Sunday, November 18, 2012

Generalization, Judgement and a Lack of Understanding.

Today in my teenage angst, I address an issue I was presented with a couple months ago. This issue is really important to me. So important that, as I write this, I feel a little nauseous and I'll probably cry before it's done. I present to you the following graphic.
I have a problem with this for a number of reasons. But first I need to explain where this graphic stems from. It first appeared on my Facebook feed shared from a page called "Goodbye Obama 2012". That says a lot. I'm willing to assume that the creator of such a Facebook page is largely opposed to the social change that Barack Obama is desperately working toward. Opposition to social change is something that I've never understood, barring being a Supremacist, but I like to think I don't know any supremacists. Graphics like this, however, really make me think that I do.

The problem here is that the message discounts the social implications of growing up in a low socioeconomic environment. Young people who grow up in low socioeconomic environments aren't taught decision making skills, budgeting, or proper spending. They are however availed to opportunities for underage drinking, cigarettes, drugs, etc. By the time they are no longer wards of their parents or the state, no skills have been gained to warrant the ability to live off of food-stamps or welfare. While there is a lot to be said for self-investment, working your own way forward, etc, blah, blah, blah, we need to be willing to accept that this is the exception, not the norm.

Beyond this, I'd like to address the inclusion of tattoos in this graphic. I kind of love that this was identified as an issue because it too is less of an issues than an opportunity for understanding. The reality for a lot of kids in the lowest socioeconomic brackets is that permanence is a nice but fleeting idea. They deal regularly with continual change in authority figures, places of residence, places of employment, friends, significant others, family members, etc. Tattoos represent a point of permanence that could not otherwise be achieved. By getting a tattoo young people are able to express their body's permanence in a world that offers little else with staying power.

People who are agree with statements like these have never had this kind of experience. People who agree with statements like this were taught the value of a dollar, the importance of putting your needs before your wants, the danger of impulsivity and so many more valuable but rare lessons. What I want us to admit here is that we understand very little of what goes on for people who require the use of social assistance. We don't understand it because we haven't been there. When it looks like people are abusing the system, it's evidence of a social experience that has not provided the opportunities to act otherwise.

When I responded with this sentiment on that Facebook post, I encouraged a more verbal discussion and dialogue about these kind of issues, rather than passive aggressively stating this kind of opinion on Facebook. I was met with a harsh statement that Facebook should be a place where we share our opinions, thoughts and feelings. The problem with this is that it promotes misunderstanding. Tone cannot be carried virally. Ground breaking, right? But when we promote misunderstanding, we promote division and we are already swimming in a sea of divide and drowning. Do you hear me folks? We are fucking drowning in division of our own creation. It's detrimental. And it's killing us.

Please, please, please think about the people you are including in statements like these and acknowledge that they are worth so much more than the blatant label you are placing on them. In this case, "system abusing bastards." I realize those are my words, not yours.

So I'm closing down my newsfeed. I don't think I fully understand how much work this is going to be but it hurts me too much to know that people I respect think this way.

1 comment:

fifthpevensie said...

this is so, so good. so thoughtful!

I think we also, for whatever reason, operate under a very "not-compassionate" framework, in which poor people shouldn't want/have "nice things"/pleasure/enjoyable things in life too? that if you go to a movie, or buy ice cream, or get a tattoo, or a bottle of wine, etc etc etc, then you're not "really" poor and should leave "charity" for people who "really need it". It's very unkind.
I am thankful for your gentle and kind response to some really shitty thinking!