Woody Guthrie was a sign painter. And Phil Ochs proclaimed “war is over” long before John and Yoko ever did. So, the above photo calls out to the spirit of these warriors to lend a word or two about poverty.
Specifically, the kind of poverty where you’re hovering around that invisible line and weighing out if it is better to get that third job – and risk becoming not quite poor enough to be poor enough and qualify for assistance at being poor – or find a way to cash out under the table and keep qualified.
Qualified… For things like EBT and EDD. Two sets of three letters that bring shame to some and outrage to others.
Two sets of three letters that mean life or death to many.
My EDD card had a Sierra vista pictured on it. There wasn’t a name or even a number. It was a way to mask the mark. Food assistance vouchers have come a long way from the colored postage stamp things that called out in neon pink and orange from the check out stand. But, what hasn’t changed is that they are never enough to meet the cost of living. They are just enough not to be enough. These plastic incantations of lack. And like the petroleum byproduct they are printed on – they are unsustainable. But don’t worry, turn from the abyss, EBT is accepted here. Carl’s Jr still welcomes the huddled masses…
Have you ever noticed how many places advertize they accept EBT who shouldn’t?
Legitimate grocery stores don’t advertize they accept EBT, but they do. So do Farmers’ Markets. They give you little wooden chips. It makes you feel like you are at the casino when you buy farm fresh eggs.
Gratefully, my financial situation has changed for the better these past few years, but the memory of being poor lingers. Anyone who says it doesn’t, hasn’t been poor.
Think of the children of the Depression, the money sewn into pillows and behind walls. A perspective of lack can be passed on just like predisposition for heart disease. The Curse of the Starving Class Sam Shepard called it.
Yeah, it lingers . Poverty. And I am reminded of it when I see EBT accepted here in the window of a Jack-in-the-Box or Circus Liquor …
Malnourishment is what it is. Cultural malnourishment. In every sense of the word. That is what really turns the gear of poverty. It drives the divide. Inside our stomachs.
And up above, greenhouse gas rises and bounces off the balding ozone and the temperatures rise, causing the oceans to rise, which increases the melt which increases the gas, which increases the … the feedback loop of it all. Back and forth. Back and forth.
Down on the street, things reflect the same wicked carousel.
Yeah, they may have bulldozed the projects, but have done nothing but transfer the problem.
Poverty is like that. Hunger is like that. It feeds on itself.
Without time to properly cook, to even be exposed to healthy options, the poor are kept poor. That’s what that Burger King Commercial is really selling; methadone to dull the symptom, not treat the cause.
And I will admit my own hypocrisy in this scheme, as I have been employed to advertize the Whopper and fish sticks, and cheese bread, and .99 cent breakfast menu.
Have I profited from this… descendent of slavery? Certainly. But, I’ve also pawned things and dumped coins in a Coinstar, so, will continue, with your pardon.
The myth that there is no choice becomes real and is reinforced, every day, and people do not see it. It is an invisible type of slavery. The chains are transparent .
But don’t worry, EBT is accepted here.
Five dollars a day. That’s what some governmental-think-tank-thing set up as the demarcation of what it costs to survive. Not roof or utilities, just food.
Five dollars a day.
A few years back, there was a movement, sponsored by Mario Batali and other celebrity chefs, to feed your family on five dollars a day for a week. Its intent was to bring awareness to the cause of hunger. You might have seen Ben Afleck and Jennifer Gardner go on Oprah about it. It’s quite a thing to do; to live on five bucks for a single person. But it is an acrobatic feat of dare-devilry to provide for an entire family on such a Dickensian sum. I mean, shit, you couldn’t even sell out Jesus for that. But, beyond just qualifying for this five dollars, or earning it – where do you buy the food to survive on, even if you have the money to by it?
Which brings us to the field of battle in this war.
Food deserts. Those vast swaths of urban wasteland gutted of autonomy and infrastructure where food distributors find it too cost-inhibitive to enter. There are entire areas of Chicago’s south and west sides, and within the southland of Los Angeles, for example, where there isn’t a single store within miles to purchase fresh produce or anything besides what you find in the shelves of a convenience store. Think about that – if you even have the luxury to have the time to think about it –What does that do to a person, day in day out, who must choose food shelved at a liquor store?
And have you looked at the food shelves of your 7-11 lately? Take a look. There is a mark up on microwaveable Chef Boyardee engineered pasta like sludge. Everything is single serve – throw away.
A throw away cuisine for a throw away class.
The starving class. Who are sold two choices – always. BK or McDonald’s, Del Taco or Taco Bell, etc … Wonder or .. Chips Ahoy or Oreo’s … the illusion of options…
Makes that taco stand on the corner appear more like what it is, right? Or the fried chicken spot. The place for jumbo shrimp or the hot dog cart… An oasis of community to root … like wild dandelion reaching up through cracks in the pavement. Nettles along the fence, and mushrooms in the dump.
But the truth is, there are no affordable and healthy options for tens of millions, and ever if there were, most of the people stuck inside the vice have two to three jobs and don’t have the time to prepare anything, so they … head where it is convenient.
And then we have the obvious toxic dividends of this epidemic; obesity, heart disease, diabetes…
Unless — unless – there is a Grandmother to stand up to the Matrix. Hail that Grandmother who does so much with so little. She’s the real Iron Chef – she’s the one immortalized in Gertrude Stein’s “Paris, France.” Who splits five dollars into three squares for four mouths seven times a week…
Yeah, so even if this starving class could afford something other than a porridge of ladled shit, they don’t have access to it, and I don’t believe Uber Eats or GRUB HUB fills that particular gap either.
Aye, there’s the rub.
That phrase “access to” Access to is very different from being provided. Or guaranteed.
There is quite a gap between reality and a linguistic loophole designed to exploit the virtue of hope that dwells in the spirit of even the poorest woman or man.
To have “access to” is political code for “we don’t really want you to have it, we want to say we want you to have it, don’t worry, we’ll give it to you soon, just be patient, and for now, believe and continue to …
- vote our way
- go along as it is
- stay behind the eight ball…
- low on Maslow’s heirarchy of needs…
- deprived of agency…
- unable to rise…
- and go sing in the church choir to salve the cancer of it all.
Anyone who can recall the continued request for patience from well- intended white liberals to African-Americans during the long drawn out years of the civil rights movement can place the indiginty of a phrase like “access to” in its true perspective.
Maybe poverty and health and the promise of our nation, as a supposed meritocracy, are interwoven. Knotted-up, more like it. A good meal goes a long way toward freedom. Economic freedom. The way out is through the stomach.
We still are what we eat, I guess.
Therefore, having access to your mouth is different from having something nourishing to put in it. Right? So what is this feignt?
It is a tactic of war. To starve a people out. In our cities, and in the dying towns, that’s what this is, a starving out.
But that’s not new either.
In the feudal days, pagan festivals (the antecedents of county fairs) were just events to fatten people up with hope ,with coins tossed on the road, and extra cuts of meat, and contests and merriment– where the landed would come down from the mountain to tame the fire and grapes of wrath with ox tails and baby pigs.
While everyone sang around the May Pole, counting stars in country dress.
Yeah, I know it sounds a little pinko commy- but it isn’t. It is sublimation. Interrupted by a holiday or two of false hope.
And today, we have introductory offers, O% transfer rates, and no fees cancellation charges for the first year promotions to hide something very sinister going on, but don’t worry, look across the street at the sign in the window of Carl’s Jr–
EBT is accepted there.