Friday, March 1, 2019

The Bootstrap Narrative Persists and I Hate It

Welp, I got into another Facebook argument this morning, so, late start lol. This was about the $15 minimum wage, which, I mean, it wasn't the least productive internet argument I've ever had, but it also got me thinking of a Tumblr post or a tweet I saw recently, I forget exactly where it was from, but the gist of it was this:

There are two kinds of people: People who come out of a difficult situation and say "if I can do it, anyone can," and people who come out of a difficult situation and say "I don't want anyone else to experience this."

I'm firmly in the latter camp. But I come across a lot of people who seem to be in the former. Today it was "I was homeless, I was living paycheck to paycheck but I climbed out and now I own my own business" in response to my saying that we have a fuck ton of people coping with homelessness and almost half of all people with jobs in the U.S. are living paycheck to paycheck right now. The implication is that, somehow, those literally millions of people should just do better, somehow. It's the old "bootstraps" argument justified with "I did it so everyone else should be able to."

And I have difficulty explaining to people that different circumstances exist. No two life experiences are alike. Obviously some people have barriers based on race, gender, ability, weight, sexuality, whether they identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, etc. Mental illness also plays a big role, but also there are infinite reasons related to how one was raised, home environment, experience with abuse/bullying, and all kinds of things that affect people's ability to cope with life whether or not they have a mental illness.

This also comes down to judgment. In my view, I can't possibly know everything every person has been through, so who am I to judge whether or not they deserve to get their basic needs met, or even live in reasonable comfort? It's so easy to dismiss social problems because "people just don't try hard enough" or some shit. It's funny because the same people who would cause homeless or otherwise struggling people "lazy" but their intellectual and emotional laziness is so intense.

I've had to live paycheck to paycheck and worry about getting evicted and having to live with my or my partner's parents. Better than homelessness, and no offense to said parents, but not a happy thought. I'm doing better now, being able to freelance full time and making enough to save a little. But rather than thinking anyone else can do what I did, I want to make sure they don't end up in that pit in the first place. I'm gonna do the work to make the world better, not leave everyone to the wolves because I got mine.

I just can't understand being that selfish.

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