Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Things We Do For Lack Of Honest Work-The Finale

            It's difficult to count the times I've been walking down the street in an urban area,seen a person who looks down on their luck in a wheelchair,walking with a cane or with a visible mental illness and seen someone glance over at his person and say rather under their breath,yet loud enough for me to hear "get a job"? If one asks most American's,this occurrence has become as American as apple pie within the past few decades. And this coming largely from a generation in society who preached  that they at least achieved love,tolerance and respect for every kind of human being. As with most things in my life,I've actually come to view this as only the tip of the metaphorical ice berg. But what about what lies beneath? The 80-90% of the ice berg we don't see? Well I've seen it because I've personally experienced it.

          I look at it this way. During my school years I was the victim of bullying. And during my adult years,some people have attempted to make me the victim of verbal bullying because I am disabled and don't work. Many people maintain that  this harassment is confined to the internet,because bullies can maintain heavy anonymity. Again I can tell you it is just as prevalent,if not more so,in the physical world as well. I once attended a support group for the disabled. And the discussions regarding the discrimination against them for not working became so intensely heated,I discontinued going to the group. But it served a valuable purpose in my life. Somewhere along the line,the pursuit of profit rather than happiness has become such a vital factor in peoples lives some have turned on their fellow human beings.

         There is little difficulty in seeing why this problem I'm discussing is so common in my particular area of Maine,for example. During the 1980's,state budget cuts put hundreds of people with different mental illnesses out on the street to fend for themselves. It became so prevalent by the 90's that most of the apartment complexes in the area became subsidized to accommodate this influx,including the one I grew up in. So most people I saw around me suffered from a varying degree of psychiatric or emotional disorder. This has lead to widespread condescension towards such people from others. It's even descended to the point where,when I discuss this aspect of my youth,some people actually believed my emotional disability was bought on by environment rather than genetics. 

            Personally I know for a fact such thinking is only a digression on the part of these individuals. That's because even I on occasion,someone who should know better,have made unspoken value judgement's upon some based on their perceived economic status. Sadly most of us have at one time or another. This all changed when I was 15 years old and made a friend who I learned had schizophrenia. He actually tried to keep it from me and my family. When we talked about it,various things were of course bought up. But the one thing he was most intent on was having a job. Not because he wanted to make money. He was former US Air Force officer and Gulf War veteran who was compensated for more then well. The reason,as he indicated,that he wanted the job was simply because he wanted to belong and "join in".

          As any high school student will tell you,everyone wants to be cool. During our rising adulthood,the term "cool" is often translated to "conform". One of the best and easiest ways for most to conform is to have a job. And why not? Most everyone I know is of the understanding that if they didn't work,they would have no quality of life. That is why,even when they are ill,they'll risk their health and that of other employers by coming to work sick. Yet these same people,with their own insecurities,will often be the first ones to verbally bash the unemployed,especially the disabled,as simply finding ways to avoid "joining the real world" that every single person is supposed to want to (and have to) be a part of.

            The core element of these series of blogs has been about reassessment. About how one person,in this case me,actually took a long hard look at the real world and saw what the modern,over stressed and over worked world was actually doing to human beings. It was through my own experience of having a disability,and learning not to define myself by that diagnosis. It's a continuing journey I'm unsure if I'll ever complete. It's also about cross examination. By learning to understand myself in relation to other people,I'm also learning how other people look at themselves and how they look at their careers. How they look at their money. And how they look at their friends. I am hoping that my stories and observations bring some solace and relief to those who read them,some of whom might've had similar experiences. And I hope these people not only share these blogs with their friends and family,but are inspired to tell their own stories as well. 

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