I put up a new post on Patheos on Thursday, but have been flat-out busy so I’ve not linked it before now. Here it is, should you be so inclined as to read it:
The essay this time is about gentrification and about poverty, but also about the weird intersection of the two, where people are convinced by society that they are doing well when, in fact, objectively they are actually living on the edge of poverty.
This might seem a little odd, particularly to someone not living somewhere mindbogglingly expensive like London, New York or Silicon Valley, but these days it really is possible to make a six figure salary and yet have not much in the way of disposable income, not enough money for savings, no way to buy property or to put a child through school, and to be close enough to the edge that a couple of missed pay checks would result in homelessness. The same salary somewhere much cheaper might well lead to more traditional financial security, but good luck finding a job paying >$100k in such places.
Figuring our why this happens is outside the scope of the Patheos article, but basically it really breaks down to looking at where the big chunks of money disappear to. First and foremost, it’s being sucked up by property — either you’re paying into a mortgage, usually as a consequence of vastly inflated property prices, or you’re paying rent, in which case you’re basically handing over (in the Bay Area particularly) more than half your income to someone else, with nothing long term in return.
I suspect that there are solutions, but they are sufficiently unconventional that there is too much resistance, both within ourselves and from the society around us, to make the changes necessary. I’ve been fascinated by the tiny house movement for some time (Google it if you’ve not yet heard the term) — I think that, practically speaking, this kind of radical downsizing probably is the only practical answer, but it has a flaw. Owning a tiny house when everyone else is paying ten times as much for a conventional house works great. However, when 80% of people have downsized, this will just cause the market to optimize upward, so it will probably end up costing just as much to live in a tiny house as it currently does to live in a McMansion, except that we’ll be living in a tiny house. This is exactly what I mean by the gentrification of poverty — we are forced into poverty by a system that is taking away our security and bleeding all of us dry, so there is a danger that if we allow ourselves to end up in that kind of gilded poverty, we might not notice and might not say, hey, no, enough is enough, quit that shit, we’re going to stand up for our rights.
Please note: this was cross-posted from my main blog at http://www.mageofmachines.com/main/