Thanks to fellow podcaster Emily Prokop from The Story Behind, I started organizing myself with a bullet journal -- basically a flexible system using a hand-written planner. In my journal, I've started a list of ideas for future episodes of Random Waves. At the top of my list is an idea that's been fascinating me for a while now.
A friend of mine who is jobless and homeless is currently traveling around the country on a quest to start legislation to help young adult cancer patients. I'm fascinated with his story because people who know him and follow him are strongly divided in their opinion of what he's doing. Some people support him. Some tell him to stop asking for donations and get a job. And throughout all of this, this guy keeps going and going, and is slowly making progress. I myself would have quit long ago, and I think most of the people I know would have to. So, this guy fascinates me.
But when I bounced this podcast idea off another friend of mine last night, his reaction was unfavorable. While there were other parts of his argument, he also noted that this guy should not rely on donations and pick himself up by the bootstraps, so to speak. I agreed with him on this point, noting that if I ever found myself out on the streets, I'd immediately work to get myself back off said streets.
But then, on a long drive earlier tonight, I listened to Radiolab's podcast episode covering On the Media's series on media myths surrounding poverty. These five episodes, of which I've only heard a sample of so far, examines various assumptions we have about the poor. There were two points that hit me with regards to the "get a job" / "bootstraps" argument.
The first is that poverty is extremely difficult to move out of, at least in our country, because it is expensive to be poor in the first place. As James Baldwin noted, "Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor." Finding examples of this should be easy to do with some simple Google search, so I'll let you do that as a homework assignment.
The second point is that pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps is only valid if someone actually has the proverbial pair of boots to begin with. Using myself as an example, if I were to somehow end up on the streets, I've got a slew of family and friends to help me out. I've got a full wardrobe and a car to find a new job with. I have a masters degree to fall back on. I have the color of my skin and a lifetime watching PBS to help me get in doors. Don't buy it? Go ask the Reverend Dr. Martin Jr. King, Jr about it.
I'm not sure at this point what the above info means towards this particular episode idea, or how I'd approach this friend of mine. But I do appreciate how working on Random Waves has got me thinking about issues like this. We are nothing if we stop learning and growing.
P.S. Yes, I find it ironic considering my last blog entry that I appreciated a listening recommendation from Radiolab about a sister podcast at WNYC... I've got nothing more to offer on that, LOL