Thursday, June 24, 2010

Readers' Responses: Good Point/Wretched Point

Readers' responses are important to me. They mean as much as the testimonials I collect. Moreover, I think it's necessary to post the good along with the wretched. Occasionally, I like to integrate these comments into pieces. Oftentimes it's when someone writes a particularly egregious thing or makes an absolutely fallacious remark. However, I've decided that I will start to post two at a time: the good point, along with the wretched point. That way, we're striking a balance. Plus, it helps me keep my hope in humanity. (Trust me, the Internet really makes you question humanity at times, especially when Anonymous posters throw racial epithets and misogynistic trash in your direction. That's when I censor, because I don't think filth like that has a place here. There's plenty of other places on the Internet for that s---t. That's why there's no point in posting the drivel from the drooling mouth of Tormentor Sioux, who's in woeful need of an education).

We Americans always like to provide a positive point at the end of anything. Whether it's during a job interview or at the bar (unless you're one of them types who end up fightin' at the end of an evening). I like this custom, so let's begin with the wretched comment first.

In my paper, "The Plight of Current Borrowers: An Appeal For Immediate Relief," I wrote about a woman who was attacked in court for having children, the full details of which can be read here. She was grilled by the creditor's counsel about her choice to have children. At one point she explained that she was Catholic, and therefore the children were not planned. In the closing argument counsel returned to her answer, and stated, “you have to make the decision to have a family in light of what you can afford.”  

A reader made this comment:

No matter how insensitive it is to question having kids you can't afford, it is completely warranted. "Can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em..." Religion is no excuse.

This reader receives the most wretched comment award for this week. There are two striking things about this remark. First, the person is admitting that they're insensitive. But then they quickly argue that they're point is fair. Then they go on to equate a woman to an animal (i.e., "can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em). The levels of insensitivity are absurd and more than just callous. This individual could also serve to reflect upon the meaning of spirituality to other people. It's fine if you do not subscribe to religion (I refuse to use the term "organized religion," because religions like Christianity are organic in nature, and this term is painfully modern and inappropriate when describing the history of this religion or any other one that date backs centuries and centuries). This attorney had no right to go after her decision to have children. This reader is also being presumptuous in his/her assumption about the woman's finances. Like homeowners who lost their homes or who are currently underwater, many Americans who took out loans for education did so because they've been told that it was worth it. Unlike homeowners, they can't simply walk away from their debt. So now many people who have degrees feel that their education is useless. This woman probably thought the debt she was taking on for a college degree would mean that in the future she'd have a decent paying job. In turn, that would mean that she could have children and not have to worry about her student loan debt. Sadly, that's not the case, and she is just one of millions of people who are in this situation.

Enough with critiquing the wretched remark. I could go on and on about how out of touch this reader is, and how I think it's quite sad that there are so many Americans that have such uncaring opinions toward their fellow citizens. Luckily, there are Americans who do care and who are sympathetic. One such person is "Frank the Underemployed Professional." Frank is a superb blogger over at Fluster Cucked (he writes about the law school scam(s) in the U.S.) He responded to my own piece about myself, "Cryn's Story As A Student Loan Refugee And An Indentured Educated Citizen." (I'd also like to give a shout out to Edububble for mentioning this recent piece).  Frank wrote:

"Neither my readers nor I feel entitled to enormous creature comforts (we've all been unjustly accused of that on hundreds and hundreds of walls about student loan debt)."

I have been debating politics and philosophy electronically since the birth of the Internet and I think that people's standards with regards to what is acceptable for our nation, economically, have really decreased. We are slowly starting to accept widespread poverty as a way of life. Years ago it wouldn't have been regarded as being unreasonable for college-educated people to expect to be able to obtain middle class jobs and earn a middle class living without much difficulty. Today being able to earn a middle class income is almost seen as a great prize that people need to desperately struggle for. Today it seems like being working poor is the standard from which people try to rise up. It is "the new normal".

I believe that we are witnessing an epic transformation of our country from that of a first world middle class nation to that of an overpopulated second class nation with widespread poverty. This is being driven by an economic force that few people understand called Global Labor Arbitrage. It is also the reason why so many people feel compelled to flood into the universities, making it easier for schools to jack up the tuition. (Since people perceive that it is difficult to attain a middle class standard of living without a college degree today, people are attending college in droves.)  


Poignantly put, Frank the Underemployed. We are witnessing a frightening transformation in U.S. culture. Just the other day someone told me that these changes are simply necessary. But my question is this: are they really? Why do we think these cataclysmic changes in, say, employment are acceptable, especially when the Fat Cats on Wall Street are doing just fine? Even worse, we now have one of the worst oil spill disasters in U.S. history. Who's paying for it? BP? I think not. It's the same as student loan debtors. The lenders are fine. They'll be fine. The more I read about politics and how there really seems that little is being done to fight on behalf of American citizens on so many levels (health care, the environment, jobs, student loan reform), the grimmer I become. Sadly, many of my readers have already given up hope. I'm not there yet, but I ain't far behind.

14 comments:

Knut said...

Cryn, the situation is not acceptable at all; but look at who is shaping popular perception. I see programs on Fox News where they are literally blaming the "lazy" unemployed and the labor movement for our problems.

You and Frank are doing a public service by raising awareness of the moral and economic rot that is tormenting this country.

You should all understand that this crisis is not just hitting the "welfare queens" that are maligned so much but is actually reaching graduates of prestigious institutions like me and Rose, Esq. from http://rosecoloredglassesjd.blogspot.com/

In other words, we're your sons and daughters.

For more on the "law school scam" please, please visit my blog: http://firsttiertoilet.blogspot.com/

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

Knut - I am sadly not surprised that Fox News is blaming the unemployed. It's despicable, and frankly makes me glad that I'm abroad. That way, it's even more filtered. Rest assured, that doesn't mean that I'm ignoring this hateful s--t, but the distance helps. It's kinda like getting your "bad news" via the Daily Show. There's more of a buffer.

I've been reading your blog, and - as I said already - delighted that your on our side. We need more voices for peole who are struggling.

I am also from prestigious schools (U. of Chicago, Brown, and was even an exchange scholar at Harvard), so I know what you mean. Speaking of that, are you familiar with Ivy Leagued and Unemployed? Perhaps it's on your blog list, I can't recall. If it's not, I highly recommend you adding it. It's fantastic.

http://ivyleaguedandunemployed.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Regarding your comments and "Frank the underemployed"'s comments about the middle class, etc. I first went to a private college but dropped out in my second year b/c my single mother was trying to pay for two children in private colleges on her own. I worked as a nursing assistant, making $6.02 an hour (best wage of anyone i worked with at the time). This was 1991-1994.I did NOT want to go into debt to go to college, but i did not want to be dependent on my mother either. On $6.02 an hour I could not even move out of the apartment I shared with her, buy a car, etc... So I went back to school. Worked three jobs, did workstudy, and still had to take out loans (universities are not often located in low rent areas). Had trouble finding work WITH a BA. Did 2 years in Market Research, miserable, and went back to grad school (located in an even higher rent area and you're not ALLOWED to WORK when you get grants - still had to take out loans). A long time friend of mine said to me: "I don't know if you even WANT that - referring to a "middle class life". It has absolutely nothing to do with want, and everything to do with being exhausted. I don't know any middle class people anyway. I know who people who struggle, and people who mysteriously always have enough money for their trips abroad. Not much in between.

Anonymous said...

If we are already attacking ppl for choosing to have children before paying off the state, then we are saying to them: your body belongs to us first. I say this with grave sadness b/c i just turned 40 and I don't have children and it is largely due to my student loan debt (which is default and i haven't been able to pay off anyway). And honestly, all i ever wanted was to have kids. But I did knowingly go to school on their dime, and I shouldn't have. It just frankly makes me sick that its in people consciousness that owing the government is supposed to be more important than their own lives.

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

First Anonymous poster - what do you mean when you say you only know people who mysteriously always have enough money for their trips abroad? Also, I disagree. The middle class is being destroyed. A healthy society nowadays includes a strong middle class. I'm not saying I'm a fan of a society that's based upon a consumer-driven economy (I'm absolutely not in favor of it), but that's what I'm talking about when describing its disappearance. It doesn't bode well for the U.S.

Knut said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C. Cryn Johannsen said...

I'm not sure I agree. I mean that may be true, but there are plenty of places without a middle class, and there isn't outright class struggle. Sadly, those who suffer the most are the have-nots.

Knut said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C. Cryn Johannsen said...

Haha. Fair enough. I wish you had . . . I mean, you could fool me, because I'm out of the country. :)

Spekkio said...

Crap - browser crashed and lost my comment. Anyway, I'm reminded of a recent edition of NPR's "On Point with Tom Ashbrook" where the guest was Harvard professor (History and Business Administration) Niall Ferguson. He's apparently positioning himself as the modern-day Hayek to Krugman's modern-day Keynes. He argues that the only hope our economy has of returning to growth is essentially a massive austerity program - destruction of "entitlement" programs and welfare that will supposedly restore "business confidence." Mr. Ashbrook repeatedly pointed out how much suffering this would inflict on our nation's vulnerable population, but he always shrugged this concern off, saying that it would be better to create jobs.

I just don't understand why the haves don't have to suffer or sacrifice (in fact, if you increase their taxes, it'll supposedly ruin everything) while the have-nots get to suffer even more in order to make things work. It's this kind of crap that makes me very, very pessimistic about the future.

Anonymous said...

from Anonymous - my comment about "mysteriously have money for trips abroad" wasn't directed at you! Sorry, realized that after i wrote it. I live in Santa Fe, NM....my comments were just about not feeling like i belong to a middle class or could - i know a lot of people who are struggling, and then here in Fanta Se, there are alot of ppl with money (granted less so since the "crash")...it's an odd demographic and admittedly not like the rest of the country. I just find it odd (from personal experience - i was raised by a single mother, i have been struggling my whole life, but i was also raised in predominantly affluent areas) that alot of posters speak about what "will" happen to the middle class, nor am i speaking about what a healthy society SHOULD be - i agree wholeheartedly on the IDEAL, but what i see on a day to day and year to year basis isn't IDEAL or abstract, its just simply the have's and have-nots.

Anonymous said...

@Knut: I honestly don't see that having gone to a "prestigious" institution has anything to do with this. I went to a semi-"Prestigious" institution for a year (Macalester), then finished my undergrand and grad at state universities (presumably cheaper, but when you figure in living costs, etc...still expensive) CU Boulder and UC Davis. This crisis is hitting graduates of ALL institutions across the board. We're sons and daughters too, and not welfare queens. Though i have been on unemployment for a year.

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

No problem! I was just seeking clarification.

Knut said...

6:02, you really misunderstood me. It happens. I'm with you in total solidarity.