Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Inequality Normal

It isn't usually my tendency to write posts about the current world situation, or politics, or other similar topics.  Today is an exception.

Two things have influenced my decision.  First, I'm reading a fascinating book edited by David Cay Johnston entitled, DIVIDED - The Perils of our Growing Inequality.  Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize winner author/journalist who has assembled speeches, articles and essays by some of the best minds alive on the subject of the disparity of our society.  He covers the financial chasms under such subheadings as education, policy, family and health care, among others.  I devour good non-fiction reads and this one I can highly recommend.  It gives me new views on my inequality normal as I term my everyday life these days.

In that thought-provoking vein, my second influence came from viewing the latest installment of my favorite television series, Downton Abbey.  I realize that the book and this show may not seem to have any connection, but stick with me. 

When I use the expression, inequality normal, it's to give a name to how much my middle class existence has withered away in the last decade or so.  At first, I was oblivious to it, as were thousands of others, and until recent research reading, I also wasn't privy to the decades of downward spiraling our entire economy experienced that brought us to this unwelcome state.

I've had to face the not-so-welcome fact that the lifestyle my husband and I took for granted as normal during childhood, young adulthood, our married years, etc., just doesn't exist for us anymore. It's not because we've changed how we live; it's just that the financial circumstances of our country have shifted so radically that our middle class is no longer - and along with that goes our prosperity, growing incomes, and the rest.

We don't expect to be supported by the government; we just want to be able to finish out our lives as we've always done - working hard and looking forward to better things because of it.  In other words, we want the word hope to still have a ring of reality for us.

Our children and grandchildren are primary in my thoughts as well.  I see them struggling as they work even harder than we have, and seeing no concrete results for their labors. It certainly isn't the legacy I wanted them to inherit.

So, you may ask, what does Downton Abbey have to do with this?  Well, it isn't the first time that the brilliant writer of that show, Julian Fellowes, has managed to parallel the upper class scenarios of early 20th century England with those of current day situations.  And it was my favorite character from the series, the dowager countess (played by Maggie Smith) who invoked the line that hit home for me:  "Hope is a tease - designed to prevent us from accepting reality."

It may be a sad commentary, but, unfortunately, it is a truism for me of late.  I don't like to admit it, and I am lucky to have friends and family who give me love and support, but, in my private moments of contemplation, it's something I can no longer dismiss or wish away. In accepting the reality of my circumstances, I do find it much more difficult to think about hope  and inequality normal as parallels.   And it was important for me to say that in print.

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