Too poor for pop culture
February 5, 2014 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Where I live in East Baltimore, everything looks like "The Wire" and nobody cares what a "selfie" is.
posted by namewithoutwords (53 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ye gods, this is a tough read.

One of my dreams in life is to have enough time to spend in an area like this to "get in" with everyone, photograph them all, make a book and use the proceeds to help them. But I'm quiet and white and not very social, so all I'd wind up with are my cameras and gear stolen. Sigha.
posted by nevercalm at 9:05 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]


Love the use of "Zimmermans" as a descriptive noun
posted by Hoopo at 9:07 AM on February 5 [35 favorites]


It's pretty much the same out in the sticks, except that white poors grow up in trailers instead of projects.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:13 AM on February 5 [16 favorites]


"Eventually the mass death of my close friends caused me to leave the drug game in search of a better life. Ten-plus years and three college degrees later, I’m back where I started, just like my card-playing friends: too poor to participate in pop culture. Too poor to give a fuck about a selfie or what Kanye said or Beyoncé’s new album and the 17 videos it came with."
posted by Beardman at 9:13 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


"Zimmermans" as a descriptive noun

That is a good one... for a second I was thinking "Bob Dylan?" and having trouble with that.
posted by mr. digits at 9:14 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Yep, tough read, but I absolutely love the author's style.

Brought back some painful memories from my youth in the ghettos of Ft Lauderdale though.
posted by lord_wolf at 9:15 AM on February 5 [6 favorites]


For the record, the author's website and CV. (PDF)
posted by Going To Maine at 9:17 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Brought back some painful memories from my youth in the ghettos of Ft Lauderdale though.

I thought a similar thing, I played many a Saturday night game of Spades having those conversations and drinking rum. Of course, I was having fun with my friends, so not quite the same thing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:24 AM on February 5


I'm just not really sure why your comment bothers me so much, nevercalm. Maybe you could come take pictures of me and put them in a book so I can understand.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 9:24 AM on February 5 [60 favorites]


Wow. That was really, really good. Thanks for posting.
posted by tristeza at 9:27 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


eating our cereal with forks to preserve milk.

damn.
posted by jammy at 9:28 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]


He was charged with a crime that he didn’t commit. I know this because my late cousin did the shooting and our whole neighborhood watched. Bucket was in the wrong place at the wrong time and as many know, we are products of a “No Snitching” culture.

I read this to my friend and workmate, who is Republican. He kept saying "that's stupid. That's so stupid. They have witness protection. If he knows who did it he should tell. Or tell and then move" He couldn't understand that there is no witness protection at this part of the ladder, where the rungs have all been stolen and no one gives a shit and the only thing you have to help you survive is the people around you and if you snitch even that safety net is gone. And everyone's too damned poor to move because if they could afford to get out they would.

I don't think it's that he lacks empathy, but that poverty on this level is really tough to comprehend. If you haven't achieved the necessary level of cynicism and realism, it's tough to believe it goes on in your own country (the US, in this case).
posted by nevercalm at 9:32 AM on February 5 [29 favorites]


oh, *George* Zimmerman. Right.
posted by alloneword at 9:33 AM on February 5


Not to mention if you're poor and black, your encounters with the police probably haven't been of the sort where you want to choose them over the people you live with every day.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:39 AM on February 5 [21 favorites]



One of my dreams in life is to have enough time to spend in an area like this to "get in" with everyone, photograph them all, make a book and use the proceeds to help them. But I'm quiet and white and not very social, so all I'd wind up with are my cameras and gear stolen. Sigha.
posted by nevercalm at 5:05 PM on February 5 [1 favorite +] [!]


And the winner of Whitest Metafilter Comment Lifetime Award goes to...
posted by Caskeum at 9:42 AM on February 5 [87 favorites]


Let Us Now Praise Less Famous Men.
posted by zamboni at 9:49 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


I wonder, grimly, how much Salon paid him for this.
posted by bicyclefish at 9:51 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]


Ok, ok, nevercalm's comment was fairly tone deaf, yes, but not in a mean-spirited dick way, so maybe cool it a bit with the skewering.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:52 AM on February 5 [44 favorites]


And then you look at the sidebar, filled with all the pop culture that liberals love, and realize that where D. Watkins lives in East Baltimore, NOBODY READS SALON.
posted by zscore at 9:56 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


It's weird to think about, even as a Baltimore resident, how different people's experiences are in the same city. Especially since I work for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and probably only a mile or two from where the alley abortion happened.
posted by josher71 at 9:57 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


It sort of old hat by now, but one of the early questions I remember raising and having raised around me in the early days of the Internet was accessibility: How were we to make sure all the voices of the then "Global Village" were spoken and heard, given the huge infrastructure investments required to participate (electricity, networking, computers, etc.)

And what ended up happening of course was that middle and upper class U.S. got a big foothold and less advantaged citizens and citizens of less advantaged countries came on later and carved out what they could.

It's easy in this insular Internet to forget that China, behind their firewall, is far outpacing us in adoption of the Internet and social media as a whole, because we don't see them.

I used to live in Baltimore. We'd drive through SoWeBo (SouthWest Baltimore) in order to go out to Catonsville and nearer where the good Asian groceries were situated. It was always rough to see and observe goings on. Once we got snowballed in the car. It sounded like gunfire inside the car's cab. Scared the bejeezus out of us. But really the worse was just the poverty, the crimes done out in the open, not just in SoWeBo but in our neighborhood too. Just so desperate sometimes, and bleak.
posted by kalessin at 10:04 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]


The writer casually mentions selling drugs but I'd love more detail about how he lived back then to how he lives now.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:04 AM on February 5


And everyone's too damned poor to move because if they could afford to get out they would.

Maybe, maybe not. One of the many things The Wire got right is that their neighborhood is the entire world. The suburbs are as faraway as the ocean or Spain. Their entire support network lives in the same neighborhood and to leave means leaving them in some way. That's not easy, if one gets the financial means.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:26 AM on February 5 [18 favorites]


One of my dreams in life is to have enough time to spend in an area like this to "get in" with everyone, photograph them all, make a book and use the proceeds to help them. But I'm quiet and white and not very social, so all I'd wind up with are my cameras and gear stolen. Sigha.

It is a really difficult lesson to learn, but this isn't the best kind of help to provide. (I've done my time in the trenches of radical media, so I have some experience of such kind of thing.)

In any community of reasonable size, there are already potential leaders, skilled storytellers, people who can quickly learn to be competent videographers and photographers. These people can tell local stories much more easily than you can, and without having to deal with the whole whiteness/outsiderness/shyness thing that will stand between you and the story. These people need access to equipment, media access, assistance negotiating unfamiliar publishing or online environments and sometimes validation that they are actually good at their new skills. Providing those things is one thing an outsider/shy person can do - not through charging in and trying to lead or speak for people but through funding or advocating for community-led groups, and sometimes through teaching if you have a concrete skill. Or sometimes through providing something that is highly specialized, like video-editing.

When marginalized communities have problems, the solutions are best developed within the communities by the people of the communities. (This doesn't mean that every community idea will be a winner, or that local people always make good choices; it just means that solutions imposed from the outside by non-marginalized groups are just going to replicate relations of domination, silly ignorant mistakes, etc.)

In terms of money, you might find The Revolution Will Not Be Funded of interest - less for its primary purpose than for the many anecdotes about how precarious outside funding imperils projects. When you - for instance - produce a book about other people with the intent of giving them the money, you're basically putting them in a supplicant position. Out of the goodness of your heart, you are giving them money - and you can stop at any time. (Even if you're the nicest person in the world! Even if you do give them all the money!) And any external nice things like author appearances and book contracts accrue to you, not them. And just who does the money go to? You may not know the most effective way to disburse it, and it may get wasted or do harm. Much, much better that people produce their own [book/product/etc] with help or funding from you so that they control the end product. "She who writes the movie owns the script and the sequel", as Janelle Monae says.

There are times - specific moments of urgency - when it's better for an external actor to do something than for no one to do it. But in long or medium-term situations, the focus needs to be be on getting people in a position to have power over their own lives, and power over the political processes that affect them.

I say this not to be horrible - because I've been in your very shoes. It's possible to want so passionately to use the skills you have, and to have genuine compassion, and also to be realistic about being shy and your ability to navigate new situations, but still to have such a vague sense of what "help" means that it is difficult to escape cliche and relations of domination. I think this is particularly true if you are a morally aware but also shy/awkward person, because you are aware of the need to do something and you're moved to do it, but you don't have the right kind of experience and personality to know what to do.

I am sure that there are ways for you to use your skills to help people you want to help. If you get to know local organizations, there are probably countless things to do - talks to film, portraits to take for websites, trainings to provide to people who want to learn to do those things. I have filmed a variety of talks for people, for instance, and I know folks who do video trainings.

Also, if you want to give money, figure out some organization that really does a good job with something you care about - local or national. Black Girls Code, the Allied Media Conference (you might enjoy going to that and I bet you'd come away with lots more ideas), lots of that stuff. You could even, like, use your skills to make something unrelated to sell and then donate the money to the organization. (On a small and silly level, I organized a bakesale for the Zapatistas back in the nineties and a local solidarity group spent the money on supplies for a supply caravan that went down to Chiapas.)

All this kind of thing, also, will give you a more real sense of the lives of people you're thinking about, and it will help you make connections and get a sense of how to do more effective and meaningful work.

I believe that you have a real, lifelong and sincere dream to act against the injustice that you witness. A lot of people don't have that. I suspect that you're like me - basically shy and introverted, interested in radical work that maybe you're not ready to do yet. Honestly, I think I've done better work when I didn't just try to tackle a problem on my own from the outside, but made connections and started small. It's also been massively less stressful, because I can do things that fit well with my personality rather than trying to work against it.
posted by Frowner at 10:32 AM on February 5 [210 favorites]


One of my dreams in life is to have enough time to spend in an area like this to "get in" with everyone, photograph them all, make a book and use the proceeds to help them. But I'm quiet and white and not very social, so all I'd wind up with are my cameras and gear stolen.

While I'm sure you mean well, and I don't want to pile on, I am still duly moved to assure you with every ounce of certainty I have: Making it your mission to slum it in the projects for long enough that you can secure permission to take photographs of various and sundry poors in order to sell those photographs to upper- and middle-class white people -- who else would buy them? -- is not going to do anything but make your subjects feel even more alienated, gawked at, and removed from the rest of society than they already do.

I'm generationally poor, I grew up in the projects, I didn't live a single day off of government assistance until I was an adult, and I'm lucky as all hell to have been able to get up and out of there -- there but for the grace of my skin color, birthplace, and communication skills go I -- but the constant, gnawing spectre of insecurity and scarcity that followed me for the first 18 years of my life continues to inform my every waking thought. Since I'm more than a decade out, I feel like I have enough distance and perspective to be able to present you with a couple of simple ideas if you actually want to help, uh, them.

* Donate food, time, and money to your local food pantries. You can look up which ones are closest to you on some of these sites: Feeding America, FoodPantries.org, Ample Harvest.
* Volunteer to help teach poor kids how to read, how to write, how to sound confident and self-assured, how to keep their chins up and carry themselves with grace and poise when the rest of the world is telling them that they're worthless and beneath contempt.
* Mentor someone in Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
* Tutor adults in basic literacy and math skills so they can get a GED.
* Teach adults how to create and modify resumes so they can get a job.
* Help ex-prisoners transition, reenter, and reintegrate into their communities following a period of incarceration; usually, folks will need assistance in securing (at minimum) safe housing, employment and/or government assistance, and a cell phone.

Those are a few things that will help lift people out of poverty. They're not very artistic or exciting or expressive, I know, but they will absolutely help.
posted by divined by radio at 10:50 AM on February 5 [93 favorites]


So whenever I read these stories I think about my youth. Obviously I grew up in a white area, but I had friends who were from the underclass. Dealers, "gang members" (which I mostly took to mean dudes who got some weed and I think they got into methcathinone for a while from the larger cities, no big violence beyond maybe some minor skirmishes, no murders at the time, I dunno about now) Anyways, I hung out with some of that crowd, nothing major. But again - mostly White kids, one Native American dude and his sister, and his girlfriend and kid, and a couple Black guys.

Then I think about when I went on a date with this girl whose mom was a super at a project here here our town's "ghetto". I went to bring her home and so I drive in my little shitty car, and pull in, a bit afraid due to the whole stigma of the area. But I wasn't completely freaked, because I hung with the lower class before, it was just sorta how I rolled...

It was awkward, because I liked "alternative hip hop" (you know, Beasties, Dr. Octagon, Deltron, Souls of Mischief, shit like that)... These kids listened to the more popular stuff, I think maybe Jay-Z was big at the time, and I'm sure lots of stuff I hadn't heard of. Wasn't too into it myself, but I remember just sitting next to some like 12 or 13 year old kid smoking a joint with him. I wasn't gonna lecture it's their world. I'm all for dope legalization, but my stance is not for kids who are still growing, but I'm also not gonna be some asshole who tells people how to live their lives.

Which gets me thinking about all these fearful Republican white people. Who the fucking hell would sit down and chillax in a project with some folks for an hour? They'd be like "no way am I going there." It's just kinda sad.
posted by symbioid at 10:53 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


He couldn't understand that there is no witness protection at this part of the ladder, where the rungs have all been stolen and no one gives a shit and the only thing you have to help you survive is the people around you and if you snitch even that safety net is gone.

Ironically, it was The Wire that helped me understand that. A politician gets elected mayor partly on the strength of outrage against a witness getting capped, and in the meantime Randy Wagstaff's life is getting torn apart once word gets out that he's a snitch, and nobody helps him, even though he's crucial to breaking a case in which many people are killed.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:12 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


This was a great read. Depressing of course, but also hopeful because the author is incredible. Amazing writing style. Look at that CV! Read that history! Surely this is someone who won't be stuck in adjunct hell forever. Right? Right?

Further to Frowner's great comment, there's a documentary called "Reel Injun" (available to watch on CBC) that looks at portrayals of First Nations in visual media. One of the lines that stays from me from that doc is a critic/filmmaker talking about Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. He talks about how incredible the film is and he calls it "An inside job". It was a movie made by an Inuit director about Inuit people, for Inuit people. It is an incredible piece of work and many people who aren't Inuit loved it too of course. But the power and importance of that film, and other films made by First Nations people around the globe becomes increasingly clear as you watch the documentary. There's also talk of the "overculture" in "Reel Injun" and how many of us in the overculture (which of course varies depending on what you are talking about) naturally have the very well meaning desire to speak on behalf of others. And while this can be helpful and very necessary in some ways it is often harmful in others.

I think a lot of the recent soul-searching that NGOs have been doing falls into this same area. There's lots of talk about "capacity building" and "volunteer tourism" as organizations struggle with how helpful is it, really, to send volunteers - no matter how well meaning - from X country (with lots of money and equipment) to Y country (with much less money and equipment) to show the folks in Y country how things are done.

We need more talented people who can do the inside jobs and this writer seems to be very well positioned indeed. More power to him.
posted by Cuke at 11:19 AM on February 5 [6 favorites]


Flagged Frowner's comment as fantastic.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:29 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


(I also want to point out that divined by radio grew up in an actual inner city situation and has some advice that is more concrete than mine...I was kind of writing my comment as a "from one white, introverted feeling-haver to another", but that shouldn't trump actual advice from someone from the actual situation in question, because that would mean that I would be "speaking for" someone about not "speaking for" people and we'd all collapse in a miserable circle of white left-liberal recursion.)
posted by Frowner at 11:53 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]


(DBR's too!)
posted by en forme de poire at 12:14 PM on February 5


nevercalm's comment reminded me of the classic ethnographic study Tally's Corner: A Study of Negro Streetcorner Men. Same basic idea about embedding with an unfamiliar culture and finding a guide, though not focused on photography and not really for reasons of social justice. It's not wildly implausible and it needn't be offensive.
posted by Jeff Howard at 12:17 PM on February 5


" It's not wildly implausible and it needn't be offensive."

I felt that way about 12OClockboys (speaking of Baltimore).

Some pretty grim realities on display but fascinating, human, honest, and more or less judgement free. Just a glimpse into a place and a time I would otherwise have no opportunity to identify with.

Sorry for the derail.
posted by blackfly at 2:37 PM on February 5


Eons since I had to stay up all night counting money until my fingers cramped. Since I had to lie on my back to kick my safe closed and I wore and treated Gucci like Hanes and drove Mercedes CL’s and gave X5 beamers to my girlfriends — my good ole days.

Dealing was that lucrative? When/why was that? Who (meaning what kind of job/worker on the supply chain) makes that kind of money? Is it still happening?

I've always thought of dealing as "nicer apartment" money, not "oligarch" money -- but that's probably just me being ignorant. Does anybody know what the financial opportunities were/are or where I can find out more?

(Not for anything illegal! I'm currently studying how the labor market functions for different groups (ie, different social classes) and the talk about wearing Gucci and giving away cars is making me think that my perception of how legal and illegal labor compares -- or at least compared during some specific period? -- is off for some reason).

(Similar side note: soul food destroys your kidneys?!)
posted by rue72 at 4:05 PM on February 5


(Similar side note: soul food destroys your kidneys?!)

There is a great documentary about it called Soul Food Junkies by Byron Hurt.
posted by freakazoid at 4:18 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Dealing was that lucrative? When/why was that? Who (meaning what kind of job/worker on the supply chain) makes that kind of money? Is it still happening?


One thing about dealing is that, since it's all cash, you can't really use it for anything practical. Much better to put your money in designer clothes, jewelry, or cars, which can be bought with cash, than to hide it under the bed.

If you have a "nicer apartment" job, you can, yeah, get a nicer place to live, put the kids in private school, pad out your retirement account, etc.

If you have a "nicer apartment" drug dealing gig, you need to find a way to get rid of a lot of cash, quick, without anyone asking too many questions.
posted by Sara C. at 4:21 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


The comments responding to nevercalm's brief comment actually changed my interpretation of the original piece--where I was struggling for a take away.

First D says he was a drug dealer, had lots of money, but got out when a close friend died. He left drug dealing "in search of a better life". I thought that was the point of being a drug dealer and death the cost. This gave me pause. Then D said, after ten years, he had three college degrees, works as a teacher, graphic designer, web designer, photographer, video director, and his bio says he's a writer. He lives on the cheap. It actually sounds like an enviable life...

...it sounds lile the work of an artist.

Yes. Nevercalm's response did come across as objectifying and distanced--aloof--from the struggle our original artist D describes with such style. HEY! I got news for you Nevercalm, you don't need to creep into someone else's depressed neighborhood to find people struggling with drugs, living in cramped spaces, suffering underemployment, trying to live authentic lives. They're all around you if you know where to look and you're not afraid of leaving everything behind you know and living the same as your subjects--like D.
posted by xtian at 4:55 PM on February 5


Is it still happening?
Not the street dealers, no, but higher up the chain maybe. I am blanking on the name now but I recently saw a documentary about this. The guy at the "top" of the gang was living in like a penthouse and the guy on the bottom was living in the building he was dealing in.

I kind of laughed about the Gucci comment because I grew up hood-adjacent in Cleveland, and everybody in HS (except me, of course) had genuine Gucci in their closets because they sold it in the department stores at the mall.
posted by sm1tten at 4:58 PM on February 5


(Similar side note: soul food destroys your kidneys?!)

Not directly, but kidney damage is a complication of diabetes, which is twice as likely to affect African-Americans as non-Hispanic whites and can be exacerbated by a diet high in fat (especially saturated fat), sugar, and calories. Although it's possible to eat soul food without having such a diet, there's really no arguing the point that lots of soul food is fatty and/or sweetened. And once your kidneys are damaged, what you can safely eat is considerably more restricted - sodium, potassium, phosphate and protein are all taxing to the injured kidney (although you need all of them to live).
posted by gingerest at 8:41 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


The Obama feeling in 2008 isn’t the same as the Obama feeling in 2014. Obama had us dream chasing in 2008. My friends and I wanted him to be our dad and  best friend and mentor and favorite uncle. Shit, I wanted to take selfies with him. He was a biracial swirl of black and white Jesus sent to deliver us. To bless people stuck under the slums like Sheryl, Bucket, Dontay and I with jobs, access to the definition of words like selfie and hope — REAL HOPE.

But in 2014 it feels the same as Bush, or Clinton, or any other president. The rich are copping new boats and we still are using the oven to heat up our houses in the winter, while eating our cereal with forks to preserve milk.

posted by salvia at 9:01 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Just started reading this little puff piece about Flappy Bird, remembered this article, and got hit with a tremendous sense of whiplash. Surprising (or perhaps not) how it sticks. Hopefully it'll get some traction...
posted by Going To Maine at 5:56 AM on February 6


> And once your kidneys are damaged, what you can safely eat is considerably more restricted - sodium, potassium, phosphate and protein are all taxing to the injured kidney (although you need all of them to live).

There are also these food risks (YouTube / Key & Peele).
posted by kalessin at 9:23 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Update from the B'more City Paper.
posted by josher71 at 11:18 AM on February 6


This was a great read. Depressing of course, but also hopeful because the author is incredible. Amazing writing style. Look at that CV! Read that history! Surely this is someone who won't be stuck in adjunct hell forever. Right? Right?

That part left me a wee bit frustrated-- maybe with D. Watkins, maybe with his college counselors or maybe just with our cultural narratives of education. You come from horrific poverty, you happen to be personally gifted with just the crazy smarts and personal togetherness to gtfo and earn an honors degree from Hopkins... and you opt to take that degree in history? With a bonus MFA on top? So that now, instead of being the guy with a chemical engineering/accounting/medical/whatever degree and a sweet six-figure job who can go back and fund scholarships and resume workshops and connect promising young people to your amazing networks, etc.,... you're another broke adjunct with a couple degrees in Idealism, basically, and you can barely help yourself, much less anybody else.

I mean, maybe the dude just really loves history, and far be it from me to quarrel with anybody's personal decisions in search of intellectual self-actualization. But if there were professors along the way who encouraged him to dive back into the creative-writing/humanities-teaching poverty mill, because he had such interesting stories and such a unique voice, with a view towards validating for themselves a very particular, very privileged, very impractical vanity narrative about starving artists who speak their truth ... I feel like those people have a lot to answer for.
posted by Bardolph at 12:44 PM on February 6


and you opt to take that degree in history? With a bonus MFA on top?

I didn't realize only well off white people get to do things that are fulfilling and make them happy.

There are a lot of different ways to help your community.
posted by Sara C. at 12:54 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


I didn't realize only well off white people get to do things that are fulfilling and make them happy.

I think that was my point-- that the narrative of an expensive (in opportunity cost, at minimum) education as something that's purely there for fun times and personal fulfillment, subsequent economic realities be damned, involves let-them-eat-cake levels of privileged specificity to a particular class outlook. And that such narratives tend to be aggressively marketed by precisely those people (academics and literary intelligentsia) who have the most to gain from the carrying of additional grist to the MFA mill.
posted by Bardolph at 1:19 PM on February 6


I didn't realize being a good writer automatically meant you were cut out to be a doctor, accountant or chemical engineer. Maybe he just doesn't have it in him to go STEM (and the idea that those degrees are an easy ticket to a "sweet six-figure job" these days has been discredited, anyway).
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:24 PM on February 6


Although getting the MFA...yeah.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:24 PM on February 6


purely there for fun times and personal fulfillment, subsequent economic realities be damned, involves let-them-eat-cake levels of privileged specificity to a particular class outlook

You do realize that there are people whose talents don't lie in STEM fields, right?

I mean, what is this guy supposed to do, just go die because his contribution to society (writer/historian) isn't as financially lucrative as a doctor or an engineer? He can't help his community in any way by being a writer/historian? He can't contribute meaningfully unless it's to start a scholarship program?

I really don't think it's valuable to encourage people from poorer backgrounds to go to college and become professionals only if their talents lie in an obviously lucrative career. When you tell poor people they're only worthwhile to the extent that they have the potential to become rich, you're basically telling poor people to fuck off.

I know plenty of academics -- even people with MFAs -- who support themselves and are vital members of their respective communities. It seems bizarre to me to assume that if someone isn't an engineer, they are a leech bringing everyone else down.
posted by Sara C. at 1:40 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


And reciprocally, I know a bunch, a BUNCH, of people with degrees in biomedicine and chemistry who are stuck in adjunct hell. They aren't vanity-oriented idealists or social leeches, either - it's the corporate, capitalist, profit-oriented model of science and higher education that's made it a lot more difficult to find a stable job that makes use of those advanced degrees.
posted by gingerest at 2:39 PM on February 6


It seems bizarre to me to assume that if someone isn't an engineer, they are a leech bringing everyone else down.

Or, that they should always and only conceive of themselves as instruments for the short-term good of a group to which they may not always and only belong.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:35 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Baltimore City's Community Mediation program does a lot of work with prisoner re-entry mediations, and empowers locals to collaborate, rather than call the police (reserving them for emergencies). A community conflict resolution center can build communities. A good read, I'm send this article & contact information their way
posted by childofTethys at 4:49 AM on February 7


I really doubt he did an MFA for "fun times" and "personal fulfillment." I think he probably did an MFA because it is the degree you need in order to teach an artistic field at the university level. While adjuncting certainly sucks and I absolutely agree that adjuncts are heavily exploited, adjuncting is also still an income and a platform to do things that I would guess the author probably considers more important than money. Perhaps he's been sold a false bill of goods by academic oppressors; but on the other hand, choosing to work in a less lucrative field that you think benefits society should not be something that only rich people are "allowed" to do.

I for one do not want to end up with a society that only draws academics and artists exclusively from the upper classes, because that would contribute to the erasure of poor people's stories and experiences from our canon.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:46 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


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