Saturday, August 6, 2011

The end of the middle class

A friend sent me an email by Michael Moore that discusses the end of the middle class. Apparently it started 30 years ago when Reagan fired all the air-traffic controllers and the unions did nothing about it. Moore talks about an almost mythical time when only dad had to work, where mom stayed home with the kids, where the family owned the house they lived in and it was paid for, where kids went to college for free, where the work week was only 40 hours and people actually got a weekend off. Those days are long gone.

I used to be part of the middle class. Well, actually back in the 1980s I was part of the upper middle class. I remember attending events in New York that cost $5,000 a plate and spending thousands of dollars shopping for suits for work. Then I downsized, moved to California, and became middle class. At least I was middle class up until last year when my contract with a high-tech company I was working for ended. At the time I had medical insurance, paid my taxes, and could afford to go out to nice restaurants with friends. Well, those days are gone.

At this point I am living below whatever the poverty level is. I have sold most of my belongings and am living--at least this month--with a woman whose book I am editing. I don't know where my cats and I will be living next month. I don't remember the last time I bought clothes, and frankly I don't need any. Shopping seems absurd. I am on food stamps and feel grateful that I have shelter and food. It's gotten down to basics.

However the upside of this is that I am beginning to feel a sense of freedom that I didn't have before. I have so little to lose that I cannot be threatened, not by banks and not by the IRS. My life has simplified and I enjoy the little pleasures of living in a community: singing Wednesday nights at the local choir, participating in the production of a musical (I'm writing the story line), making dinner for a friend. Life has become more quiet, peaceful, and joyful, the way it was meant to be.

I'm not the only one losing my middle class status. Every day another friend loses her job or her home due to foreclosure. This, I feel, is just the beginning. As more of us lose our middle class status, we are not being asked to go back to the insanity of working 70 hour weeks for a corporation that just uses us up. I, for one, prefer the life I have now to that old paradigm. But we are being asked to show up and say "no" to the insanity of high taxes, of credit cards with 30% interest rates, and of working 24/7 to make some corporation rich. We are asked to show up as free beings who will no longer abide by the rules of an elite--rules that are not made for our welfare. We are asked to return to sanity in our lives.

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