Posted: 06 Mar 2016 04:22 AM PST
I am not going to write about how the Waltons or the Gates or the Kochs or the Rich Folks Whose Names I Don’t Know should live their lives, spend their money, and generally behave themselves. It’s not, mind you, that I don’t have some thoughts about it. But those are not the wealthy people I’m going to write about today.
I’m going to write about me.
It’s fun to focus righteous rage on Those People and condemn the profligate wealthy and their terrible use of their privilege and power and money. But years ago I needed to face up to something. I live in a rural/small town area, one that once upon a time has a decent industrial base, but has lost much of that over the past fifty years. We’re not destitute. But we live among the residual pieces of an earlier wealth, the churches and homes and other fine buildings erected 150 years ago by oil barons and captains of industry. Want a beautiful Victorian home dirt cheap? We’ve got the places for you– but you need to bring your own job.
As a teacher with thirty years in, I’m pretty well off. I make above the median pay for the county. Hugely above the per capita income for the county. I own my own home, and while it’s neither large or without issues, it’s also right up against the river and close to the center of town. I have reliable transportation (no small thing– in the country homelessness isn’t nearly as problematic as transportationlessness), and I’m only six minutes from work. I’m not rich in any absolute sense, and I have plenty of bills to pay with a paycheck that doesn’t always stretch as far as would be handy. There are things I’d like to have that I can’t afford, a level of security and insulation I’d love to provide my family, but can’t.
So, to be clear, I am not arguing that I am overpaid and that our next teacher contract should roll our pay back. Because it shouldn’t. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
It is not easy for me to talk about this. It’s not easy to talk about possessing privilege. I don’t honestly know how to talk about the benefits I have in life without feeling like I’m bragging, and bragging about things that are just a much a product of luck or grace or whatever you want to call it as any hard work or skill that I brought to the table (and really, how many of my skills are founded on luck of the genetic draw). I have made more than enough mistakes, screwed up more than enough times to have earned a life far less rewarding than the one I’ve got. And that’s before we even get to the things that never happened– I never developed cancer, never got hit by a bus, never had a heart attack, never lost a limb in a major accident.
Anyway. When I contemplate my lot in life, I feel two things:
Find out which two thing here: CURMUDGUCATION: The Obligations of Wealth