Busted: America's Poverty Myths

I agree with you about the growing pains. Also, the top of the pyramid is coming unseated, the WASP male dominance has always been part of their world view. It’s tough.

I watched SF going from being a community which accepted and encouraged non-white, non-straight community to essentially the removal of the white, straight pros, or many of them.

I get the hostility on both sides, but in SF it confused me, as the community had as long as I knew it worked hard at being inclusive and accepting.

Or maybe I’m just reacting to seeing people marginalized and feeling that way myself after decades of being in the field.

My long term reaction has been to walk away, retire, from what had been my career or fan group for 40+ years. I’m in touch with my friends but decided it’s too expensive when it’s going to a con or buying groceries for the week. That social dynamic will have to change without me.

I hope that the backlash stops at some point and things go back to being more accepting, of everyone.

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There are highly diverse pockets of people with far less backlash/extremeness on all sides IMO. You’re in kind of an extreme bubble area if you’re in ultra $ SF, which is part of it, but I find most of my closest friends to be people who are highly individualistic thinkers, in the truest sense, who feel different ways about different issues and don’t fit cleanly into any one box. My circle is pretty diverse in terms of background (race, class, religion, country of birth, ability, etc.) and that’s still the case.

The parts of my circle that became incredibly extreme (which were overwhelmingly comprised of highly educated and highly paid white collar people, ironically) have fallen away a bit, but that was honestly only one of the issues I had with them to begin with, so…it would have happened anyway, I think. We’re friends with one couple that tries to crow about politics and how everything is going to hell, in a really uninteresting way, but I just redirect with them, and I change the subject. They don’t usually push back that hard and I see them less than other friends.

I think there are also a lot of moderate people who are genuine about wanting freedom and safety and access to opportunity for all but who are not super political in general or who center their lives around other things like family, hobbies, outdoors stuff, community, religion, etc . I have friends like that too! Also, ironically, I find them to generally be more engaged in actually making the world a better place through doing things and walking the walk. And they are far less bleak. It’s kind of funny! And I don’t think I have any close friends who see themselves purely through the lens of identity/power dynamics (though those friends who fell away were definitely like that by the end, despite being closer to the top than most).

The backlash that’s happening now is entirely understandable IMO and has been a long time coming. I think the real danger is over-extrapolating. The friends I have who seem the most stressed and bleak about the future are my friends who are:

  1. Chronically online, both for doom scrolling and socializing.
  2. In a bubble of homogeneous thought/income/education/politics/etc.
  3. Not engaged with a lot of IRL stuff outside of work and obligations.
  4. Not good at prioritizing real self-care, in terms of things that most human beings need to be happy like connection, giving, getting outside, having peaceful reflective time, etc.
  5. People who tend to focus on the negative, to the exclusion of the positive or even neutral, in general.
Off topic from poverty myths

War shatters an illusion in Russia, NYT

Being apolitical is all well and good, but we are all affected by government decisions at the state and national levels. Student loan policy. Tax policy. Defense and diplomacy. Funding and research and messaging around housing, health, science, transportation, business. FDA inspections for food safety. Many of these dollars are spent at the local level but allocated at the national level. Being vocal and involved and represented is important.

I was raised very apolitical. It was a boring, dirty topic to discuss and basically just something that happened to you like weather (which I guess wasn’t inaccurate since visa holders can’t vote…) but recently I’ve been realizing how these inherited attitudes are shaped by my parents Soviet upbringing, where advocating for real change or justice was outright dangerous, and advocating for the Party was corrupt and gross. I’m just starting to realize how important it is to be aware and involved in these political discussions, not just to advocate for our own interests, but for minority groups and disenfranchised groups.

I agree that whiny identity politics are unproductive, but we can’t ignore greater political currents and focus all attentions locally… Thats how you end up window dressing a termite house.

TL;DR: I disagree and think you misunderstood what I was saying

I wasn’t advocating for all people to become apolitical or even saying that I am apolitical. I vote and stay current on news events. I think I’ve also been very vocal here about disability issues including disability law, prison reform, and poverty, so it’s not that I’m averse to ever having a political discussion–I am not, I simply think it’s far overvalued and that…talk can be cheap. I’m more impressed by action. I also never said everyone should ignore everything except local politics, but I do think we can have a proportionally larger impact on local politics than national or international affairs.

The point I was trying to impress is that not everyone views politics as the only true and honest pathway to bettering the world and that many excellent people don’t spend a lot of time talking publicly about the political topic du jour. I’d even venture that individualistic people and those with highly varied points of view (who are often also marginalized) may be less inclined to openly discuss politics because of the reactionary and unproductive conversations that often result these days.

If someone doesn’t care much for discussing politics in their daily life, but IRL is doing a lot of things to actively make the world a better place (for people who are disenfranchised, for example) does that mean they are morally deficient? A lot of people who appear to not be very political still vote. What about them? And some people consider themselves to be highly political (more than a few Anarchists I’ve known, for example, who spent a great deal of time discussing politics and world events) and specifically do not vote as a statement on their politics. There are also people who are highly involved in politics arguing for the exact inverse of your point of view, are they better or worse than someone who is apolitical but IRL behaves in alignment with helping underprivileged people? What’s the measuring stick?

I don’t think it’s imperative to talk about politics regularly and verbally advocate for marginalized groups in order to be an active participant in change. To me, that feels like the argument that the only path to goodness is a specific religion, that regardless of what you do, say, how you spend your time, how you treat people, it’s this one institution that officially governs being a good person who improves the world. It’s also entirely possible to talk about politics and be very up on current events and contribute very little to making the world better.

I think there are highly political, average political, below average political, and apolitical people who are forces of good positive change in the world, and individuals in all those groups who are basically neutral and don’t do much of anything, and individuals in all those groups who are forces for negativity or even outright violence.

ETA: Also this is long AF because I was trying to be clear and didn’t want to be misunderstood, not because I’m at all upset or feeling particularly harsh, lol. I wish you could all see/hear me in person it would be so much easier!

Still off topic

I don’t think we are actually at odds here.

I was responding to this part in particular:

I wasn’t trying to say this wasn’t important, or good, just that it wasn’t quite enough to address the root of many major issues. And also share personal experience of how avoidance of the wider political arena can be cast as a positive, while it actually results in effective disenfranchisement.

I also don’t believe I ever claimed “politics [w]as the only true and honest pathway to bettering the world” or that “if someone doesn’t care much for discussing politics in their daily life [… ] they are morally deficient”.

I do think that many political hot topics are that was because they are unsolved problems in our collective governance. And discussing them is a way to process them, evaluate proposed solutions, come up with a plan before acting. This doesn’t have to be everyone, but we need a large enough contingent facing these discussions to lend the results validity.

I completely agree with this:

That may not be the best response but I am falling asleep. :two_hearts:


I understand exactly what you’re saying!

TL;DR: I agree we are not entirely at odds! :) Not at all! Just slightly shifted in perspective based on life experiences.

I’m saying here that someone can be not very political (which still isn’t entirely apolitical, necessarily) and be absolutely doing enough, and you disagree in a sense:

But you also agree in a sense, bolding is mine:

That ^ I agree with, it doesn’t have to be everyone. I get what you are saying, though. Logistically, we need a portion of the population to be actively political. We need politicians who will run for office and people who want to spend their lives in government. We need people to vote for those politicians. That’s all a logistical thing, IMO, though, not a moral one. No one would ever say a person is being immoral by not being a farmer, right? But we need farmers in this country! I also agree that a Soviet-era vibe where everyone is terrified to even discuss politics is not an ideal state for any country. I wonder though, is the tenor of political conversations today more likely to welcome in diverse voices? Or make people more afraid or disinterested in talking?

I think in addition to political involvement (this is what I was initially saying in my very first post on this topic) we also need people to volunteer, invent things, care for other people, pick up trash in parks, advocate for themselves in different scenarios, be good listeners, make beautiful art, cook food, write poetry, file important lawsuits, etc. In my personal experience, people who are highly invested in doing things like that all day tend to have more nuanced views, be less ideological, and spend less time creating an identity around their political affiliation. I was encouraging the OP to find people more like that; people who do care about the world and maybe even are political to an extent, but whose caring isn’t purely through the lens of a dual party political system and choosing a side.

What I find interesting is that whenever I’ve had this conversation (about how you can be a good person who is making the world better without being very political or reading tons of news) 100% of the conversation’s focus ends up being on how important politics and news still are, and how totally essential it is to be involved politically and well read when it comes to news. The conversation is virtually never about how it’s vitally important to donate money to the poor, or volunteer in person to do anything that isn’t specifically political, or how to create community programs that are not politically focused but service focused, or how to actually change the hiring practices at your work to increase diversity, or how to talk to someone when you’re in a position of power over them, or how to accept criticism from someone who is less privileged, etc. I think there is intense overfocus on politics within certain spheres just as there is intense overfocus on religion in certain spheres.

Our political background are mirrors, which is probably what accounts for the different view! You are more afraid of people becoming apolitical and I am more afraid that the tenor of political conversations is blasting out all but the voices that are completely in one bucket or another. In my life I have known many highly political people. Some of this is a side effect of working in media and living in big cities, I’m sure. My personal experience has not been that these are always the most kind, enlightened, intelligent, walk-the-walk types of people across the board, but that they are a real mixed bag like anyone else.

One person who comes to mind (story time!) is the Editor-in-Chief of a popular magazine who I worked in the same office with. This guy was, obviously, very politically active. He posted a lot about getting more women in STEM related fields, especially tech writing, and his office walls were plastered with political stuff, including lots of rah rah go women stuff. I was hired as a Staff Writer covering technology for a publication that shared offices with his (same parent company). The very first time I met him he looked me up and down and then asked what my husband did for work (data science at a trendy tech company at the time) and when I told him he said, “Oh! Ok, so that’s how you got the job!” My editor (a woman) apologized after he left the room, lol. Of course my husband had nothing to do with me getting the job, and I actually had a lot of experience, which he never asked about. I don’t think he ever started a conversation with me again except for once when he asked if I could hold his seat for him at a conference.

This is like, one of many experiences I’ve had like this with highly political people. I have had so so so many more in the area of disability. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve read about how committed a media company is to diversity (Wirecutter did this to me after actually being the ones who reached out to me initially) and how they really wanted my voice as a woman tech writer, they were on board with everything but then…disability accommodation? Ew, no. The second I brought that up it was over. I find especially with disability it’s often the people who are super loud about marginalized folks (or on the opposite side of the aisle, about total objectivism- i.e. no quality of life people) who are then actively insulting or discriminatory to my face, and who can’t seem to listen to my actual voice when I’m telling them what’s happening.

Whereas people who are more moderate, nuanced, who spend time on lots of different things, and don’t see everything purely through a political lens, I’ve had much better luck with when it comes to advocating for myself. They are more open and I find they talk over me less, are less reactive, and less insulting.

We absolutely need voters and politicians and speech writers, just like we need farmers and street cleaners and caretakers. I totally understand that and agree. I don’t think politics are wholly irrelevant! Like you, I also personally wish there was more open communication between people who have different points of view, but that idea seems most upsetting to people who are specifically in one camp or the other versus nuanced in view. So I think the people who are the most politics-first are also the least nuanced and the most judgmental, and therefore the least interested in talking to someone with whom they disagree. It’s a real pickle, lol! I think the result is echo chambers IRL and online, I mean if you’re talking publications you can sort them left and right with ease. I think the more politically oriented someone is the less interested they are in hearing opposing views, and the more wildly they react to them.

I shared this here a while ago and you might find it interesting:

Talking politics with people who disagree is stressful for Democrats, Republicans | Pew Research Center

What I find most fascinating in this is that the people who agree that people on all sides of the political spectrum share some humanity values find it easier to have conversations with people whose politics they disagree with. People who believe the opposing side has nothing in common with them, even on a basic humanity level, find it highly traumatic. It’s people first vs. politics first, IMO. I find individuals in the former group to be more my cup of tea!

Some of the best and most enlightening/surprising/thought provoking political conversations I’ve ever had have definitely been with people who wouldn’t consider themselves to be super political! To me it checks out, and makes a lot of sense. So yeah, haha, we don’t really disagree we just have different focal points.


Oooh, I need to add this to my list to listen to as well. I have so much that I need to listen to! I’m putting it toward the end of my list because I’m somewhat worried about getting too drawn in.

A Little Background

I was raised in extreme poverty, at least for the United States. When my mom had custody of me (until I was 10) we would move around constantly with periods of homelessness. We would go from one low-income housing project to another and every 6-ish months be forced to move when we got evicted. Thankfully we had grandparents and my mom had one good friend who we bounced around living with when we were in homeless periods. Most of our food came from food banks and I remember standing in line at 4am outside the child and family services center waiting for them to open up on the free school supply day. Some of these things continued once my dad got custody of me because even though he made more than my mom and lived a better life overall (never was evicted, we had food on the table at home) he still only made around $30-$40k per year. We lived in trailers and got free lunch and all of that kind of stuff. We had our basic needs met, which my mom couldn’t provide, but there still wasn’t anything extra.

I was always very introspective and would think about why I didn’t have the same things as others. I was fascinated with the economics behind poverty and social mobility and income inequality from a very, very young age. I even started speaking about it and asking questions in a critical thinking way that blew my dad’s mind. I ended up going to college to be an economist and in grad school all of my research was in those topics. My career goal, at the time, was to be an economics professor and to push for policy changes that would impact poverty and help increase the chances of social mobility for those born into poverty. That is obviously not what I am currently doing with my life and sometimes if I get too drawn into that research or reading about it I get a bit depressed and feel like I’m not living up to my potential or making enough of a difference in the world.


FWIW, if you do end up listening I’d love to get your thoughts on the series. I grew up solidly middle class so it’s easy for me to say it was informative. Your perspective is valuable. But totally understand if you start it and think it’s not right for you.

These keep getting longer!

Absolutely agree that everyone should choose a way to engage that is authentic to them. Also, hypocrisy doesn’t look good on anyone, regardless of political involvement! (That is re: editor).

I recently asked at work regarding DEI what my company us doing to demonstrate it was an attractive place for a diverse workforce in a competitive market. My personal example was advertising/disclosing parental leave policies, because that is what I was missing when I applied and wasn’t comfortable asking. But I also mentioned flexible schedules and remote work as important factors for candidates with a chronic or mental illness, because I have heard from friends coping with these conditions. I don’t know what will come of it, but I think I made my Director think. I was able to advocate for a group that wasn’t in the room because I had heard the broader discourse on illness, disability, and accommodations, and it had made me think outside my lived experience. That’s why I think talk is important: it leads to focused talk and then hopefully some action. Of course, if you never really engage with the talk, that’s just lip service abs hypocrisy.

I think this may happen (a) due to a negativity bias innate to humans, like when giving feedback we focus on what was Bad, and when discussing we focus on points of disagreement. Also, if you agree, what further discussion is there. :wink: But also, (b) in your original post it came off to me like you were saying the smaller scale/local action was more important than discourse, “topic du jour”, etc. But in the end we agreed that both are quite important (and maybe we would still rank them in different order if we had to, but agree that neither aspect is insignificant).

In my case there was also a recency (is that a word?) bias, that I had just been thinking about this with respect to my background. So I was extra primed to be like wait wait wait… Dismissing all large scale politics is Not Good though.

Also also, recently discussed this article in The Atlantic with a friend, and while I don’t agree with all of it, I found it thought provoking and I think he makes a good point that moderates leaving discourse due to the extreme positions being taken is basically letting the conversation be dominated by extreme voices and talking points.

To bring it back around to poverty myths, I think discussion is important to drive home that there are structures in our society and government that criminalize poverty and that actively siphon money from the most vulnerable. Those will take action at the top to properly change. But in the meantime, I can donate to a food bank or a nonprofit fighting homelessness in my area, or volunteer with them, and other organizations that mitigate the harms of poverty. But that’s treating the symptom, not the cause. Hope that makes sense.

PS @AllHat I’m gonna call this discussion done because it’s eating my time but it was a good one and let’s go again sometime later. :two_hearts: I’ll still read any response.


Haha, imagine if you opened this and I was just like, “totes”. I agree with everything you’ve written though! You’re probably totally right about negativity bias and recency bias, both make a lot of sense. And that’s great you used your power for good in your company. I’m going to read that article now! Sorry for taking up so much of your time :slight_smile: be less fascinating! Haha! :heart:

Edited to fix grammar bc word r hrd.