Henry David Thoreau the environmentalist? I appreciate. Henry David Thoreau the abolitionist? I applaud. Henry David Thoreau the father of simple living and the minimalist movement? I have a bone to pick with you. Continue reading “Thoreau, The Minimalists, and Opting Out”
Last week, it was the Democratic sound bite heard round the Internet – or at least, my private Facebook feed: “When you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor.” Bernie Sanders’ comment on institutional racism and systemic poverty eviscerated the fantasy enshrouding many of my friends.
“I grew up poor.” “What about my loans?” “I’m still broke!” “That’s racist!” The number of people who felt the need to defend themselves and their privilege, the number of people who tried to wage a contest of suffering was baffling. Yet, I knew that if his comment had this kind of a ripple effect on social media, there was one thing I had to do: talk to my students about it. Continue reading ““You Don’t Know What It’s Like to be Poor””
My heart started to hammer as I unloaded my grocery cart items onto the conveyer belt and I started to mentally run the numbers. We might not make it under our $200 grocery budget for the month. How could this be? What was different? Did I buy too much fresh produce? Should I put something back? For a short month, this budget dilemma seemed unexpected and unexplainable. Rice, eggs, apples, cereal, almond milk, black beans, Roma tomatoes, the list goes on. After eyeing everything in the cart, I realized that any extra trips to the store in the next week would, in fact, push us over our budget. Then, as I watched the family in front of me quietly swipe their SNAP card through the card reader and then thought about my own impending bill, another thought popped into my head: So what?
Something really inexplicable has been happening as of late. More and more people are talking about being poor. Gwyneth Paltrow and her SNAP Challenge. Tim Ferriss* and his calls to practice poverty. Even bloggers, like yours truly, get so married to their budgets that busting them seems like end-of-days music should start playing in the background as spreadsheets are filled.
I have no qualms about this kind of conversation. I’m on board with simplifying. In fact, I admire people who can eschew life’s excesses and really drill down their consumption to the bare minimum. In many ways, that is exactly what the impetus behind this blog is: more purposeful living. But make no mistake about it. There’s privilege in being able to pretend.