My Blog Motto

"Good judgement comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgement"

~Rita Mae Brown

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Entitlement Zombies

Entitlement Zombies
Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, "entitlements". Every day  I read the morning news anxiously scanning to see if the Social Security checks will be sent this week. We are told that they will, but they may be a little delayed. Hmm, what happens when our tax payments are a little delayed? Penalties, interest, nasty letters and phone calls.We face consequences when our payment to the government are not submitted in a timely manner, regardless of the fact that our piddly little tax bill is but a drop in the vast ocean of that mythical, enigmatic and bottomless sea known as The Economy.
The rest of us live in definable, fixed economic reality. Any delay in income is stressful and inconvenient, but for individuals and families living on Social Security or W-2 (welfare) the impact is devastating. First of all most of us have very little, if any, money left over after we pay rent and bills. What little we do have is cleverly budgeted to the penny buying household items. Most of us have acquired inventive economic survival skills. For example, body wash can be used as shampoo, dish soap, laundry detergent and floor wash. Free newspapers can soak up spills, line pet cages and wash windows. If we pop into a coffee shop we grab handfuls of napkins to use as paper towels, coffee filters, kleenex and, yes, toilet paper.We know that at the end of the University semester it's time to go curbside shopping and pick up some new furniture. We wait for our neighbors kid to have a growth spurt so our younger child can have a new wardrobe. You get the point, we go with the flow and we "make do" as my grandmothers generation used to say.
 Most of us don't complain much, it's just a way of life when you are poor. In fact most of us have a pretty well developed sense of humor about our adaptive lifestyles. Some of you may chuckle in recognition at some of my "money saving tips" and you probably have several of your own to add to the list. If these tips evoke humor and/or nostalgia chances are you haven't learned abut poverty from the media but instead you have lived in it or know someone who has. The media is not going to go out of it's way to humanize the lives of those of us who will be affected by our government playing  chicken with our money.
Our money. That's right. Not China's money. Not the "taxpayers' (we are all taxpayers by the way) but our money. We have all contributed to Social Security. Even individuals who have never worked had a relative who has paid into Social security in good faith that if a family member became disabled, widowed or needed to retire that money will be there to help out. And guess what? It is. Social Security is not broke. In fact it is doing quite well thank you, except for the fact that it is being held ransom by politicians who will use any scheme at their disposal to further their own agenda. Social programs have become the scapegoat of these weak minded unimaginative fools who have no qualms about throwing the poor under the bus in order to distract from the real causes of  the economic problems our country is facing. I'm not going to go on about those problems, we all know the wealthy receive enormous tax breaks and are provided enough loopholes to avoid paying taxes all together. We all know about the bailouts and hopefully we all have some awareness of the cost of waging war all over the globe.
What strikes me is that the biggest scapegoat in this entire fiasco is virtually invisible. We may be presented with a human interest story here and there illuminating the struggles of working class America; stories that feature people who have lost jobs, had their homes foreclosed, had to have a rummage sale to make rent. The news anchors shake their heads sadly and and with waxy insincerity mourn that we are all facing hard times; which only serves to assure the rest of us that 'we're all in this together and as the great nation we are we will survive and come out shining and prosperous and perhaps a little stronger for our endurance' after we have pulled ourselves up by our good old American bootstraps (boots that were most likely made in China).
What the media doesn't want to show you is the human experience behind all these evil "entitlements", those of us who live by the 'making do' philosophy. We are people who have been poor before this whole mess started and who will most likely continue to be poor when this "economic crisis" is over. And yet we are the ones who are expected to make tough sacrifices and tighten our belts. Pretty easy to say when you don't ever see the reality of every day life in poverty. Murderers are able to kill their victims because they de-humanize them. In the movie Silence of the Lambs, Buffalo Bill referred to his victim as "it". I don't think the poor even get that much respect, in fact we are often left out of the picture almost entirely.The rhetoric drones on about "entitlement spending" and "social programs", which are in fact income. Income for real people, people who are struggling to get by already. People who have children and grandchildren and husbands and wives. People who have interests and hobbies and histories and stories to tell. People who are loved and who give love. We are not a bunch of faceless nameless zombies shuffling along demanding free money. Whatever our history, we are real people with real bills to pay, families to support and lives to get on with and we need and deserve recognition.

Image courtesy of sillypandabears
© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Friday, July 15, 2011

Responsibility, The Drama

I have been accused at times for not taking responsibility. At other times I have taken on responsibility that was not mine to tend. In truth, both statements are one in the same. I adopted responsibilities of others as validation; “I am doing something, see” or as an alibi “I can’t do so and so because I’m doing this and that for such and such” and therefore completely avoided the frightening developmental task of “self-accountability”

I misplaced my sense of duty and commitment usually to people and projects that were lost causes, perhaps because I believed I was doomed to fail anyway. Yet this way if I failed, it wan’t really me failing, but the person/thing I’d poured my heart and soul into salvation, leaving none behind of course, for me to risk screwing up on my own efforts. I couldn't be blamed for trying to help, in fact it made me a “good person” didn't it? “What a good person that Jenny is, always there to help others”... “always there for the Underdog”
Never mind the reality that the Underdog was not there for him/herself any more than I was there for myself. We were both conspirators in this charade and we understood and performed our unspoken roles quite well, an innate improvisational theater of the absurd. A painfully overacted satire of human relationships, dreams and aspirations. To the observer with ample wit, a comedy of errors; to others it must have appeared as a tragedy, awkward and painfully maudlin.

When I was in aoda treatment I had one of those old school tough love therapists, the ones who use confrontation as a tool to breakthrough well versed denial that we addicts cling to like a security blanket. One day in a group session many of us were discussing our tendency toward co-dependence. I couldn’t help but notice that the conversation was veering dangerously down the road to competition, as stories so often do among women.  We were actually taking a fair amount of pride in our co-dependence; and “that no matter how much we drank or used we still took care of others”. The therapist, in her characteristic no nonsense “I’ll straighten you out” manner had been quietly observing this dialog with the eye of a hawk regarding a burrow of rabbits. Finally she struck, “Co-dependents are the most selfish people I know”
 “Whaaat? Moi? How can that be?” After all we were clearly so giving. so willing to self sacrifice.
We were, after all, nice people underneath our exterior substance abuse and resulting bad behavior.
It soon became clear that the level of our indignation was indicative of the truth in her statement. Our defenses had clicked into place and we demanded an explanation for this bizarre theory. After about an hour of good old fashioned group therapy and open ended questioning, most of us came to realize that our cruel and heartless therapist actually believed that the sacrifices we made had always had a not-so-altruistic purpose. In fact they had offered justification for our problems, validation for our existence, excuses for our lack of action and they allowed us to manipulate others around us.
Of course, she was right.
What took much longer than an hour of group therapy was the realization that we all have personality traits that are less than perfect, often dishonest (even to ourselves) and sometimes downright nasty. It takes years, sometimes, to accept that the darker parts of us are valid bits of the whole person. If we look at our life history we discover the origin of these patterns and beliefs. Most alcoholics did not come from ideal families or circumstances. The manipulation and self destructive patters we carry deep inside where no one can see (or so we think) are really nothing more than acts of survival. You don’t get by in an unstable, unpredictable land of ever shifting boundaries with out learning some tricks of the game. You have to play by the same non-rules as everyone else of you will be consumed by powerlessness and defeat.
There comes a time, however, when we choose to live our lives differently and after some trial and error we realize that if we are to survive in this new life we must be honest with ourselves. If we are going to stop playing games, replaying “old tapes” as my Mom would say, we have to be authentic. In order to be authentic we have to admit our errors, find their roots and forgive ourselves for ways we have behaved that were not in line with our Ideal Selves.
It is so much easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves. We tend to hold ourselves to a higher standard, to which my therapist would have said “what makes you so much better than anyone else?”
There were times I hated that woman, and I myself wouldn’t use quite such a harsh presentation of the facts, but in retrospect she was right. We are who we are, no better, no worse than any other human being (at least in potential) and as we stumble along this journey that is life a little humility and self-acceptance can go a long way. Once we have reached this point we are free and secure enough to offer genuine help and support to others with out losing ourselves in the process.

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard