of those who are less economically blessed. Many because of circumstances far beyond their control, or because of restricted access to other opportunities.
I am happy to give the ladies and gentlemen standing on the street corner a little assistance and know that by doing so it actually goes into their pockets, instead of 80 to 90% of those dollars being skimmed away by a non-profit help organization to support their CEOS and provide perks for their upper echelon.
It’s getting cold here in the States. Winter is zooming in. Time to be thankful and help those in need when we can. We’re all in this together. Let’s shine a little light and help eliminate those dark depths of despair. Someone’s life may depend on it. 😊
Photo: I suppose I could have chosen any number of my pics for this post. I decided to go with something showing light – illuminating the darkness. We all have many dark recesses of our minds. Places that can drain the life right out of us. We are in constant conflict with those forces. Dark versus light. Let’s hope that enlightenment wins – for all of us.