Thursday, May 3, 2012

I am the 49th percent!

So, read yesterday that some people are driving around New York City projecting the Occupy Wall Street slogan "99%" onto public spaces (the "we are" part has been omitted, as no one wants to be a giant building. Well, except Donald Trump, who is definitely not the 99%).

Now, you may think this looks like an awesome discount sale on the Brooklyn Bridge--but it's not. It's a real-world Bat Signal. Here's professor and activist Mark Read, who drives the car that projects the signal, on this daring coop day tat of post-neo-modern art:
The bat signal is really simple. It's big and it reads as a bat signal - it's culturally legible [...] It's a call to arms and a call for aid, but instead of a super-hero millionaire psychopath, like Bruce Wayne, it's ourselves - it's the 99% coming to save itself. We are our own superhero.
You got that? When we see this signal, we--or at least those few of my readers who earn less than $386,000 per year--are supposed to hop in our common-man-mobiles and go tie up a bank or round up the predatory credit card offers that roam our nation's streets or maybe even lie down as human barricades across the entrance to the Bellagio.

In this way we will:

1) Stick it to the Man (who has, admittedly, been sticking it to us for some time now).

2) Assuage any guilt we might otherwise have about our own unbelievable excesses.

Now, don't get me wrong: I agree with the protesters that there's something wrong when one-fifth of income in a country goes to less than a fiftieth of the population.

BUT: c'mon, folks...really? I'm somewhere around the 49th percentile of America in income, and I am totally loaded! I have a house(/basement apartment) that has a bathroom bigger than the historical landmark pioneer cabin down the road. I eat imported fruits FOR BREAKFAST. Like, from the southern hemisphere. Also: I can fly. Not every day, of course, but it sure beats pulling a handcart across the muddy plains. If my house gets hot, I change the temperature of the air! Two hundred years ago, if you did that you'd have been stoned for witchcraft.

I am so rich I don't even have to hire a servant to:
-fetch my water from the nearby mountain streams
-pre-soak the beans I cook with
-scrub the stains out of my twenty or so different sets of clothes
-carry my letters around town
-take care of my horses (which I don't need in the first place) or drive my carriage from place to place

Not that my life is perfect.

Actually, no. I take that back. My life is pretty much perfect. My kids can go to doctors when they're sick...or even when they're well, just to make sure everything is hunky-dory. We do really eat really, really well. And when we're done having shelter and food and adequate healthcare, we still have money left over.

Let me back up a moment. The one percent are very powerful now, but I believe in One God who they'll ultimately be held accountable to, and I don't think He's going to be impressed if they found excuses not to share their wealth.

But I don't think He's going to give me a free pass, either. From a historical standpoint, I am also the 1%.

How am I handling it?


  1. I think that part of the problem most people face with finances is that we have a tendency to decide we *need* things that we don't so much - and when our incomes don't cover everything, we feel poor.

    And when social pressure and conspicuous consumerism come into play, we wind up with a lot of people prioritizing the wrong things. But sometimes it's hard to know how to navigate some questions of "need."

    For instance, after I finished my MFA, I thought about buying a car - between teaching as an adjunct at BYU and teaching online courses, I knew I could afford it. But I also knew it would come with high costs for less than a year of driving access before I moved for a PhD program. And I knew that between buses and walking I really didn't need it.

    But on occasions when I was heading out to a ward activity, and some student with hardly any money was the one driving to the bishop's house for an activity - I still felt a little guilty.

    I guess my point is that it's easy to feel obligated (almost morally) to spend money on mostly-personal expenses simply because they sometimes impact others.

  2. After attending a conference in Las Vegas, I was reminded about excess at it's worst. Thanks for the gratitude foccus.

  3. Grandma had a friend who said that she wouldn't mind living in a log cabin if everyone else was living in a log cabin. We do tend to look "sideways instead of up."

  4. Parts of this remind me of a comedy clip I love:



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