I’m having a slow week. One where I don’t get dressed till it’s time to go outside. One where I’m skipping my walks because it’s cold out. One where the dishes are staying unwashed on the counter till late in the day.

So much for my intention to change my habits and stay away from the computer in the mornings. I’ve been doing what I feel like doing, and only the bare minimum more.

I am so not disciplined.

Fella asked last night what I’d like for Christmas. I’ve been listening to CBC The Current‘s program about people living in poverty in this country, and am thinking maybe instead of buying gifts for each other this year, Fella and I could go and pay his broke cousin’s power bill or buy him a tank of gas or have his water pump repaired.

Alas, his cousin’s power bill isn’t paid because his cousin chooses to buy cigarettes and booze instead of paying for necessities like utilities. So it’s hard to feel good about helping his cousin financially. It’s hard not to judge his cousin as “bringing it on himself.” It’s hard not to think that maybe there are poor people more deserving of our cash.

It’s just that his cousin is the only person we know personally who is living very low on the hog. He lives out of town and drives without licensing and insurance on his vehicle sometimes, and parks far from downtown in hopes the police won’t stop and ticket him for his loud muffler that he can’t afford to repair, and heats his house in winter by turning on the stove oven and opening its door, and has no hot water in his house because he can’t afford a new heating tank, and his fridge crapped out a long time ago and he can’t afford another one, so the food items he can buy when they’re on sale are limited. On and on it goes.

***

I just got one of those scam phone calls:
“This is So-and-So from Technical Support services, calling you about your Windows computer.”

My immediate and very loud response:
“FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKIN’ ASSHOLE!”
Slam! Lowlife scum.

***

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted:

Last year I put Fella’s cousin’s name on the list for a charity Christmas hamper, and they delivered it to him, and he was so thrilled when he told me about receiving it. It was a gift from heaven, for him, full of treats he wouldn’t otherwise have had.

A few weeks ago he worked several hours for Fella at a job site, and told the other worker that he was almost out of cigarettes. That night he phoned here to ask Fella if he could be paid immediately; he’d drive right over to pick up the money. He’d even take $20 cash, he said, and forget the rest of what he was owed for the day’s work, if he could just have that $20 right away.

Fella was disgusted. His cousin would throw away earnings of $80 in return for $20 if he could just have that $20 right now? When he needs that $80 so badly? How stupid can a poverty-stricken person be? Fella has no sympathy for his cousin. I say, Maybe he’s a little bit handicapped in his logic and can’t make smart decisions? Tobacco and booze are addictions and his desperation skews his thinking?

You want to help a person who tries to help himself, right? But Fella’s cousin doesn’t seem to want to help himself very badly.

I’ve lectured him like a big sister.
“Work is not going to come to you. You have to go out and chase it. You have to apply for jobs. You have to phone people like Fella every night and say ‘Got any work for me tomorrow?’ There is work to be had, but you have to be proactive in getting it.”

Does he call here every night? Hell, no.
He doesn’t want to work that badly then, does he?

I try not to judge, but … it’s hard.

I listen to the people struggling with poverty who have shared their stories on the radio this morning. I wonder if any of them smoke and then can only afford to eat one meal a day and it has to be pasta. I wonder if any of them have a washer and dryer at home and yet spend money on disposable diapers rather than investing in cloth ones. I wonder how many of them purchase prepared processed foods at the store rather than buying fresh food and cooking from scratch. I just wonder, that’s all, but I am afraid that just that wondering is a kind of judging, a kind of way of blaming the poor for their own situation, of assuaging my own fear of poverty by assuming I’d make choices that would keep my bills paid and food on the table.

I know we don’t always have choices, much as those of us who still have choices have trouble believing that. So I don’t ask these questions out loud. But I don’t open up my wallet, either.

Michele Landsberg, the Canadian feminist and writer, says in her book Writing the Revolution that one of the obstacles to equality is “the serenely unconscious sexism of men.” Perhaps I, and others with decent-paying jobs, paid-for homes, good health and reliable partners to help earn money to support the household, display a kind of unconscious “ism” toward those less fortunate than ourselves.

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