A thought from the Ta-Nehisi Coates/Chris Hayes video that I posted yesterday. They talk about how the socioeconomic ladder is so stratified and there are huge gaps of understanding between the layers. Meaning that a person who makes $30,000 cannot begin to comprehend what a person on welfare’s life is like and a person who makes $100,000 can’t even begin to comprehend what life is like for the person who makes $30,000 and the person who makes $100,000,000 a year can’t even begin to comprehend what life is like for the person who makes $1,000,000 a year.
This, I believe, is where the whole “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality comes from. People who say that don’t have the slightest idea what the other person is even going through. This is also why the Romneys can say they were struggling so much in college that they had to sell some of their stock in order to survive and believe that they’re sharing an experience with the common man. On the surface, it’s absurd, but seen through the lens of socioeconomic blindness, it makes complete sense. You may laugh at the Romneys’ complete lack of self-awareness, but chances are you’re just as guilty of committing those fouls as they are.
This socioeconomic blindness is not an easy problem to solve. The best thing to do is to interact on a meaningful level with people not in your economic comfort zone. And that’s almost impossible to do. Volunteering at a soup kitchen doesn’t really give you meaningful interactions nor does volunteering in general (though you should volunteer for something, anything). But you can ask yourself questions while volunteering. What would I do if I had no money, no job, no house, and was hungry? (Hint: If you’re thinking at all about solving the first three, you’re doing it wrong.)
In the end, though, the most important thing to do is recognize that socioeconomic blindness exists. Maybe then, you’ll recognize that you shouldn’t be passing judgements on someone who is so far removed from your situation you can’t even see what she’s going through.