Justice and Advocacy · Personal reflections · Psychology and mental illness

The Search for Solutions

“Shitty weather, bad timing
Lucky penny glued to the ground
Dirty look from total stranger
Hope you get lost and you’re not found
Take a look at what we’ve become
Nothing more than silhouettes of
A pretty family on a postcard
Picture perfect, I don’t want it
So I hold my breath ’til my heart explodes
Cause this is how it is and this is how it goes
You can steal my body but you can’t steal my soul.” –Billy Talent, This is How it Goes

This month, I published several posts about economic disparity (go to part 1 here). I’d like to take a moment to talk about what kind of integrity it takes to research and look for solutions.

In the future, I want to discuss what types of solutions are helpful, the research and work that many organizations are already doing, and what type of work needs support. Solutions are not simple, and even simple ones are difficult to get the participation and resources and commitment needed. I’m not going to say that everyone should just read some Marx and Engels, and all will be well. Communism is not the answer, nor does communism provide a clear roadmap for today’s world of technological dependence and a gig economy. Addressing the problem of wealth inequality raises a lot of questions about me, and the risks I’m taking right now: why would I attack charity, and people who want to help, and temporary solutions that help people get along, while being so vocal about my own struggle to keep a roof over my head? What can we do now to help people who are worse off than ourselves, when 99.9% of us are feeling squeezed to keep up with bills? Even many celebrity millionaires in the 0.01% still work as performers, and are part of the cause to help do something about it, but cannot bring down the system, or refuse to see it for what it is, feeling squeezed themselves to keep up with their luxurious lifestyle – not to mention that getting sued or robbed or attacked or slandered are very real problems for them. If something of mine gets stolen, and it’s happened many times, for the most part I can’t afford to replace my stuff.

So as I’ve observed that capitalists are not my enemy, and capitalism is only a symptom of broader ideologies like colonialism and white supremacy, I want to invite people who love capitalism for its freedom to the conversation about solutions. I’ve observed that most people who recognize their own privilege and resources are more than willing to give and help, but they ask me: “What can we do?”

And I want to be able to say much more than just, “If you pledge to support my blog on Patreon, I’ll keep working on researching it.” I want to give comprehensive coverage of what I, as a white American who was undereducated to ensure I believed that God had ordained the United States to be a place for us to worship freely, want to inform others about. I want to deeply probe why I changed my mind, and what information I know now that so strongly convinced me that the world is not what I thought it was for my first 23 years. And then, answer the question – what can we all learn and do? If the system is so gridlocked, are there any lucrative ways to fight exploitation of the unfortunate, and transfer wealth out of the hands of the powerful? If you have money to spare, how can you give effectively? If you have more than others, how do you deal with the guilt of that, without giving so much that it’s detrimental to your own health and livelihood? Where do you even draw the line between being helpful, and failing in the attempt to help?

These are questions I am considering with gravity, and I’m using everything I know about critical thinking, reading between the lines of the Trump economy’s fake news, what I’ve learned since moving on from indoctrination preached as love and logic, and spending a fuckton more time listening to voices more exploited and oppressed than mine before I open my mouth. I entered adulthood thinking that my dwindling bank account would grow as soon as I landed a great job, grew my career, and would live as comfortably as my parents did. My siblings still think they are each alone in their financial struggles, refusing to talk much about it. They pity me, because I have stopped pretending to be a temporary embarrassed millionaire, and have processed the far more emotionally devastating truth: I am being exploited like everyone else, and my tiny corner of the grid is so puny, I’m not a threat.

There is no threat, from anyone like me, to the tyranny that has been growing since long before Trump even ran for office in the 90s. None of my hard-rocking anarchist friends are, either. We can scream by the thousands to Rage Against the Machine, “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” But after the concerts are over, which we paid for with the money we earned by working for the system, and which the so-called sellouts will line their pockets with, and everyone either goes home or doesn’t, depending on how dedicated you are to music, that you’d risk living on each next tank of gas to tour. I can’t use my laptop to divert US bombs from Yemen, but I can sure as hell tell people who support the military what we’re really sacrificing our infrastructure for – and that is the destruction of billions of lives – but my voice, my perspective, my expertise, and my research, means nothing if I’m not digging earnestly for answers that are inclusive.

“If it’s not accessible to the poor, it is neither radical nor revolutionary.” Those words were painted in red on a dirty-white brick wall with the anarchy symbol, shared by a revolutionary friend. Inclusive solutions are ones without paywalls, saying you can’t read the news and inform yourself if you’re poor. They help connect people in need with people who want to help, and need to understand how. Inclusive solutions mean finding common ground between people from all backgrounds, encouraging and inviting the wealthy to use their resources in effective ways, instead of carrying resentment, because for the vast majority of the planet’s population,  life dealt our hands to us generations ago. Even if you live in a mansion, you are being squeezed for your funds, feeling pressed to work hard as a longtime employee, and advertised to with every inch of space available to reach your eyes. How do you actually help, and overcome personal bias regarding what it means to be “homeless” and “poor”?

So for now, I’ve got Patreon. But I have a long list of solutions that I’ve been carefully reading about and applying logic to. I’ll be analyzing questions like, “Poverty sucks, but if all the rich people gave all the poor people their money, would trade collapse?” And demonstrating the nuance of currency and economic factors, and inflation predictions, with the question “Would there even be enough to go around, if we could even theoretically deliver resources to war-torn and chaos-ridden countries across the world?” Finally, what many middle- and upper-class people have asked me and other survivors: “What works, and what attempts at ‘help’ have made things worse?”

Many of my peers are in the same boat as I am – running their own sites, creating their own brands, and working in client-based remote jobs to pay the bills. I’m doing the same, but the more people recognize my name, the less employable I am in an ordinary place. In every recent interview I’ve done in trying to get jobs, people have skimmed my site, and all they got from it was that I have a ton of siblings.

Being a sellout, for me, would be to put paywalls up on my blog. Patreon has extra information for my supporters, but I don’t want to advertise on my site or promote my posts by supporting Facebook’s algorithm. Google keeps emailing me saying I could start advertising with them for free. I could, at any time, fill this blog with affiliate links, and use my name and audience to promote useless junk, but I don’t want to. I’d rather be poor than take all this hard work I’ve done to identify what’s really wrong and supporting it by taking cash from advertising.

And as I ask for Patreon support, please know that anything helps, but only give if you can – It’s July 28th, and some very kind people have helped us cover utilities, rent for July, a mattress, and my partner and I are doing better thanks to having access to a kitchen and healthier food, and are both on medication. We save our bus money to go to our various clinics, and our state is covering investigation – we’ve ruled out cancer and various other life-threatening illnesses.

But we are not okay, and we won’t be for a long time. Survivors of trauma, grief, and abuse are thrown to the wolves in this country. It’s taken me three years to get this stable, but if I don’t raise another $600, I will be threatened with eviction if I don’t pay. I’ve asked for help as many times as possible from everyone I know to ask, and people have stopped replying. Since 2013, when I was kicked out of my parents’ home and had my bank account drained, with no education or work experience or knowledge of how to adult in the outside world – aged 22 but as innocent as a 12-year-old, expected to determine reality in a world that denies the existence of emotional abuse and trauma, knowing only how to calm babies, scrub floors, wash laundry, and say “yes, sir” to any office project my dad demanded of me, paid or unpaid, all of which has to be carefully explained as experience when looking for a job.

So while I am thankful for the kindness so far, honesty with the internet is all I have: my partner and I are still in so much pain and have so little energy that neither of us can work full-time shifts on our feet. We’ve both developed too many mental illnesses to find the unlivable wages of hard labor work – such as retail shelf stocking or working many large, hot machines in a grocery store deli or restaurant kitchen – worth the exhaustion, pain and suffering, psychological dissonance, and soul-killing depression that makes you wonder whether you’ll drive to work again or drive off a bridge. You don’t even make enough to make ends meet anyway. If you relate, you are not alone. If your job treats you like shit and nobody seems to care, you are not alone. So I write from home feverishly – 500 words per hour, researching and writing. I write web content, but ghostwriters and people who optimize keywords like I do usually don’t get a byline, which is fine with me. I don’t want to use my name, obscure as it may be, to support general commerce.

I am well aware that we’re all struggling, and we can all be in this conversation together. I’ve posted a public poll on my Patreon – you don’t have to pay to vote. Just take a few seconds to tell me if you’d like to see more videos from me. Say hi. Let’s discuss problems and solutions inclusively first.