A young Latino male picks up his food to go and asks for a second helping of the taqueria’s much lauded salsa. “That will be 50-cents more, sir, ” says the cashier politely. (The serving is a tablespoon, in a mental note to self. 50 cents?) The young man shrugs his shoulders and walks out, beaten again. He had already paid $10.25 for the burrito. This is the state of the Mission district where I live in San Francisco, where the poor, the middle, and the newly enriched upper middle class reside all together.
You can see it on the faces of those whose pathways you cross every day:
- early morning worker bees en route to the fancy, unmarked, WiFi-enabled bus that whisks them south to the mothership.
- others with even larger backpacks hightail it on foot to their jobs on the morning crew to clean kitchens and offices.
- several run block after block with their specialized smartphone exercise app giving them applause at every new milestone reached…They don’t have to be at work as early as the others.
- and then there are those like me whose days and nights and weekends all blur into one in an upwards of 90-hours-per-week of work.
I can honestly say that though I’m not paid nearly enough for the amount of work I clock in, I love my job and that makes it all worth it. Is my health affected? Possibly. But I take good care to keep everything in perspective by eating well, drinking a lot of water, stretching several times a day, and trying to get some exercise at least 4 times a week.
What about those whose livelihoods don’t fulfill on a personal level? How does that sink the soul in myriad ways? There is very little room for growth anymore. It used to be that you’d earn a degree and the world was your oyster. Not so much. If you earn a degree at an expensive college and your parents aren’t rich, you’re sunk into debt for a good portion of your early-to-mid life – chained to the man, as it were.
What keeps people living in these urban areas going every day? Necessity to feed the family, to feel like one is a part of something bigger, to feel like you can be one of those media stars that you see go from rags to riches on the reality shows. The media fills us with hope that we can grow out of this frozen middle. The poor lost that hope long ago. Their future dreams have been shattered multiple times. Some STILL have possibilities and I see it where I work which is one of my favorite things about teaching in a public, affordable college. People pursue dreams and they can get to the next step, one-by-one.
The difference between the middle now and the middle 30+ years ago is that now our entire government (all three branches) are bought by the oligarchy which has stretched its octopus-like appendages into the fabric of our every day. Even local politics have been corrupted by the “families” on the outside who want to swallow the middle whole. They gorge on the blood and sweat of workers while enriching their personal fortunes. They buy the politicians to be sure any rights we used to have are removed. Within 5-years we’ll be bound-and-gagged in a Fritz Lang “Metropolis” with the gulf of class division trapping us.
Is there a way out? YES! You have to WAKE UP and become ACTIVE! And I don’t mean signing a number of the online petitions as you sit and feel like you’ve done something. Those don’t work. Politicians don’t READ any of that. They vote with the $$ laid before them by the vast lobbying efforts of the oligarchs. WE MUST ACT to change politics. WE MUST ACT to say “NO” to the lie of “representative government” because it no longer represents the frozen middle.
Start with keeping up with the people who are working toward real hope and change:
- Lawrence Lessig, (go ahead, click the link)
- Robert Reich (this one too)
- Elizabeth Warren (I have my reservations since Liz is on the inside and still digs Capitalism. But she fights for the underdog.)
Enrich yourself with knowledge. Find your way to get out of that seat and DO SOMETHING. We have to make real change because we’ve been saying that things just aren’t working for us anymore for far too long.