Poverty isn’t a scattering of stones that you trip over on the path to success. Poverty is a pit that you can sometimes avoid, sometimes pull yourself from. But when you’re still wandering around directionless, looking for a path that might not exist, there’s a pit around every corner.
An accident. An illness. A pregnancy. You’re sliding down the slope of the pit. Helpless.
Capitalism promises opportunities and innovations to make you whole and relieve your emptiness. But what happens when the hole is not inside you, but a pit of poverty and economic injustice below you, perpetually unsatisfied and yearning for your body and life. Which emptiness will be filled then?
“Check out our new features! 9 simple tips for marketing your trauma!” GoFundMe says optimistically in my inbox. And they teach you to make your pain palatable and your crisis viral, and make it fit for the consumption and digestion of people who hopefully will compensate you for a piece of your dignity. A dignity that you’ve exchanged for the use of this eye-catching template. If you only do it The Right Way and earn your recovery.
Capitalism provides innovation.
You only get the survival you deserve. You are the admin of your own destiny. And there are several trauma-share platforms available with varying fees for you to choose from.
Capitalism provides opportunity.
So survival is privatized and healthcare is a privilege and hopelessness and meaninglessness are just normal things you earn yourself out of. Okay.
And I hope you’re fucking reading this.
I hope that I’ve analyzed this and edited this and shaped this in a way that’s appealing. Marketable. Shareable. I hope this gets a couple hundred likes and generates comments and shares. I use that fucking “social media savvy” and I hope it fucking works.
The same way that people hope their GoFundMe campaign exposes their ugliest parts of their life and reaches The Right People who can spare a hundred bucks or at least enough to convince a hospital to keep them alive.
The same way people hope that Captain McGarbagefood is willing to hire them and pay them $7.25/hr and treat them like a toilet brush so they can feed themselves.
I’ve got too many friends who are in the hospital or stuck in an abusive household or getting evicted because THEY DON’T HAVE FUCKING MONEY.
And I feel helpless, and all I have is this stupid social media page, and yes, I want your fucking attention.
If a riot is the language of the unheard, well that’s why I’m on here sounding like a riot all the damn time. I don’t have anything else. Just an onslaught of abuses in the form of sexism, transphobia, police brutality and all of this economic injustice. And no one listens to polite, sorry-to-bother-you pain. So yes, all cops are bastards, yes, all men are trash, yes, eat the rich. I don’t want anyone’s agreement or devotion. I want your attention.
Because that’s the only tool we have out here.
Can we please do something y’all? About this, about everything?
This is breaking the rules of Getting Visibility on Facebook. It’s too long. It’s too needy. It’s not going to what it’s “supposed to do.” I might get 13 people reading this. Whatever.
I’m just in my feelings. And it feels like a riot.
Co-founder of Memphis Feminist Collective and Trashboat, Inc., Nour Hantouli uses social media, art, and direct action to advocate for social and economic justice. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This essay is adapted from a Facebook post by Hantouli.
This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit reporting project on economic justice in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by the Center for Community Change and the Surdna Foundation.