There is no dignity in dumpster diving when you’re poor. There is no dignity in urban gardening when you’re poor and have to eat self-grown vegetables contaminated with lead from the nearby motorways. There is no dignity in building communes and communities when you’re a squatter, always on the brink of eviction. Dignity in this is only when you can afford to choose otherwise. In that, Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed (2001) is profoundly insincere. It’s easy to be poor when you can fall back on a credit card, when you know you’re only in it for a few months. White middle class trash, all around the globe.
The mendacity of white folks’ back to basics and voluntary simplicity is appalling. It comes with the hubris that to plant some vegetables in the midst of a city somehow amounts to self-grounding, community-building, saving the planet, taking back the streets and districts, and what not. But it’s just the same as when food banks which “support” the poor with garbage food in fact primarily help let the state cut social benefits and housing. And the volunteers in the food banks to feel good. It’s about the state and the volunteers, not the poor. But at the expense of the poor. In fact, it’s a way to recycle them, to squeeze the last productivity out of them they are capable of. If you don’t contribute to the production of material wealth, then contribute to other people’s emotional well-being by accepting the hand-outs. Don’t forget to be thankful, because that’s your means of payment, the currency in this economics of commodified dignity.
White middle class folks are far more eager to rescue food from the dumpster than to rescue people from the garbage.
They embrace voluntary poverty but shun the poor and the beggars nearby. They never give money to the homeless, they are too busy “growing” communities.
You cannot “grow” a community. You may grow crop or vegetables, fish or meat, even cancer. But you cannot grow of what you are a part of. Because it “grows” you. If you try to “grow” a community you’re only dreaming the bureaucratic (or cultish) dream of building efficient teams. You try to be inside and outside at the same time. You try to manipulate what you claim to be your nourishment. For all to become the big ego show of yours.
Your dignity kills. Your dignity not only comes at the expense of other people, it has to abuse other people for you being able to feel your “own” dignity at all. In fact, you aren’t even able to distinguish dignity from self-righteousness.
I don’t want your urban gardens or your food banks. Because their shiny solidarity and air of caring rests on contempt and demarcation. They are the spatial gadgets of your entertainment.
As people don’t go to the fairground anymore.
Your dignity kills, and you don’t even know it.
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