The Art of Being Broke

It’s time to discuss the art of relative poverty, a condition “enjoyed” by an increasing number of people in today’s cutthroat world, in which money has replaced God as the dictating factor in determining people’s happiness, assessing their successfulness, and figuratively measuring their genitalia.  I have nothing against money; believe me, I wish I had more of it–a hell of a lot more.  One of the things about being genuinely poor is you realize how sweet it would be to be rich.  The difference between a middle-aged poor person who used to be middle-class and a young person who still is is that the former has given up believing things might turn around–in my case for idiosyncratic reasons that will be familiar to those of you familiar with this blog.  I’ll regale the rest of you with a brief autobiographical paragraph before coming to the ways in which those of us who have a Teflon relationship with cash can accept our plight, not so much out of a sense of victimization as a way to overcome the abject materialism that appears to be driving civilization to the brink of a cliff.  (Good riddance, you might say, but that’s just sour grapes, since we all get to go over the edge together.)

On second thoughts, to avoid boring you with too much self-indulgence (my usual strategy), I’ll just head straight to the list, insidiously incorporating unflattering facts about myself in the process that a few of you fellow sacrificial lambs of capitalism may share.

Without further ado, here are a few ways to either go broke, waste money, or live with the consequences of the former two:

1.  Go to college (this advice is for U. S. residents only).  This used to be a smart career move, back when a university education was affordable.  Today it’s a ticket to Shitsville.  Unless you’re lucky enough to have generous, wealthy relatives or parents, you’ll end up having to spend years paying off student loans, the interest accruing all the while, with crocodiles snapping at your slippery heels.  If you do elect to bite the bullet and seek the joys of academia, make sure to do what I did and major in the humanities, as it will help guarantee a low-paying job in the work farce, assuming you can find one in the global corporate sweatshop.

2.  Marry a skinflint.  It helps if your spouse has extreme, irrational religious beliefs, and is credulous enough to think that giving ten percent of your income to the church will reap the manna of heaven (not something you can read in Jesus’ playbook, but what the hell).  This way of thinking also dovetails with an ultimately impractical view towards money, whose acquisition normally demands a dogged, ambitious approach instead of the flaky province of a luftmensch.  Of course, it you’re shrewd, you can put the two together by convincing other people to follow your own made-up cult or religion instead.  There’s no shortage of idiots out there, so get down to it; good luck.

3.  Don’t leave home.  If you’re lucky enough to be on the dole, you can afford a few amenities during your masochistic search for a job in the door-slamming, cold-hearted world of phone tag and voice mail and dry-cleaned cyphers who privately boil their hands after shaking yours to prevent their being assailed by imaginary infections.  Otherwise, it’s cheaper to park your butt at the kitchen table or on the sofa.  Also, you’re less apt to notice your life passing you by when you’re indoors (which is why department stores and shopping malls don’t have windows, only they’re for people with money–perhaps you too used to be a consumer, unless you were a big-shot citizen with actual political power).

4.  Take a walk.  As soon as cabin fever sets in and you and your mate are ready to kill each other, get out of there while the going’s good.  No one needs a prison rap.  But don’t go to any place that sells things.  If you live in a city, that means going to the park.  You don’t want to have to drive anywhere; gasoline costs money, and so does parking.  So does the bus or the subway, for that matter.  Hoof it.  Hitch-hike (good luck getting a ride).  While you’re out for your stroll, don’t run, and don’t go too far; you don’t want to overexert yourself, since you can’t afford to eat much.

5.  Fast.  This is not a crash-diet plan; it’s just an act of desperation.  It’s not a hunger strike either.  Nobody cares if you pull a Bartleby the Scrivener and starve yourself to death.  They’re too busy trying to make ends meet themselves.  Thank the religious right and Goldman Sachs for replacing the Golden Rule with social Darwinism.  Call it the Goldman rule.  It’s thoroughly entrenched, and if you fall into the hands of the system, they will do their best to strangle you.

6.  Avoid people.  Not to sound misanthropic or Scrooge-like, but dating and cultivating friendships costs money.  You may be blessed with kind friends who will treat you to meals or beers if you go out on the town together.  But no one can play that game for long, and you’ll just hate yourself for being a sponge.  Let the friendships disintegrate; that’s what the system wants.  Those of us who have nothing left to offer this parsimonious, pickpocketing world are expected to shrivel up and die.  As Scrooge would say, this will help reduce the surplus population.

That’s it for now.  More soon.  I hope this information is helpful.  Please let me know what you think.


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