Reading Frenzy

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Poverty is Alive and Well

“The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied...but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing. “~John Berger

“It is a tragic mix-up when the United States spends $500,000 for every enemy soldier killed, and only $53 annually on the victims of poverty.” --Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Most of us know the basics of this NY Times Bestseller first published in 2001 in which Barbara Ehrenreich chronicled her three months spent earning mimimum wage and her attempt to survive in three American cities in Florida, Maine and Minnesota. It has continued to be a topic of discussion--for example it is San Jose State Unversity's Selection for the 2005 Campus Reading Program. But knowing the general story line is not the same as reading this book which gives the reader a first hand view of what it's like to work at jobs that demean and exhaust workers trying desperately to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. Will you ever look the same at the Wal-Mart clerks, the Denny's waitresses, the people you see everyday who struggle and are stranded in entry level jobs? Not likely.

According to CNN Money last year, "The number of Americans living in poverty jumped to 35.9 million last year, up by 1.3 million, while the number of those without health care insurance rose to 45 million from 43.6 million in 2002." Poverty figures have been on the rise since this undercover expose was written. Compassion challenges us to do what we can to effect change. A little more compassion would go a long way.


At 12:18 PM, Blogger sassymonkey said...

I remember seeing this on Oprah. I should add it to my list. I've done some of those crappy jobs.

At 9:46 PM, Blogger Denise said...

I think TW read this but I had to take it back to the library or something and didn't get to read it. I should though. Actually maybe I will make Michelle read it for school this year - what do you think, Katie?

OK well now TW is saying that she didn't read it - it was a play here, and her prof made her students see it or something. But that is not ringing any bells for me.

Regardless, haven't read it but want to, lol.

At 2:02 PM, Blogger Kate said...

I think that all high schoolers should read this--it's a great way to encourage them to think about how they're going to be earning their living. It's defintely not a plug for working for walmart or merry maids or probably any other minimum wage job. Hmmmm wonder if I can get Rob to read it?

At 6:40 PM, Blogger sassymonkey said...

I you should both make your kids read it. I worked those type of jobs as a teen and I saw how hard the adults I was working with stuggled.

At 2:09 PM, Blogger ~ nellenelle said...

This is really sad, and unfortunately the trend is not looking good. The politics board is discussing the energy issue, and imo, a fast change to a new dominant energy source is going to produce winners and losers, and the losers will be those who have jobs related to petroleum... garages and repair facilities, etc... and more dangerously, the countries for which oil is their only export product will be totally destroyed, and that will create a whole lot of other problems.

We've been reckless as a people, all of us, but we all look for our bubble of happiness, I'm more than guilty.

At 5:23 PM, Blogger actonbell said...

...just passing by to say that I enjoyed reading your blog:) I have Nickel and Dimed on my to-read pile, and I'm looking forward to it. I heard a lot about it on NPR.

At 10:18 PM, Blogger Kate said...

Thanks actonbell....unfortunately for many, I don't think Nickel and Dimed is going to become "dated" anytime soon.


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