My salary puts me right around the income level of a Bartender who noticeably spits in every drink she serves. I don’t make much, and nobody tips me. If my cat needed to go to the vet, or if my nephew stabbed his father, or if I suddenly had a wild desire to own a car for the first time, there’s not much I could do about it.
It’s 2018, and I can get alcohol delivered to my apartment while browsing a functionally limitless stream of things I could buy but shouldn’t. I got tired of reading an essay today, so I put it into google translate, and it read it to me in a comforting, angular voice. I can go to a city I’ve never heard of and find where the best public bathrooms are are. That’s the kind of esoteric knowledge we have access to in the future.
But if my cat gets sick, there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to cover it. It’s weird that access to health and information and safety and food and simple comfort is limited entirely by how much money we have. It’s difficult to think of an essential part of life that isn’t totally governed by my hilarious bank account. If I read a book in which every element of existence is unlockable using just one thing, I’d say that’s kind of lazy writing. It’s remarkable how many things are accessible only through exchanging money, and so much of the world is denied to so many people for entirely synthetic reasons.
People are denied access to healthcare and food and shelter and clean water, and it’s not because these things are necessarily scarce. On any given night in 2017, there were around 600,000 people without a home to sleep in. At the same time, there were about 18.5 million empty homes in the United states. For reference, 600,000 people is about 3,000 times the size of my high school graduating class, could form 150,000 ABBAs, or 8 times as many people as there were watching Freddie Mercury kill it at Live Aid. And, though there are homes available, they’re empty because a bunch of children who grew up to be CEOs were so successfully convinced life isn’t fair that they are making sure it stays that way.
I was homeless as a kid, and that experience sits in the back of my head and influences everything I do like the jittery kid at the back of the classroom who has an answer for every question but they’re always just a little wrong.
What do we do for our friends when everything is being taken away from us? If my cat got sick, or a friend ran out of food, what can we do to help. The resources in place are limited and strained. My family used to get food from a Mission, but what would I have done if they had known I was trans and decided they weren’t ok with that.
I cook a lot. I make enough money that I can afford food, and that’s pretty neat. I offer to cook for my friends if they’re ever hungry because that’s something I can do. I can’t provide medical help or much in the way of housing yet, but I can make a pretty great soup that lasts a few days.
We do what we can for our friends and our cats because everything in place is contingent on a person’s financial worth rather than their intrinsic value as a person who deserves to live without freezing to death outside a foreclosed home that has been empty for years. We can do two things right now: take care of our friends and work to change things so we aren’t the only ones making sure they’re ok.