Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gettin' all political/depressing up in here.

I have not updated anything here for a long, long time. I have been very busy. Junior year's been hard so far. I am actually taking a short break from writing one of three papers due this week.

I wouldn't have taken a break, except I came across an article, and after pondering how to fit it into my essay I'm writing I decided to get righteously indignant here instead. This shouldn't take long.

Perhaps I am a bleeding-heart-liberal-hippie-social-work-major; when I read this headline I could not believe what I was seeing:

Wait, what?

“This country’s out of money and we better start thinking,” said co-chairman Erskine Bowles. Without “tough choices,” he said, “we’re on the most predictable path toward an economic crisis that I can imagine.”
Wait, what?!

Sure, go ahead, reduce debt. But cutting some programs designed to reduce poverty doesn't seem like the best idea. Surely there are other places to cut spending. Aren't we in an unnecessary war or two?

I usually would not touch politics on my blog. But I've spent the last 24 hours alternating between an essay about the problems that prompted social security and an essay comparing and contrasting the inequality in the United States and United Kingdom. So this is pretty close to my heart right now. I've been bombarded with statistics about how awful our country treats the needy. For example, the Gini index measures the inequality between the rich and the poor in a country. A Gini coefficient of 0 means that everyone's exactly the same and 100 means that one person has all the wealth in the country and everyone else has nothing. The United States' is 45, which is the highest out of industrialized nations. Out of OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) member nations, there are only two countries with higher inequality than us. Turkey and Mexico. Do we really want to have the same inequality as Turkey or Mexico? They have an excuse - they're still developing. They are dirt poor. We are America. We're the land of the free, home of the brave and the American Dream. (Incidentally, I could go on another rant about how the American Dream only serves to reinforce our broken stratification system, but I can tell that this subject is going to be long enough.) But according to some sources, if we continue the way we've been going we'll have the same level of inequality as Mexico by 2043. In three decades our inequality will match MEXICO. WHAT?

And I've been sinking into a deeper and deeper depression because there's nothing I can do about it. No one really seems to care. Most of my friends are either all "Every nation has inequality and you can't fix it" or "Things are worse off in third world countries, so we should put our efforts there."

Just because poverty is worse in, say, India does not mean we should ignore poverty in America. There are people in your city who have to choose between paying rent and paying the electricity bills. There are people in your city who skip meals so that their children can eat.

As I mentioned, I usually will not mention politics on my blog. I don't like when people disagree with me or pick fights with me or tell me I'm wrong.

I have some friends who are stuck in this Cold-War-leftovers fear of socialism. For Americans, socialism = communism = EVIL. And they will pick fights with me about it.

A Conversation
(This actually happened last Saturday. Attempting word-for-word)

Friend: So, Alison, you're into socialism?
Alison: I don't see anything inherently wrong with it.
Friend: Wait, really?
Alison: I'm not saying we should become a communism society. I just think that socialized healthcare and education wouldn't be bad.
Friend: My grandpa's Canadian and when he was 70 they refused him treatment because his life was up.

Then I felt awkward and after a weak attempt on my part to say that that wouldn’t happen here the conversation ended.

Switching to socialized systems like this wouldn't lead to communism. Look at England. They have free healthcare to those who want it, but they also have private healthcare and insurance and the like to those who can afford it. We won't refuse treatment to the elderly just because their "life is up." In fact (going back to the article at the beginning) cutting programs like social security and medicare preys on the elderly more than socialized medicine ever will.

My heart breaks for this sort of thing. I was discussing this with my lovely roommate Loren and almost burst out crying. I am sad because people are in poverty, but I'm more hurt by the apathy of our society. I was listening to a podcast where someone had to dress up in a disguise. She said that dressing up homeless is the best tactic - people will go out of their way not see homeless people. People don't care about poor people. Oh, maybe they'll give a tiny bit of money to some charity a couple times a year. That's great, but it is not enough. We need a mindset change. We assume that the severe inequality in our society has always existed in this form and always will and that there's nothing that can fix it. Not true. Our inequality wasn't always so bad. Sure, with every society there will be some kind of inequality. But ours keeps getting worse every year. And we can fix it. If you look around, there are opportunities for making lives better everywhere. But people don't care.

I want to change the world. I am attempting to devote my life to this. And it hurts when the greater portion of our population couldn't care less about it.

I know that I am not the only person in the world who wants to lessen American poverty, but based on conversations I've had lately it certainly feels like it.

(If you are a future social work major, I would advise you not to take an inequality class at the same time as a death class, as you'll turn into a thoroughly depressing person for a time.)

UPDATE: That deficit proposal's not gonna happen.


  1. Alison, I love your heart!

    It breaks my heart that the Church, the very Body of Christ commanded to be His hands and feet, is more interested in comfort and security and economic prosperity than care for the poor and broken. I HATE it.

    And I love that you're so passionate about this. That Jesus has lit your heart on fire for this. Keep chasing it. You're going to change the world - you already are.

    And, can I just say a HUGE thank you for being a passionate disciple of Jesus and NOT Republican? It's refreshing. Like I can breathe a huge sigh of relief, a huge one. :)

  2. Alison, I love it that you are bothered by the things that bother Jesus. Who knows what role he will have you play in bringing about justice, mercy and humility.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly.
    It's really been bothering me so much how the media skews things too. People are so ignorant (including me) sometimes. We're so wrapped up in our own little worlds that we can't be bothered with others.
    Which reminds me, do you want to volunteer at a soup kitchen or something when you're down here? I always want to during the holidays, but I never do.

  4. Alison, you go, Girl. Incidentally, one of the causes I am absorbed in is homelessness in Juneau, Alaska. They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree; I suspect that the tree started growing long ago. it would be nice if I knew who it was!
    Grandma B

  5. A lot of good points! I'm terribly uneducated in the logistics of healthcare and politics both, but alas, that's my own fault. However, I'm glad that as discouraging as the situation is and how hopeless it seems, we still can help. You know that starfish story? :)