Punchinello’s Chronicles

September 29, 2008

Manufacturing Poverty

Filed under: Survival 101 — Punchinello @ 2:18 am
Tags: , , ,

I was out the other afternoon, catching the late summer day and cooking some hot dogs. We’re not allowed to grill on the porches, so we have to go downstairs and make sure the fire is 100 feet from the buildings. No biggie, just makes it a drag in the winter. So there I was, in the so-called common area.

This is a nice place behind the buildings of the complex, with trees and grass and bushes. It’s a good place for kids to play, off the streets, and fairly easy to watch from the surrounding apartments. Naturally, there are a lot of kids here, what with poverty having an over supply of kids, but they were having fun.

One of the little girls, probably about 8, was hangin’ around with some of her friends. She was quite pretty, having what we used to call dreadlocks, but I don’t know what they’re called now. At that age, most kids are fun, cute, and curious as all get-out. They want to know things, ask questions, and basically, they can become whatever they’d like to when they grow up.

Or so they believe.

This little girl needed to fit in with the culture of poverty. She had to make sure she wasn’t picked on, laughed at, shut out, and otherwise pushed around. To accomplish that, she watched and learned from the next-up age group, those kids around 10-12 years old.

In that group, the key is nonchalance, affected apathy and bordom, and the appearance of a casually contained potential for violence. So to manage all this, the girl I was watching made sure to have a ball cap, too big, that she could tilt up and down, put on backwards, or otherwise play around with. She wore clothes in good shape, with the obligatory shorts that hang down around the ankles. As she sauntered around, she’d hock up a loogie and spit with the best tabakka chaw user of the Old West.

It was like watching an old prison movie, with the inmates sauntering around in heavy macho drag.

I figured this would stand her in good stead when she went for a job interview someday, but what was I going to say? If I spent more than a second or two, I’d probably be arrested as a potential child molester. The 5-yearold friend was just pleased as punch to get involved, copying the saunter and shrugs, apathetic expressions, and everything else. Good fun, excellent part in the play.

Mom came out to gather up the 5-yearold, and she too was sauntering, apathetic, shrugging, and carrying on as if she owned the world. Most of the folks here are on government subsidies, but that’s okay. They feel as it they own the world. A couple of other adults shrugged by, but not too many of them did the loogie thing.

Poverty breeds poverty, mostly because children mimic the surrounding adults and older kids. What with non-interference laws, child predation laws, lawsuits at the drop of a ball cap, and violence as just another everyday option, how’s all that gonna change? Probably won’t.

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