Simple living, environmentalism, and class

There is only one class in the community that thinks more about money than the rich, and that is the poor. The poor can think of nothing else.
~Oscar Wilde

I’m not poor. More likely than not, if you are able to read this, you are not poor. You may be broke, but you’re probably not poor.

It’s important to realize that we, as not-poor people, do come at simple living and environmentalism from a position of privilege.

As someone who is, by complete choice, broke enough that I often feel poor, I have quite a different take on the green movement than someone who has spending money. It’s not a question, for me, or for people who are genuinely poor, of “organic” vs. “non-organic.” It’s not even a question of fruit and veggies vs. Spaghetti-o’s. It’s more a question of “Can I afford to buy food today?”

I’m lucky. Let me repeat: I live this way by choice. I have made the decision that I would currently rather pay my debt off quickly than have a comfortable food budget. I am, even at my level of broke, coming at it from a position of privilege.

I can choose to take a bicycle to the library. Which means there are other options. Other people have chosen not to own a car. They are perfectly fucking capable of purchasing or financing one, but they choose not to. That is a privilege. I can choose to shop at Goodwill. I can choose the CFL. I can choose to be altruistic and give away what I’ve chosen to purge instead of trying to sell it. I can choose an alternate lifestyle that does not involve selling myself at a price per hour.

Other people don’t get that choice. They ride a bicycle because they cannot afford a car. Period. They buy incandescent bulbs because there’s really no fucking question. They sell themselves per hour because they don’t have the resources to build themselves to a point where they can do otherwise. They don’t have any other choice, and for us to be applauding ourselves over our simple living choices without recognizing it is to belittle this fact.

Realize this as you push for social chance or legislation or whatever. You are coming from a position of privilege. Push aside the knee-jerk guilty-white-liberal reactions and just accept it. There is nothing you can do to change the fact that you have opportunities that others don’t, aside from working to make those opportunities available to others.


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