Author and social justice critic Barbara Ehrenreich points out that, as usual, the media are still playing
the celebrity card, even when it comes to poverty.
The media have been pelting us with heart-wrenching stories about the neo-suffering of the Nouveau Poor, or at least the Formerly Super-rich among them: Foreclosures in Greenwich CT! A collapsing market for cosmetic surgery! Sales of Gulfstream jets declining! Niemen Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue on the ropes! We read of desperate measures, like having to cut back the personal trainer to two hours a week. Parties have been canceled; dinner guests have been offered, gasp, baked potatoes and chili. The New York Times relates the story of a New Jersey teenager whose parents were forced to cut her $100 a week allowance and private Pilates classes. In one of the most pathetic tales of all, New Yorker Alexandra Penney relates how she lost her life savings to Bernie Madoff and is now faced with having to lay off her three-day- a-week maid, Yolanda. “I wear a classic clean white shirt every day of the week. I have about 40 white shirts. They make me feel fresh and ready to face whatever battles I may be fighting …” she wrote, but without Yolanda, “How am I going to iron those shirts so I can still feel like a poor civilized person?”
Oh gee, honey, how will Yolanda still feel like a civilized poor person?
Listen, I think it's terrible that people -- as well as charities, including those which support women's reproductive freedoms -- lost millions to Madoff. But let's not kid ourselves. They still have roofs over their heads, and other sources of income. None of them are out on the street.
Which reminds me of another reason I loved Slumdog Millionaire. It portrayed the unimaginable -- to us anyway -- poverty in old Mumbai. While I can't say our inner cities or even poor places like some parts of Appalachia are close to that, they ain't pretty. But we rarely ever see the face of poverty in our midst.
That's because it doesn't sell soap, beer and trucks.