Sometimes you come across an article that so perfectly encapsulates something you have been obsessing about that you have to dust off your blog and throw out a minor rant. Latina Lista published just such an article this week. So here we go.
According to a study by the (in no way biased) Prudential, “Latinos’ love of family today could spell financial trouble for retirement years.”
We are trained to be in constant fear. Fear of losing our jobs. Fear of losing our homes. Fear of medical bills. Fear of ending up some solitary, elderly person eating cat food in a hovel. The answer, as is jammed into our heads, is to get on board with the system and try to hoard as much as you can. Don’t let those family and friends dip into your cash. Security comes with obedience and accumulation. Security comes by giving what little money you have to the dipshits at Prudential.
So how does that work out for people?
For one thing, going along with the system is not going to save you. My parents did everything they were supposed to do. There was a small business and a chamber of commerce membership. There was a house and retirement savings. But along came Office Depot to squeeze my father’s business out. Then medical bills from a massive stroke. And of course there was some middle class lifestyle debt. When the IRS came around looking to take our house, did going along with the fear system help? Nope. You know what did help? Friends who lent my parents money.
Contrary to what we are told, security is mostly an illusion. And what security we do have comes from relationships, not possessions.
But the system desperately needs us to buy this lie. If we stopped fearing, if we stopped thinking we are in it alone, then nothing could keep us doing what we are doing. Nearly everyone I know is quietly plotting their freedom. We hate our jobs so much that we have to escape for bathroom cries. We have insomnia and anxiety. We are constantly medicated and looking for bullshit distractions.
And those are just the people who have enough privilege to still have jobs and something to fear losing. The truly amazing thing about the system is that we are fodder no matter what. If you have a job, you spend most of your waking hours away from the people and things you love in order to make money for greedy bastards. That isn’t enough though. They also want you to hand over some of what little money you make to “secure your retirement”. By which they mean that they want to invest your money in things that will make them money and hurt you. How?
Let’s say you have a retirement account. You’ll have a selection of mutual funds to chose from. Some of them may even say that they are “socially conscious.” What that means, generally, is that they will avoid one or two problematic sectors (like arms dealing). Everything else — sweatshops, union-busters, private prisons — they are all on the table. In short, these Prudential people are working on getting Latinos to give less money to their family and instead invest in the private prison corporations that put them in immigration detention.
When some investment banker tells you to stop giving money to your people and start “investing in your future,” what they are really doing is using you and your fear to finance your own oppression. And if you can’t benefit them through your labor or contributions, then they’ll throw you in prison and make money off of you that way.
I’m not going to tell you that, if you walk away, everything is going to be o.k. The other lie we are told is that we will be rewarded for doing the right thing. You probably won’t. In fact, doing the right thing often means suffering. Just ask all the political prisoners out there.
Do it anyway.
And try to make it easier for other people to do it too. Let your friends and family and community know that you have their backs when they want to take a risk. Let them know that, so long as you have a roof and some food, they won’t starve or have no place to sleep. Nothing will change unless we are willing to risk something. We can’t make things safe. But we can make it a little easier on each other if we do the exact opposite of what that article is trying to get us to do.
And maybe, just maybe, if we could help each other get over our fears and take care of each other a little bit better, enough people would walk away to make the whole thing coming crashing down.