Six Weeks Into Poverty
and the clock Tik-toks
This week at the Friday night Stuckist mini-exhibition-slash-happy hour, a friend mistakenly left with my phone. In order to fetch it, I had four options. Charge my “Anti-ethnic cleansing and Genocide” account $20.50 to rent the car, ride the city bus for $2 round trip, take the bus one way and walk the other, or just plain walk like anyone from a thousand years ago who needed to retrieve his phone quick else go mad from “loss of connection to nothing really”. I guess there is also a fifth option of letting the phone rot and living a happy life. Oh well, I didn’t choose that. Or the car. Although a time-saver, it’s still a gross waste of money. Even the frugal must save for special occasions. The bus is a much less expensive transportation choice, and easier on the bones after a night of social drinking to excess. Unfortunately I am always heavy with guilt after a hangover, and seek immediate self-mortification to counteract the wrong I did to my body. I chose to take the bus to my friend’s house, and walk back home. A right good Cynic am I.
Earlier this week I read a little bit about the Cynics of ancient Greece.
From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Cynics advocate askēsis, or practice, over theory as the means to free oneself from convention, promote self-sufficiency, and live in accord with nature. Such askēsis leads the Cynic to live in poverty, embrace hardship and toil, and permits the Cynic to speak freely about the silly, and often vicious, way life is lived by his or her contemporaries. The Cynics consistently undermine the most hallowed principles of Athenian (American) culture, but they do so for the sake of replacing them with those in accord with reason, nature, and virtue.
Yup, sounds like me, though I’d revise the philosophy by leaving out reason. Who gets to decide what is a right and wrong action? I think the concept of reason is absurd because its baseline assumptions are never objective. How can they be? There isn’t a truth for all things. In order to reason, there must be universal truth at rock bottom. One that every amoeba and human can abide by.
So take reason away, and my thoughts (sometimes actions) fit snugly with the Cynics.
Check this out:
Plato saw [Diogenes of Sinope] washing lettuces, came up to him and quietly said, “Had you paid court to Dionysius, you wouldn’t now be washing lettuces,” and [Diogenes] with equal calmness answered, “If you had washed lettuces, you wouldn’t have paid court to Dionysius” The lesson of this exchange is clear: whereas Plato views paying court as freeing one from poverty, the Cynic sees poverty as freeing one from having to pay court to a ruler. (Ibid.)
There I am, the ancient Cynic, in part. However, unlike Diogenes, I will never masturbate in public, a pastime encouraged by the Cynics. That’s just gross and outrageous behavior, even from an ancient Greek perspective. Can we at least agree on this Ms. Amoeba? Can it be one of our immovable truths to invite reason back into philosophy?
Anyway, poverty—how to compare its literal definition to what the U.S. calls “the poverty threshold”? Merriam-Webster defines poverty as “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.” In my case, the United States government quantifies that “socially acceptable amount” for a single individual under age 65 to be an income over $15,852. $15,900, and one has climbed out of unacceptable poverty. Viola! The magic of finance. Still can’t afford salsa for those chips, but one can pay her fair share to Ukraine shysters and the Israeli kill-infant machine. Below the poverty threshold, and a person is just too poor to shake coins out of.
I have finished 6 weeks of belt-tightening. I think I am keeping an honest and accurate account, except where certain assurances and insurances exist for me because my breadwinner is fronting the money. In a real world, I would have to work 20 hours a week at minimum wage ($15/hr), which itself would expose hidden costs that I haven’t considered. For instance, getting to work would be an added expense. By bus, or Uber if I missed the bus. Also, through my wife’s employment I have health insurance, and emergency money (up to a point) that would be necessary to assuage a crisis situation. I can see how single-person poverty can go south very quickly without any buffer to cushion a fall.
This brings me to another reason to just say “No” with poverty. The United States does not provide and protect. It could reform bad spending habits and implement universal health care to its citizenry. Without propaganda paid for by pharmaceutical and insurance industry lobbyists, there would be no issue to debate. I rather help pay for my neighbor’s cataract surgery than cover the meal stipend (and health care) of a CIA operative killing kids in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Who besides a psychopath would not? And what about a base universal income? Or a blend of the two. Like money for one knee replaced and $50/month for cat food? In addition to the gross 900 billion dollar military budget, billions of U.S. tax dollars are flowing into the coffers of corrupt Ukrainian politicians and providing universal health care to Israelis, 60% who believe their government should speed up the genocide of Palestinians. The U.S. pays foreign blood-lusters for their knee replacements. Makes sense, especially if national leaders are going all out to un-dignify their constituents while robbing them.
Back to my project. Do I act hypocritically? Of course! Any person who fingers a smart phone and wants reductions in CO2 acts hypocritically. But that’s not the point of this poverty. Finally I have found an answer to the question that has been pestering me for years. How do I separate my life from a violent and corrupt government apparatus? If I don’t want nuclear weapons to exist, then why must I contribute to their existence? If I am against 2000 lb. bombs dropping on impoverished cities, then why must I share in their manufacture and distribution? If I do not desire human-made climate rearrangement, then why on earth am I participating as a catalyst?
Just say “No” and get poor.
So I go broke to symbolically stand aside of the death spiral. Is there any other way to avoid an active part in federal policies that erases things it does not want, like poor Palestinians and clean water?
Well Ron, you could join a protest march, chant a rhyme, wave a placard. No, that doesn’t work. A 1960’s decade of anti-war protest just produced more carpet bombing in Cambodia and entrenched oligarchy. Likewise, lunch counter sit-ins and somber anti-segregation marches persuaded the FBI to put a bullet through the 2nd coming of Christ. Protest is posturing without any real commitment. It invites instant hypocrisy. “Look at me protesting while I pay the air force to fire bomb schools and hospitals!” I could be persuaded for direct action, that is, if it was the “right” kind. But like protest, that takes people power, and those few good folks chaining themselves to trees or throwing their bodies on tables at oil executive luncheons, just aren’t getting results quick enough. Furthermore, it would take millions of very angry people for a general strike to be effective. I don’t support union strikes that aren’t service workers, (nurses and dishwashers), because I want less manufacturing, not more. I say good riddance to the factories and their pollution. I don’t think unions exist to better a world as much as spoil the worker to his pathetic wants, which accelerates a vicious circle of purchasing with more smokestack belching. No union has ever reduced CO2 output. But we need nurses and dishwashers.
So action has minimal effect on the machinations of a rogue state extorting money for projects its people want nothing to do with. Protest is ineffective and direct action won’t have influence unless a huge population act in concert. That would likely mean civil war, or coup d’état with excellent planners at the helm. Unlikely. As I write, little direct actions are happening all over earth, yet children are still getting mutilated in Gaza. Some protest math: No money equals no fighter jets to foreign nations. No money equals no Chinese manufacture of crap. No money equals no 64 brands of sugar cereal on the shelves. But the most important new math for me: no money equals more freedom to be an artist, to dream and create with much quieter cognitive dissonance. To have rage against oppressors without having to support them financially. It sounds better. It looks better. And, if you know how to cook, tastes better too, with less salt.
So to those interested in seeking change in themselves that could also influence a government, may I suggest the Cynic’s poverty without the public masturbation component. Give it a modern name. Call it “indirect action”. A slow, squeezing death to the monsters of power. Can’t get blood from a stone. Yet if they try, and you’re still mad as hell, then there’s always the stone to throw at the Senator’s face. Poverty and direct action. Now there’s an effective combo. Duck!
My spending this week was high, but still below the threshhold: $233.59
I joined the Tik-tok self-promoters. During the Age of Boredom, there is a renegade expressionist element, known as “The Bandwagoners”, who hop on, play frantically in desperation, and then wait and see that nothing happens.
This Friday’s exhibition and the rest of this week’s paintings: