Friday, October 14, 2011

The 53% and The 99%

Part of the phenomena that is the growing occupy movement are a couple of websites where people post descriptions of their circumstances. If you haven't seen them, the first is The 99%. These are you and I, but mostly American saddled with debt, unable to afford insurance, many with chronic health problems. Their stories articulate their circumstances.

A few years back, during the reign of Bush II, I argued on rightwing US message boards. I remember blinking at the screen at one individual who described how he worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for a low wage and he was proud to do it indefinitely because it meant that he was a "hard working American." Talk about internalising your oppression. I thought he must have been an anomaly until I ran into the The 53%. These are more "hardworking Americans" who maybe don't realise that they're actually part of The 99%. These are more people who are proud to work well over 40 hours a week doing and have been lucky enough not to get sick or debt addled but see this as result of their own resolve and agency. There are many younger people, many are claiming military service, which can engender a work ethic that'll have people work without sleep for days without complaint. There are others who embody the same ethic and still believe the myth that all it takes is a little hard work. Nevermind of course that the amount of hard work it takes for a given return has been steadily increasing, the middle class is disappearing, the jobs are vanishing, and one day they themselves will understand what it means to be part of The 99%.

The narrative is common. They got themselves where they are all by their lonesomes. No one is denying them they've worked pretty hard, but to give oneself all the credit for ones circumstances is a bit rich, not to mention arrogant. I've seen this before. I worked in social services at residential facility for a short time. The powers that be prided themselves on hiring people who had come successfully through their addictions or residence programs for positions with responsibility for clients. I suppose the logic was that they'd understand the problems of clients better than others and all that stuff. Fair enough. But in situations that ended up uglier than I care to think about, recovered addicts and such would lord their success over the other clients. They would mock and abuse them, and tell anyone who was listening that their former peers were too lazy or stupid to overcome their circumstances like they did. Sounds familiar, eh?

Another thing. These 53% are sometimes among the most vulnerable of The 99. Why? When things fail, people with heavily individualised senses of identity, often male, fall much harder. Cut-off insurance, get injured, sick, laid-off, one bad decision, their worlds often fall apart and they cannot cope. Their partners end up in abuse shelters, they find themselves with addictions problems. Suicide and depression occur. You might have seen this.

It's the rest of the 99% who clean up the mess when this happens.


thwap said...

Exactly. Great post.

Rev.Paperboy said...

the 53% site was set up by Erik Erikson of Red State and CNN fame. He is a hard core libertarian conservative who was born on second base and thinks he hit a triple.
Most of the stories on the site just make me shake my head at the combination of white entitlement and and neocon brainwashing.
Some poor schmuck who works 60 hours a week with his hands to pay the mortagage on a house that is now worth half what he paid for it, who has a gutted 401k and no company pension, but blames "greedy unions" and "government handouts to whiners" instead of the corporate overlords that set him up and sucked him dry is the direct result of the conservative media shuck and jive that assures them that they will be the next one to get rich if they just work a little harder to put money in their boss's pocket.