Those people

I got an e-mail the other day from a colleague at work who was passing on to a whole bunch of us a forwarded e-mail that she had received. Here’s the content of what the e-mail said. It was entitled “Urine Dip”:

    Like a lot of folks in this state, I have a job. I work – they pay me. I pay my taxes and the government distributes my taxes as it sees fit. In order to get that paycheck, I am required to pass a random urine test with which I have no problem. What I DO have a problem with is the distribution of my taxes to people who DON’T have to pass a urine test. Shouldn’t one have to pass a urine test to get a welfare check because I have to pass one to earn it for them?

    Please understand, I have no problem with helping people get back on their feet. I DO, on the other hand, have a problem with helping someone sitting on their ASS, doing drugs, while I work. Can you imagine how much money the state would save if people had to pass a urine test to get a public assistance check?

    Pass this along if you agree or simply delete if you don’t. Hope you all will pass it along, though. Something has to change in this country — and soon!

My colleague hadn’t written this e-mail. It was a forwarded chain letter, and all she was doing was forwarding it to the rest of us. She did ask us what we thought about it, though. My initial desire was to dash of an immediate (and very heated) response to everyone on the recipient list. Cooler heads prevailed, however (I am still a very new employee, and I’m not sure how I feel about making enemies this early in the game), but I did want the opportunity to air my thouughts on this. So hello my delicious little annonymouse blog, aka venting-opportunity-extraordinaire.

What do I think about this? Well, I think it’s a very condescending, priviledged and uneducated point of view. It’s an excuse that people make for not having to care as much about “those people who do drugs” or “those people on welfare” or “those people who sit around on their asses doing drugs while I’m working”. While there are always a few people who are bound to take advantage of a system like welfare or medicaid, I don’t think the majority fall into this group. Ask yourself how you would feel if you were receiving welfare–would you be sitting back on your ass, taking advantage of it, and doing drugs? I think many people are embarrassed and ashamed to be on welfare, but unfortunately, the system focuses on the hand-out aspect of it, rather than on teaching and educating and empowering and giving people the tools and resources they need to get off of welfare. I think it creates a system of dependency and complacency, and I think THAT’S what needs to change.

Those of us with good jobs are privileged in so many ways we may not even recognize. How did we get those jobs? Because we have an education. How did we get that education? Because we were blessed with an attitude or an upbringing or a teacher or a mentor or a relative or a friend who believed in us and taught us that education is important, and that it matters. How did we pay for that education? Because we were blessed with scholarships or grants or friends or relatives who could help us out, or banks that had enough faith in our future potential that they were willing to loan us money, and because we were blessed with enough cultural capital to know how to ask a bank for money in the first place. Or because we were blessed with the knowledge that education is worth it, even if it takes you 7 years to pay for every cent of it yourself from your hard-earned paycheck at MacDonalds. How did we get into college? Because we were blessed enough to finish high school; because many of us we weren’t growing up with violence or drug abuse in the home, because most of us had a stable life and a roof over our heads and food to eat and time in the evenings to do homework and someone there who was going to make sure we DID our homework. Of course we had to work for it, and want it, and put in lots of our own hard-earned blood, sweat and tears, but the desire to get where we are right now is something we shouldn’t take for granted, and not something that everyone is lucky enough to have. The “well, why don’t they just get a job?” attitude is a blanket statement of privilege, which fails to acknowledge how difficult it is to obtain a good job, and all the ways that getting an education and therefore getting a good job is a learned behavior, and a cultural gift, and that not everyone is lucky enough to have that passed on to them and instilled in them, especially at a young age.

The other fallacy in this is the fact that drug use is an ADDICTION. What makes people take drugs in the first place? Depression, loneliness, feelings of helplessness and despair? A sense that they’re trapped, that there’s no way out, that life is shit and there’s nothing to do but try to enjoy what little time you’ve got on this earth in any way you can? Trying to belong to a particular group, trying to fit in, trying to feel like you’ve got a community or a family or friends? Whatever the reasons, the decision to habitually use drugs rarely stems from carefree flower-child experimentation or laziness. People who start to use drugs are driven to it because something is pretty damn bad in their life in the first place, and then, once they’ve started….they can’t stop. Hence the ADDICTION part of it.

To make it sound so easy and so simple–I have a job, I don’t use drugs, I take a urine test, so why can’t “those people” do the same?–is a very narrow-minded point of view, and fails to address any of the larger issues; it’s patronising, simplistic and judgemental, at its very core, and because we all know that the majority of people on welfare are certainly not white, it’s also racist at its core. Cutting people off from the help they need by forcing them to take a urine test before receiving public assistance will probably only make things worse, not better, and only addresses the symptom, rather than the root of the problem. The root of the problem is: what is it in this person’s life which drove them to take drugs in the first place, and how can we address that and help that? I don’t believe in free hand-outs either, but drug addiction is not something that people can just stop overnight, no matter how much they might want to (and usually if they’re deep in addiction, they don’t want to anyway), and it’s not something that people can usually do on their own. It’s so easy for the non-addicted to say to someone who’s addicted…well, just stop using, get off your lazy ass and quit doing drugs…but has that person ever stopped to consider just how HARD that is? Have you actually put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and tried to walk a mile in them? Help, compassion, non-judgement and true understanding would go a lot further, in my very humble opinion, than the “get off your lazy ass and quit abusing the government dole” attitude. Respect for “those people” would make a huge difference, too, but if you see “those people” as lazy (and if you see them as “those people” in the first place)…you’re never going to be able to respect them enough to make any kind of positive change.

Where does the midwifery come into all of this? LISTEN TO WOMEN and DON’T JUDGE. Those two lessons, all over again. The respect and the need to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is inherent in that.

Now, the next question is…should I go ahead and send this back to everyone on the e-mail list? What’s it worth? Making a good impression at my new job and not pissing people off right off the bat…or speaking my mind and being upfront and honest about my beliefs, even at the expense of creating work conflict? Aargh, really tough call.

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9 Comments

  1. Posted November 16, 2007 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Ohhhhh, so nice to have you on my feeds again. I’ve missed reading you! :)

    I would just reply to the sender. Then you’re not putting the sender under spotlight by copying everyone. Perhaps he/she will be more apt to listen and try to understand.

    You’re still the coolest.

    Christine

  2. Capri
    Posted November 17, 2007 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    I think what you wrote is just fine, great, actually. I’d even suggest doing a reply-to-all so that no one else on that list passes it on to anyone else, especially outside the work place. It’s extremely irresponsible and a misuse of the work computer to send out chain letters at all, and they’re not at all guaranteed to stay inside the particular office network.

    With work computers, a lot of times, people’s info is appended to the bottom of their emails, so if somebody spreads a chain letter on an office network, their info plus everybody else’s names and email addresses are on it. Then, if some other doofus actually likes the chain email enough to spread it, he/she will forward it on to a list of friends outside the office network, thereby spreading all the worker’s email addresses and names to a bunch of strangers. Then, if a friend of theirs likes the chain and passes it on, that list of emails along with their friends gets forwarded down to an even broader list of strangers and so on.

    I think it’s even a violation of the rules in at least some work places to send chain letters. So, it might be a good idea to advise all on that recipient list to be more careful and not send forwards.

    http://www.breakthechain.org is just one of the sites people can look to for some good info about these things.

    About the chain letter itself, I completely agree with what you said about it. It was a whiny, even snooty piece of dreck. I really don’t see why whoever originated the chain letter in the first place, (long before it got to the person who sent it out at your work) is getting so worked up about pi$$ for anyway.

    Seems to me a lot of netizens need to learn to stop whizzing in their friends’ inboxes with chain letters before getting all bent out of shape over the non-cyber whizz-tests.

    And “getting a job” is a heck of a lot easier said then done, it’s not like going into a store and picking out some clothes. So many things factor into whether or not a person can even get into the door for an interview at all, and there are lots of job openings but with requirements that a lot of people just don’t have and can’t even get without experience and help.

    Good post. :)

  3. The Midwife
    Posted November 17, 2007 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    Capri, good point: there are many, many barriers in place on the employer side of things which prevent people from getting good jobs too. Thanks for the link, too. I like!

    Christine: welcome back!!

    :-D

  4. rg
    Posted November 18, 2007 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    What a great phrase, “cultural capital.”

    About the workplace and email, if your address is issued by your employer they almost certainly have usage policies, and many include not using work email for personal use at all. Even if it’s not, being professional includes not subjecting your coworkers to your soapbox, their or yours. A short reply, “No forwards, please!” might be helpful.

  5. Posted November 19, 2007 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure if anyone knows of a book called Poor Bashing which charts the rise of the welfare state as a tool to oppress those who have been purposefully relegated to an economic underclass due to the hoarding of others.

    It’s a good book which helps me wade through stuff like this.

    Papi had an idea recently to give out holiday cards to the homeless people in our neighbourhood with money inside.

    I work to get him to understand that offering the money in a card disguised as a gift, something intimate and friendly, was more about him than about them.

    I said that he didn’t know whether they would be thankful for his gift, but that this would be the expectation.

    Power. A feeling of well being and having been let off the hook in a situation that would probably give him more of a sense of well being than any of the people he was going to hand out his cards to.

    I asked him why he didn’t just give them the money?

    Which would put more of the power to decide how they would experience the offering in their hands…adults, not infantilized or dominated.

    This is where I enter this post.

    Urine tests be damned. That’s a shell, a package in which to contain the hidden truth that there needs to be an economic underclass so that the middle classes, ranks now bolstered by accredited midwives and the upper classes, will understand themselves, their lives, their families, their fraternities and their sororities, their children, their clubs and kaffe klatches as superior.

    The infantilization, the: “Pee in the fucking cup and we’ll let you eat, let you sleep, let you be warm, let your children have clothes, let you function under a false veneer that allows you to experience your own decision making capacities within a very, very narrow range of possibilities which are all defined by us”…
    That infantilization is at the root of poverty and what it means to not be monied.

    People get to humiliate you. They get to reference your bodily functions and expect you to go along. They expect to substitute your decision making abilities with their own.

    Fucking drug addicts?
    How many middle class pot heads, functioning alcoholics, people who do pain killers at the drop of a hat, people who are on meds for emotional reasons…meaning they go to a middle man…unh doctor…for their dime bags…
    How many do you know? :)

    I know quite a few.

    But, this is how the infantilization works. Once you’re poor, you have no privacy. Privacy is for the middle and upper classes. Privacy is for people who work…meaning they function as part of the capitalist system that is killing us all…meaning they cluck their teeth at people who won’t or can’t function as willing cogs in the capitalist wheel or who, when they try, can’t accrue enough money to build up credit so as to more deeply indebt themselves to that capitalist system, meaning that they must willingly involve themselves in it if they are to survive economically.

    “These people” exist because company email exists, because legislation legitimizing the work of some, the contribution of some and denigrating the contributions of others, exists.

    It’s a parcel deal.

    My little coochie fairly shrinks at the idea of encountering a raging conservative midwife who would hold the view that a population of people should be controlled (through their pee) if they want to have access to the most basic survival means, touching me or being present at the birth of my child.

    Midwives have come a long way, baybee. :)

    Thanks for writing this and for trying to be brave. darkdaughta

  6. The Midwife
    Posted November 20, 2007 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    *trying* to be brave being the key. If I was really brave, I would have sent my response back to everyone on the list.

  7. Posted November 20, 2007 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    :) All in time. :) I have an agenda and you’re doing just fine. :) But seriously, trust me, it’s risky to challenge your peers. You get fire bombed. So, I can see why you would think twice before engaging. How would you begin? It’s not like a conversation…a meaningful one, would be possible. Maybe anti-oppression work. Why don’t midwifery practices engage anti-oppression facilitators? I think it would make the conversations everyone online is having get fleshed out in a way that could cause some serious movement. Politically radical midwives, anyone? :)

  8. Posted November 24, 2007 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Hey,
    I wrote something I’d like you to have a look at when you have time. Thanks.

  9. The Midwife
    Posted November 25, 2007 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Can you share the link? Or is it today’s post (While I was watching Birthecology…)?

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