Poverty is the Worst form of Violence!

Gandhi

 

 

This is a quote from Mahatma Gandhi that I came across a few weeks back and thought it’d be a good essay title. I am going to relate experiences from my past with my perspectives on the connections between poverty and violence.

 

To listen to many so-called “conservatives” like Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly, Coulter, etc., poverty is simply a matter of people’s laziness & a lack of character. But a cursory overview of this subject reveals what a shallow & dishonest accusation this is. Throughout recorded history and probably even before recorded history, the privileged elite have gained their wealth, power, & prestige by intimidating & exploiting those “inferior” to them in class, wealth, and status. Emperors, kings, queens, lords, etc. have maintained their stranglehold over those under them by forcing them into servitude as in making them pay “tributes” to them and by making them serve in their armies. The military has been used by rulers throughout history to expand the ruler’s power by conquering new lands, enslaving the people of these new lands, and forcing the newly enslaved into paying tributes (taxes) and also joining the conqueror’s army.

 

In the modern world we have disguised this age old practice with a lot of fancy rhetoric and lies about how taxes are necessary for the betterment of all the citizens. And serving one’s country by becoming a soldier is one’s patriotic duty. Strange thing though, if you do a quick 15 minute search on the Internet of America’s top 20 corporations you’ll soon learn that not only do they not pay any taxes, they actually get tax rebates in the tens of millions and some of these corporate cockroaches even get billions back in tax rebates. These vulture capitalists get the free use of our nationwide highway system, our ports, our airports, our water systems, the protection of our police and court system, etc. etc. etc. and they have the balls to tell us that they’re patriotic and we’re not if we don’t buy their products, pay our taxes, serve in the military though very few of them have, etc.? “Our” yeah, that’s fresh, government gives these same corporations massive subsidies to start up their companies, do their research & development, tax breaks, etc. yet when these companies start making a profit, we are told that they are private and we, the public who subsidized them have no claim on a share of their profits. The Internet is a prime example because it was developed by the Pentagon and professors at M.I.T. amongst other universities who are also subsidized by us, the taxpaying suckers!

 

It’s hard for me to hold my tongue when I talk about such matters because Americans are clearly suffering a prolonged recession as they call it but it should more accurately be called a Depression! They believe that if they keep referring to it as a Recession, not a Depression, it’ll keep us playing their game and believing that there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you need more “proof,” consider the war in Iraq. We’re supposed to just forget about all the lies that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Wolfowitz, etc. told us to sell us on starting that war. And we’re supposed to believe that we brought freedom & democracy to Iraq. Well how did that work out? What about the several thousand American soldiers, who died, the tens of thousands of our soldiers who were maimed and lost legs, arms, etc.? What about the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Iraqis who were killed or had to flee Iraq and become refugees in foreign lands and treated as unwelcome intruders in the countries they fled to?

I could go on for hundreds of pages laying out for you examples of how rigged this system we call democracy & capitalism is. How the power elite with their senators, congressmen, federal, state, & local judges in their pockets have pocketed billions & trillions of our tax dollars that we’re forced to pay or threatened with jail and financial ruin, have screwed us royal. But that’s up to you to research if you give a damn! Yeah, my tone is snide, sarcastic, cynical, etc. but that’s because I have just seen and learned too well how they have been leading us to slaughter over the centuries and all the while looking down their noses at us like we’re human scum. Telling us we’re poor and suffering because we are an inferior breed of human. I do take some comfort in knowing that history often repeats itself and I look forward to a repetition of the French Revolution. You might think, boy is this guy violent!

 

Am I the violent one when as during the time preceding the French Revolution, people were starving and dying in the streets? When the French working class begged for bread and their queen, Marie Antoinette responded with “Let them eat cake.” Translation; who gives a fuck! You may accuse me of being overly simplistic but am I really? At the time of the French Revolution, the government and the aristocratic elite lived a life of obscene opulence epitomized in The Palace of Versailles. Look around you in our life in America today. The corporate behemoths are making record profits even as they continue laying off, firing, and “downsizing” millions of America’s workers. They have closed so many of our former manufacturing plants here and opened them up overseas where they can pay workers $2 per day and have no worries about unions, workers’ rights, environmental laws, etc. They have taken back most of the hard won benefits American workers fought so bravely for and had their heads caved-in for or were killed for e.g. the right to overtime, health benefits, pension plans, time and a half, etc. etc. etc. all the while telling us with somber tones, “times are tough, we don’t want to do it but we have to because of the ‘bottom-line.’ And at the same time they, the C.E.O.s double or triple their own salaries in the tens or hundreds of millions? How dare they call themselves or their corporations, American!

 

America is now infamously, the largest per capita prison country in the world. Why? Because not only is it cheaper in terms of locking up the trouble makers who cause trouble in the streets of our cities rather than deal with the underlying causes for poverty and crime in our cities but now they have turned prisons into a profitable money-making venture. Yes indeed my friend, they have brought back debtors’ prisons and now force prisoners to work for private corporations who can wipe-out their competition because they don’t pay their workforce anything or maybe 20 cents an hour or so. And this is what’s known as the “free market?” There isn’t a goddamned thing free about it. If you bribe politicians with your lobbyists and campaign contributions, you are protected just as the Mafia does with small business owners and their extortion tactics. Is it becoming clear why the French invented the guillotine after they had reached the end of their rope and chopped the heads off of half the rich elite of France in their day? People will only take those jackboots on their necks for so long. People will only watch their children, their elderly, their handicapped loved ones, etc. suffers for so long until they rise up.

 

No, I’m not preaching for a violent revolution. I’m hoping that with enough education and connecting with one another, we can have a bloodless revolution but we absolutely need a revolution! When the Wall St. wolves bankrupted us a few years back and brought the world to a near total economic collapse, the American public made it crystal clear that they didn’t want us to bail the corporate cockroaches out but the government did so anyway, and behind our backs and in the middle of the night. Why? Because the high-priced whores we call politicians and their corporate masters are one and the same and they will stop at nothing to keep us ignorant and separated from one another. Look how they came down on the Occupy Wall St. movement but allow the Tea Party to assemble in their protests armed with guns but Occupiers aren’t even allowed to carry a backpack? Connect the dots my friend, it’s staring us right in the face. We have the largest, most powerful military in the world, larger and more powerful than all the rest of the nations in the world combined. Are they really that fearful of terrorists or is it we, the people that they are afraid of and want to keep us under their thumbs so they can continue to get ever richer while we die slowly in degradation.

 

The number one cause of homelessness in America is lack of ability to pay for medical emergencies and people lose their homes. The greedy bastards have illegally foreclosed on millions of Americans’ homes but the courts and Obama do nothing to them. They have stolen people’s pension plans and again, no consequences for them. But if you or I steal a hundred dollar item from a store, we go to jail. If we write a bad check we’re convicted of fraud yet the standard business practice of American companies is to commit fraud on a daily and fantastic level. Isn’t it clear as a bell, they write the laws via their political whores and they don’t obey their own laws but those laws are enforced against us, the peons who pay all the taxes that keep us in our place. These same lying bastards who fight tooth and nail to prevent raises in the minimum wage rate but jump at every opportunity to give themselves raises. Who are seeking to eliminate or privatize Medicare and Social Security while they have the best medical insurance in America and pay next to nothing in Social Security but reap the highest benefits from it?

Again, I could go on for quite some length but I’ll attempt to refrain from doing so. I submit that two of the major reasons we’re seeing such an upsurge in “terrorist attacks” around the globe is 1) because of retaliation against us for their innocent loved ones killed by our drone attacks, our soldiers indiscriminate firing on civilians out of fear and hatred; 2) and the perfectly legal exploitation of their people and their resources by “American” corporations. Think I’m a nutcase? Check out Major General Smedley F. Butler, he admitted that he was ashamed that his career as Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps had been one of a hired thug doing the bidding of corporations in enslaving & exploiting people in countries around the world. The corporate cockroaches even went so far as to try to recruit this man to lead a coup against Franklin D. Roosevelt because they were so angered at Roosevelt’s “New Deal” which was established as a result of the Great Depression that the wealthy had caused.

 

I can definitely relate to and testify to the truth that poverty is the worst form of violence. I came from a single parent home, my mom. She worked two or three jobs and when she wasn’t working, she was usually in a bar drinking to numb her pain and hoping to meet a man who would make everything better. Unfortunately, my mom was a poor judge of character and we had to live with a series of mean men who cared nothing for us and were cruel. I raised my brother and sisters and started cooking supper for us when I was 12 years old. To be honest, I never truly realized just how poor we were until I was in my teenage years and began to venture out of our town called Paramount, right across the L.A. riverbed from the now infamous Compton, home of the Crypts. I have been in so many fights over the course of my growing up that it’s hard to keep track of them and just about every weekend, the police and ambulance sirens were blaring because somebody had been shot, raped, mugged, etc.

And the form of violence that I experienced that was even more pernicious than the physical violence I lived through was the violence they do to a young person’s soul or spirit when you are from the “wrong side of the tracks.” I paid little note to it at the time but when I was in the sixth grade they told me that I was reading at the 11th grade, sixth month level. I didn’t put two and two together until I was in my twenties and began to become politically aware. Because I lived in a poor, industrially-zoned town (Paramount) I was never called into a counselor’s office and told that I had potential to go far in life and be just about anything I wanted to be because I was obviously a superior student. In fact, several years after I graduated from Paramount High School, I was a cub reporter for the local newspaper and I interviewed the principal of my former high school and asked him about this and he told me matter-of-factly that because Paramount was a poor, industrially-zoned city, they designed the curriculum for blue-collar or vocational occupations. I wanted to be a forest ranger when I started attending community college and soon learned that I should have completed chemistry, physics, calculus, trigonometry, etc. in high school. Ha! They didn’t even offer such courses at Paramount High. In brief, they played gods with our lives and our futures and it didn’t matter how bright you were, you were condemned to a life in the factory. How do you think that makes a person like me feel?

 

I have worked in their shit factory jobs, their Mickey Mouse jobs, etc. and I have spent my entire life struggling to educate myself. I have seen the violence done to peoples’ spirits, including my own. I have experienced the degradation of feeling like a machine or an animal as possible investors took tours of the factories I worked in and how they and my bosses didn’t even look me in the eyes like I was some sort of subhuman. This may sound like a self-pity party, a rationalization, etc. but it’s not just me that I’m speaking for. Millions of America’s children have had their spirits dampened if not completely extinguished due to the indifference of the status quo or the powers that be. And I am one. When I was in high school, I was full of confidence that I would go far in life and could do anything I wanted or be anyone I could dream of but a couple of major life events stopped me in my tracks and are probably responsible for the man I am today.

 

I graduated from high school in 1971 and the U.S. was still embroiled in the Vietnam War (recall that Congress never officially declared war though) and I was in the ‘lottery.’ My number was so low that I knew they’d draft me shortly so I chose the Army because it had the shortest tour of duty requirement (two years). Me and about four or five other guys must’ve scored pretty high on their battery of tests in our first week of Basic Training because they kept taking us to private meetings with high ranking officers who tried their damndest to talk us into “re-upping” e.g. signing up for more years if we’d go to O.C.S. (Officer Candidate School) and they promised us the moon —we’ll station you wherever you want, we’ll train you in whatever M.O.S. (Military Occupational Specialty) you want. Well, I wasn’t politically aware at that time, I was just another young guy interested in girls and having a good time but I trusted my gut instinct and thought no, I don’t even want to be squad leader. I hated the way guys with just a couple of weeks under the belt in Basic Training, enjoyed harassing the poor schmucks just off the bus literally.

 

Well after I completed Basic Training, they sent me to Ft. Sam in San Antonio, Texas. And I became a company clerk. It was an extremely easy position and I had many perks in this job. But after a few months, word came down that half of us were being sent to Vietnam and the other half would be sent to Germany. I didn’t know which half I’d be in but I knew that Vietnam was a bad idea so I started going AWOL. I kept turning myself in just under 30 days so I wouldn’t be classified as a ‘deserter.’ But they weren’t taking me seriously so I stayed gone until the F.B.I. arrested me. While AWOL, I had to ask “friends” if I could sleep in their garages temporarily or sleep on their couches, etc. It was a very humiliating time in my life, the first of many to come. And to be honest, I became so depressed that for the first time in my life, I briefly contemplated suicide and it really scared me that I could even entertain the idea for a few seconds. I saw that all my so-called “friends,” were merely fair weather friends because as soon as I needed help, they became indifferent to my personal troubles. I was finally released from the Army after I signed a piece of paper waving my rights to the G.I. Bill. And I was given an “Undesirable Discharge.”

 

The second life-changing event was a few years later after I’d been released from the army. My little brother, Tim, four years younger than me, had, like so many others, gotten into hard drugs and was shooting heroin. I tried to tell my mom but she was in absolute denial. I beat the Hell out of him. I hugged him and told him that I loved him. Finally, I avoided him because I was so ashamed of what he was doing. He committed just about every crime just short of murder and two days before he died, I got a message that he was trying to get a hold of me but I didn’t call him. And I still carry that guilt with me to this very day!

 

I believe that these two events radically altered my life path and I’ve been on the road to find out—to borrow a song title from Cat Stevens—ever since. It took me 14 years to earn my B.A. in English Literature and many family members & “friends” had called me a loser and a quitter for my dropping out of community colleges so many times, sometimes halfway or three quarters of the way through a semester but I didn’t care. I hit the road and did a lot of hitch-hiking up and down the West Coast, across the U.S., and to Europe several times sometimes on a one-way ticket with a couple hundred bucks in my pocket. I was in search of truth, meaning, adventure, and my dreams. I saw the poverty in foreign countries and my eyes were opened about the truth of America because of the intelligent or intellectuals I came across and the books they recommended that I read.

 

And the more that I read the classics in literature by such authors as Dostoyevsky, Steinbeck, Dickens, etc., the more I began to connect the dots between poverty and violence and the underlying cause, exploitation by the heartless rich and the stronger my hate for this class grew. If I had to guesstimate a quantification for my “self-education,” I’d say that I have probably average 40 hours per week for the past 30 years and while I’m not claiming to be a “know-it-all,” I believe I have done an amazing amount of research & work and that should count for something in the way of credibility. Without a doubt, the best job I ever held in my life only lasted six weeks but oh, what a six weeks it was!

 

I was a substitute teacher for L.A. Unified and had built a reputation for being a substitute that teachers could rely on to follow their lesson plans, interact positively with the students, and not sit on my butt. My now ex-wife, Jeri, was teaching a Special Education class at Van Nuys High School in the San Fernando Valley and I often was requested to work in the Special Ed dept by her fellow teachers and I was requested to sub in the ESL (English as a Second Language) dept. I accepted a long-term assignment in the ESL dept. and after being there just a few weeks, I was asked to interview for the position full-time, year-round as I was signing out for the day. I was interviewed at the same time by the principal, the ESL dept. chair, & the English dept. chairperson. I was pleasantly surprised when they offered me the choice of a full-time position in either dept. I chose the ESL position because the students had touched my heart.

 

Most of the students were from El Salvador & Nicaragua and had seen the atrocities committed by the Death Squads that Ronnie Reagan equated with our founding fathers. My heart went out to them and I felt more like a cheerleader than a teacher because I basically just kept reassuring all my students by telling them that English is a difficult language to learn but that I was there to help them and that they would do okay. I tried to show them respect by often asking them how to say things in Spanish. These students asked permission to enter the classroom and no matter how many times I told them, “No es neccessario,” they continued to ask out of respect to me. I loved working with them so much that I offered my help for free at the local library on Saturday mornings. Everything was great and then I got word that because I hadn’t completed six units towards my teaching credential, the district wouldn’t renew my long-term credential and that I had to move on. I was devastated and when I announced to my class that I had to move on, several of the girls started crying and it brought tears to my eyes and I left the room out of embarrassment.

 

I think the loss of this position affected me so strongly because I sympathized with these students and could relate to some extent, the hard lives they had lived. My compassion and empathy for others is no doubt a result of my own upbringing and experiences. And I know that a lot of the suffering of the people from El Salvador and Nicaragua is a direct result of U.S. involvement, support of their dictators, placing their dictators in power, training their secret police in the ways of torture, etc. and I feel a responsibility as a U.S. citizen as well simply being a fellow human being.

In conclusion, I am now 60 years old and scared. Scared because I have no health insurance and I have to practically beg for minimum wage jobs that are so degrading that my spirit dies a bit more each day I walk into work. I am forced to work jobs where I feel humiliated by co-workers often younger than my own son not because of their age but because they feel its okay for them to talk to me and treat me in such disrespectful ways. I want to scream and/or slap them across their faces and yell “I’m fuckin’ light years ahead of you, you mental midget and how dare you talk to me in such a manner!” The daily suffering & pain of watching your children slowly die from malnutrition of diseases that are so easily preventable or treatable with a medicine that costs pennies, is building anger against all who are either directly responsible or simply indifferent to it. We have a true poverty of compassion, a poverty of knowledge, a poverty of intellect, and a poverty of imagination that is a threat to our very survival as a species! And I don’t care how much or how vehemently the moral midgets on “FOX News” such as Limbaugh, the oxycontin addict, O’Reilly, the bully, Coulter, the callous, etc. deny these realities, we ignore them at our own peril!

True Power Lao Tzu

We do have a wealth of racism. A wealth of fear. A wealth of greed. And a wealth of indifference to pain, suffering, degradation, & poverty!

 

—Rob DeLoss, Gearhart, OR, May 5, 2013

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