Posts filed under ‘Class’
Recalling a conversation from several years ago….
“They’re having a Black Friday service”, I told my Lutheran boyfriend about my church.
“Wha- but they’re Unitarians, I didn’t think they’d observe Good Friday, and besides, it’s the wrong time of year.” he said.
“No, honey not Good Friday- Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving, when all the big sales start. It’s a special service to protest consumerism.” I explained
“As much as I hate holiday consumerism, it’s not really a spiritual occasion, is it?” He furrowed his brow, both puzzled and bemused by those goofy Unitarians.
No, it isn’t. Which is part of why I’m not going. Besides, I don’t need to be lectured about the evils of consumerism when I am actually working the Black Friday sale! After all, it’s the entire reason I had this job at Jo-Ann Fabric in the first place- excess consumerism during the holidays. The extra irony, was Unity encourages people to either make gifts or re-use stuff they have or buy used items, and here I am working in a craft and fabric store. I know they mean well, but this is one of those things they just don’t get. Voluntary simplicity is nice idea, but I don’t need to go to a workshop to learn about it. Try mandatory simplicity that is my life, that is a lot of people’s lives, even more so than my own.
Last year while working at Macy’s I was thinking it might be nice to have some type of contemplative type service for people who have to work for the Capitalist Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Something to numb the pain- isn’t that what religion is supposed to, at least a little? I didn’t get things together enough to do it, but I think I will make the suggestion this year.
Last year, I got a call from an organization I work with, that was having a protest by Target (right in my neighborhood) for being open on Thanksgiving, and boycotts were called for against the stores that were doing it including, Macy’s where I was working, and had volunteered to work overnight for some extra pay. So, instead of protesting that people are being expected to work on Thanksgiving, just in general ask why are these people not paid more? Why do they not get good benefits- whether from their employers or the state? Why isn’t good quality affordable childcare available in this country? Why do people go to work sick? Why are so many disabled people who want to work unemployed? We love convenience- our 24 hour 365 days a week open stores, when one of them in closed for a day, oh no, how will we survive?
Well, how is it that America’s workers are surviving? So yeah. Live simply so that others can simply live- keep on with liberal do-gooding, I’m all for it, sure. But we can’t all work for non-profits, we can’t all be teachers and lawyers and all the Following Your Truly Meaningful Vocation type jobs that Unitarians and other liberals approve of. When you consider which charities to donate to this holiday season, and the whole year for that matter, consider also investing in businesses that are pay and treat their employees well, value life/work balance, that recruit and train people with disabilities, people with criminal histories that want to be a part of society, single parents, people who may have less education but still have plenty of skills and experience to offer, older workers, immigrants, young people who want a real start in their lives. Help build sustainable jobs and hold employers and investors accountable and we can build a community! Because without good jobs, we can’t donate to the church, or to save the rainforest or do any number of important things. We can only take care of ourselves and our families, and survival is not selfishness.
Alley Valkyrie has written yet another amazing essay, this one about her experiences living in a working-class Afro-Caribbean neighborhood, and how her presence there helped lead to gentrification. (link to be added!) I’m long-time city-dweller with mixed-class status and white privilege as well as a live-in caretaker of a home in which I rent out rooms to low income tenants. So yeah, I have a very complex relationship with gentrification. Neighborhoods need to be maintained and improved, yet a balance must be maintained as well. Likewise, I don’t really believe that there are “good” and “bad” neighborhoods. Those are big over-simplications with many unexamined assumptions lurking behind them.
My neighborhood, Midway in St. Paul has fluctuated in its reputation over the time I’ve lived here. Back in 1994 my dad drove by and spotted the house and made an offer to the owner that very day. Apparently my neighbors thought he overpaid for it at the time. Many of the neighbors were elderly or middle-aged empty-nesters. There were only a handful of kids I knew, mostly younger than me. Over time, a bunch of them have moved away and younger couples (with and without kids) have moved in. There was a tattoo parlor close by (much to my parents’ chagrin), and several businesses later there’s one there again! Midway had a worse reputation then. My Dad, who is from the suburbs of Philadelphia originally, strongly believes in fighting the trends of middle-class white flight (a social trend which has had a terrible effect on Philly and many other metro areas) by staying vigilant and aware of what’s going on. He and other neighbors in our block club were in frequent contact with the police about activities they found suspicious- cars stalling by our large privacy fence might mean drug deals. Lots of people going in and out of a house might mean a drug house. And so forth. So with this vigilance, the neighborhood got better, but we try not to be complacent. We continually need to keep an eye on things. I still get comments from people, especially from suburbs about where I live. “You live there, really? Well, at least it’s not Frogtown!” Frogtown, or Thomas-Dale is nearby, and I don’t really consider it “worse” than Midway. Different in flavor, more like. When I take the (newly finished as of June!) Green line light rail down University Avenue, I notice both neighborhoods have a mix of businesses that are newer, or have been fixed up, and ones that are run-down, and vacant buildings and a few empty lots that are waiting to be bought. There are somewhat more of the latter in Frogtown, but there are also improvements in the works. There are lots of immigrants from Southeast Asia- Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia. Many of them have lived here for a couple of generations at least. There are more recent immigrants from Northeastern Africa- chiefly Ethiopia & Somalia. There are Black Americans and European American whose families have live in this country much longer. I suppose this diversity scares some people, but I find their own ignorance scarier. I think the mix of cultures makes things interesting. For one, I can go have Cambodian for dinner, then have breakfast at the Finnish bistro the next morning!
We have Hamline University, and not too far away, Macalester College and St. Catherine’s, St. Thomas, and in the other direction, the University of Minnesota. Having all these educational institutions nearby. Oddly though, I’ve never rented to any students before (as my parents and many neighbors expected to happen), I’ve gotten a few Craiglist responses from students, and shown the house to a few, but none of them ever worked out.
Just as with things in nature, neighborhoods and cities have cycles. And different neighborhoods and cities go thru phases of the cycles at different times. I could do some homework on urban studies and sociology to get into more , but I intuitively know what some these cycles are without doing that. I’ve watched them over the years just as I see the dramatic turns of Minnesota seasons. I already mentioned one- generational cycles. Waves of people often move in or out of a neighborhood at particular times. Individual buildings and businesses go thru cycles. A change in one individual’s decision of where to live, or whether to renovate their home or business or build a new one, influences others decisions. Each neighborhood and city has its own social and economic balance that it needs to maintain in order for people to get what they need. And within a metropolitan area like the Twin Cities, each adjoining town or city tries to find niches to fill within that context. Within a city, a neighborhood tries to figure out its own niche. In St. Paul and Minneapolis, each neighborhood has a name and a council (some are larger, more organized and do more things than others, and it also depends on what other non-profits exist that focus on that area, or if a city or state government decides to fund a special business development program there and so forth.
I feel my neighborhood is pretty good about maintaining the necessary equilibrium, without going into full-blown gentrification mode.
(90% of this is pretty relevant to non-Pagans)
The whole time I’ve been Pagan, I’ve been low-income- either a student (thus socially OK to be unemployed) unemployed (not so OK) or underemployed. I also have several learning disabilities that have made employment and everyday life harder for me. But I’m also comparatively privileged- I’m considered “white”, college-educated, from a college educated family. Though I’ve had money worries, I haven’t had to go without food, housing or other necessities. I get healthcare thru the state, and my parents who live out of state own a home, so I can live there rent-free and rent out rooms to tenants. My partner has a good job and he helps support me. I also don’t own a car or have children, so those are major expenses I don’t have. I am fortunate to live in a metropolitan area with a fairly decent public transit system, and many Pagan groups. So I have unique view of some of the articles I’ve been reading about the money should play in the Pagan community. I’m not even going to touch on the magical/metaphysical aspects of this, as I’ve never been a practitioner of magic, but I’m linking to articles about magic nonetheless.
I always donate at least a little something to Pagan events I attend. However this is something I’ve been able to do. I’m a fan of sliding scale fees and scholarships to make events more accessible. I’m a fan of carpooling and sharing rooms at conferences- and I will offer to chip in with people who give me rides. (Heck I don’t even mind sleeping on the floor- I’m young and able-bodied, have air mattress, will travel!) I try to volunteer when I can.
I’ve worked on weekends and evenings a lot at my current job, and I don’t think it’s an evil capitalist conspiracy that events are typically scheduled at those times. I’ve had trouble organizing Pagan groups before due to people’s conflicting work schedules. You need to have enough people that have a compatible enough schedules that they can work together. The person with the random, unpredictable work schedule may just have to show up when they are able. It would be great actually to have a coven or grove that specifically met at times compatible for people who work second or third shift. The people doing this would probably have to be less fussy about what specific type of Paganism it entailed, but it can get lonely having a schedule that is the opposite of most of your friends.
Having rituals is homes may be cheaper than renting space, but it often means they are not handicap accessible, or in places not accessible to public transit. It will also mean people will have less control over potential issues like chemical sensitivities, pet allergies etc.
There are people who choose jobs that give them more time than money- in order to focus on spiritual work, arts, family. We need to do more to support these folks.
I’ve also known people-both Pagan and not- whose lives constantly were in a state of chaos, or moving from crisis to crisis. It is true what Alley Valkyrie and Rhyd Wildermuth say in the Patheos comments- chaos and poverty can be a self-perpetuating cycle. The essence of poverty, as I’ve learned is the lack of choices. We need to create environments where people can talk about the issues they face especially before they reach a crisis point. If they don’t feel ashamed, then we may be able to help them get a job (or one that pays better/has benefits/is more compatible for scheduling) or with transitional housing, or foster their dog so they can get a more affordable apartment, navigate social services, legal systems etc.
There are some people, however who do keep making the same Bad Decisions– over and over and over again. And we may try to help them, and realize after we rescue them from several crises, that we are encouraging them. But they are adults. We can’t force them to get mental health help, or treatment for their addictions, or learn to better manage their finances, or dump the abusive partner, or use birth control/condoms,or show up to their court date/case manager meeting/doctor appt/job interview etc. And I believe in redemption, and second and third chances and trying not to judge people too harshly. But we also need to take care of ourselves, and our communities, and our leaders/clergy who can get overburdened easily. I will also use this opportunity to plug support for funding/volunteering for transitional programs that help people get out of poverty and give support to people who need it (recovering addicts, mentally ill, disabled folks etc) rather than the bare minimum emergency services that are often the only thing left after budget cuts.
(See Rose’s post on Homelessness to better understand the need for transitional services, and the flaws in current shelter policies.)
Blog Posts on Paganism/Magic & Money
Why Free Events Discriminate Against the Pagan Poor by Sable Aradia
I wanted to like this article, I felt there were good intentions behind it but way too much sloppy political and economic thinking.
Ruadhan has a great response here: LOLbertarians & Rampant Classism on Patheos
Some views from Atheists/Humanists: