Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Know Your Class War: Middle-Aged White Americans

Sometimes, trawling for knowledge in the Internets becomes distinctively scary when you realize that the information you are searching for probably relates to yourself a lot. A recent study has found a dramatic increase in deaths among middle-aged white folks in recent years. I happen to be middle-aged white folks. This made me really all kinds of concerned--am I gonna die like right now? Because I have such a to-do list it's...probably contributing to my ultimate demise.

I have reasons for thinking this related to the class war--the middle class is eroding, and a lot of middle class people are a major purchase away from being broke or in debt, or a major health crisis away from being poor. When people like Ben Carson or Tom Cotton opine about how poor folks, disabled or lazy folks or people lulled by political correctness turn to addiction, I feel disturbed by how out of touch they really are. 


Why wouldn't some hurting people turn to opioids if they hit the spot they needed hit? Contra Sen. Cotton, disabled people like my father are actually people who have been observed by a doctor to not be able to work because their bodies can't do the things they were supposed to do. My father worked hurt for years. If he wants to blame disabled people accepting benefits they are entitled to for quite other people going on drugs, I'll fucking wrestle that pencil-neck. Because I don't think illicit drugs use and qualified disability has so much overlap anyway, and also, what about actually giving a shit about people who either have addiction issues, which is a disease in itself, or addressing how legitimately disabled people gains access to the medication they need to function properly?

As a vet, Tom Cotton should know that vets have a lot of issues sometimes with getting adequate maintenance meds for their pain or psychological symptoms. It is tacky, at minimum, to blame sick people for the social situation they find themselves in. It would be far more useful to try and sort out how they can best access legitimate care.

But not all middle-class whites are getting done in by drugs. Some are killing themselves.  It could be speculated that middle-class whites are more likely to be unchurched.  Is that a reason? But I say--nay nay!  I don't think lack of religion on it's own is to blame. Paul Krugman discussed this problem as one of existential discontent.

Do we fail in the quality of happiness? K-Drum says not.   I think it isn't that simple either. But maybe we do need to rethink what ever it is we consider happiness.  But maybe not confuse it with morality.



2 comments:

Formerly Amherst said...

Great Caesar's ghost! Do you mean middle class white people luxuriating and basking in their privilege actually have problems...!!!??? No wonder they have the audacity to be concerned about the lives of their families and cannot spend 24 hours a day agonizing about politically correct initiatives.

Let me put my esoteric hat on for a second. When a person gets into middle age they need to begin preparing for the journey that will take them beyond death's door. They need to relax their grip on trying to reshuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic and start to prepare for the inevitable.

Michael Grasso, Ph.D., in Philosophy, Columbia, has written an interesting book called Experiencing the Next World Now. I also recommend The Supreme Adventure: Analysis of Psychic Communications by Robert Crookall. As Iago explained to us, “There are more things in heaven or earth, Horatio, than are dreamed of in your philosophy.”

I think your idea about government assistance to the most maligned of all creatures on earth, white people, might be applicable in times of very low debt. Regrettably, we are now heading for $24 trillion in debt and therefore do not legitimately have the money to accomplish the programs on the books already. If we eliminated the debt we would have more options. We will either kill the debt or it will kill us.

Vixen Strangely said...

Even better than government assistance though, is people who can work getting adequately paid for their labor. You know MLK spoke highly of the dignity of work and fair wages, and once said that observing the raw deal white workers were getting, they should really be marching with him.

For a lot of people, white privilege only means being able to say they are white, but that alone doesn't feel their families or take care of them when they're old. I write about racial injustice, but a lot of times, security really comes down to class. When I think of wealth, I've begun translating it into a math of "survival units". Affording food, rent, basic utilities like light and heat, care for one's children, transportation--all take money and are just about subsistence. Things like retiring or vacations, are not survival--they take money and are becoming luxuries for so many. But they are key in some ways to mental survival. Humans need time for self-work. It's great to find meaning in work, but that isn't all there is.

My generation is the "Why Can't Johnny Read?" "McJob" "Abort, Retry, Fail" generation. There's a comedian, Marc Price, who did a bit that went "You had sex, drugs, and rock and roll. We got AIDS, crack and Madonna." This is the generation that's experiencing this existential problem.

I think the sense that, after previous generations each did a little better than the one before (definitely true of immigrant whites), something stagnated. Looking forward becomes harder to do. Looking back trying to sort out what went wrong becomes a preoccupation. But Lot's wife and Orpheus alike could tell you the problem with looking back, eh?