Who Wants to Talk to a Stranger?

I am not claiming that what I am about to write is scientific in any manner.  It is simply a matter of observation by myself.  In the past year I have canvassed for  several different political causes.  I have walked numerous neighborhoods of all different classes.  I have talked to hundreds if not thousands of people.

What I can’t stop thinking about is how different classes of people, rich, poor, working class, and middle class, react to a stranger at their door.  Although there are all different kinds of people across all classes, it does seem that middle class people seem the most open to strangers.  Working class would come in second.  Meanwhile poor people and rich people are often highly skeptical when someone knocks on their door unannounced.

It may have something to do with myself.  I grew up middle class.  Those are the people that I feel most in common with in my outlook, even if I myself make money that is definitely more working class.  I have also worked plenty of blue collar jobs.  So what I am saying is there is the possibility for unrecognized bias on my part, but I don’t think this is the case.  I am talking more about initial reaction, before we have even really had time to talk.

Another point that I want to make is that I’m not dressed up.  I have to walk miles while I do this stuff, often in Texas it is quite hot.  This winter has been a strange one, with cold and rain that we usually don’t see.  Either way, you want to be dressed to be with comfort in mind when you are out there.  Usually I just have on a t-shirt, and either shorts or jeans.  I imagine I look either working class or middle class, so people may simply be reacting to the way I am presenting myself, before I even open my mouth.  However, I again don’t believe this to be the case, I just don’t want to rule it out.

I am a white male that is 5’10”, 200lbs, and occasionally have a beard.  Although I have become more friendly since I moved to the South, and I always make it a point to say thanks and to smile at people, I know that I am not as outwardly warm as many Southerners, or at least I have been told so.  When I worked for AT&T my bosses would often tell me I needed to be warmer on the phone, though I knew that I was trying really hard!  Since moving to the South I have adopted y’all as I like that it is easiest way to talk to people and sound inclusive.  I also like that it is short and simple.  It is also neither masculine or feminine, so you can include everyone in a group without saying “you guys” or “you girls” or whatever when talking to a group.  I am just trying to lay out what people are getting when I come to the door.

If there was a certain type of person that was intimidated when a large male comes to the door who doesn’t seem like a member of their tribe, I would understand.  But I have plenty of middle class women open doors, who are home alone with their kids, before a lot of people are home on their block.  If people were perceiving myself as a threat, I would assume that a small pregnant woman with a two or three year old would not open their door to me, but this happens time and time again.  Meanwhile people in groups or males larger then myself will view me with a skeptical nature.

Again this seems to happen the most, people looking sideways at me, if the home appears to be really rich or really poor.  No other factor appears apparent.  Yesterday I was walking in a neighborhood that is going through gentrification, in which there were people of all classes.  Sometimes it was block by block, and sometimes it was home by home.  You would see a million dollar home next to a house that looked like it was falling down.  You would also see blocks of safe looking suburban homes and blocks of houses that look like they were boarded up after a hurricane.

Race did not seem to be apparent in peoples reaction to me.  A middle class black person would generally behave more in line with a middle class white person, than with a poor black person.  Again, this does not mean that stereotypes always apply.  There were different experiences with people of all classes and colors.  The only discernible difference was that again poor people and rich people seemed to be less trusting of strangers than middle or working class people.

I also want to add that I was asking people questions about what they wanted to see in their city, and was not pushing a specific political agenda.  I have done that in the past, but this time I was simply collecting data.  One of the questions I asked people was what they wanted to see built in a certain portion of the city.  This was giving all people a chance to have a voice in their city.

There are many conclusions that I could draw from this.  However, I would rather not do that at this time, because I don’t believe I could accurately draw any conclusions.  However, I want to know why this is so.  There are so many questions.  Has America treated poor people so badly that they are no longer trusting of people?  Do poor people feel so disenfranchised that even when they are given a voice, they don’t feel that it is worth it to participate?  On the other hand, why are rich people in this country, who seemingly have everything, also not willing to trust people?  Why are they not willing to participate, to voice their thoughts and concerns about their city in this fashion?  I am not assuming that all of the people I talked to don’t participate in our democracy.  They may participate in other ways that don’t involve a stranger asking them questions.  They may have ways that are particular to their neighborhood, their upbringing, etc.  But all of this is very interesting to me, and also troubling.  Why are the people that have the most to lose and the most to gain in this country, the people that are the hardest to communicate with when canvassing?

Republican Led States Try to Increase Taxes On the Poor, Decrease On the Rich

Increase Taxes On Poor, Cut Them On Affluent

The above New York Times article seems to me to pretty much be the endgame of the modern corporate/religious right.  (Though make no mistake who is charge.  As soon as the religious stop serving the purpose of those with money, they will be cast aside.)  Several Republican led states are looking at options that will essentially tax the poor and cut taxes for the rich.  These people do not care about you.  The sooner one realizes that the better.

Nationalism On the Rise In Europe

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Nationalism On the Rise In Europe

The above link is an interesting article about the rise of nationalism in Europe.  There is no doubt that the murders in France, and other acts of violence by Muslims, have helped give nationalism a footing.  However, it also goes into detail about how certain conservative economic policies, that are hurting the working class and poor, are also helping to bring about this change.

Inequality, Slavery, and Declining Quality of Life

I have never found it hard to believe that as inequality in wealth grows, the general quality of life for everyone, rich and poor inversely declines.  Today I was reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin and read a comparison between North and South, during slavery.  This part of the book was about William Henry Seward,  who was in Lincoln’s cabinet.  I should mention that Seward had no ill feelings for the South before his trip, and was actually looking forward to traveling, only to cut his trip short:

At the time of their journey,  three decades of immigration,  commercial enterprise, and industrial production had invigorated Northern society,  creating thriving cities and towns.  The historian Kenneth Stampp well describes how the North of this period “teemed with bustling, restless men and women who believed passionately in ‘progress’ and equated it with growth and change;  the air was filled with excitement of intellectual ferment and with the schemes of entrepreneurs;  and the land was honeycombed with societies aiming at nothing less than the total reform of mankind. “

Yet, crossing into Virginia, the Sewards entered a world virtually unchanged since 1800.  “We no longer passed frequent farm-houses,  taverns, and shops,” Henry wrote as the family carriage wound its way through Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains, “but our rough road conducted us…[past] low log-huts, the habitations of slaves.”  They rarely encountered other travelers, finding instead “a waste, broken tract of land, with here and there and old decaying habitation.”  Seward lamented:  “How deeply the curse of slavery is set upon this venerated and storied region of the old dominion.  Of all the countries I have seen France only whose energies have for forty years been expended in war and whose population has been more decimated by the sword is as much decayed as Virginia.”

I wanted to use this as an example as slavery is as unequal an economic system as one can have.  However, at this point in our history the inequality between rich and poor is growing.  Despite this, rich people,  as well as poor obviously, are very uneasy.  Our country is becoming less of a harmonious community. 

Meanwhile, being in Australia, which certainly has its own problems, one notices how at least in the city, where more people make a living wage and are taken care of by a larger social safety net than in the US, that the quality of life is quite high.  Despite walking for about five hours through various parts of the city yesterday, I saw not one homeless person. 

This is obviously a personal observation, but history and data seem to back it up.  The country does best overall economically when there is a thriving middle class that can purchase goods.  Why so many can’t seem to grasp this I don’t understand.  

John Lydon On the Royal Family

Rest assured, there will always be poverty in Britain because the excesses of the royal family will keep people poor.  We pay tax for that shit.  We substantiate and perpetuate it when we don’t look after our own.  Our own is everyone – including the queen, Charles, Di, Fergie, and the lot.  But I fail to see how my tax pounds should give these fucks skiing holidays.   Why the fuck do we support monarchy?  Who on earth gave them the right to dictate terms to me about what is right and wrong other than the bastard murderers of their ancestors?  They give a sense of etiquette to the world and have a nice way of dealing with things, which I do admire.  I don’t admire the monetary upkeep this tradition costs, and I certainly don’t respect a system that dictates alienation by fault of birth.   There should be an English way for all of us, whether you come from a council flat or Buckingham Palace.   Why shouldn’t we all go to the same schools and treat each other with equal respect?  Why is there nonsense of one education for them and a lesser for the rest?  It creates the multi-tier systems and keeps civil wars brewing.  These are not things I want, and this is an unacceptable order to me.  It is the humiliation of one mass of human beings dictated by one tiny little amount.  Greed of the highest order.  Selfishness of the worst aspect.  – John Lydon

To my fellow Americans, before you feel high and mighty because we don’t have a monarchy, I believe you could change some words here and there and just as well be talking about our country.  If you need to ask which words then you need to use your imagination a little more. 

The Lazy Rich

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/the-rise-of-the-non-working-rich_b_5589684.html

The above article is by Robert Reich.  The right wing often labels poor people as lazy, although they often work extremely hard with many working two jobs.  However, the article talks about how there has been an increase in the non-working rich.  

Even if the rich are working, the way I see it anyone working two manual labor jobs is working harder than most CEO’s in a posh office.  And unless you have a heart attack from stress as a CEO, only one of them is going to steal your health and possibly your life.