Why having no money and a flatscreen TV is a crime

One day, while trying to do a horrible amount of dishes, I was listening to the radio. We always listen to the radio while doing the dishes, but never stay with the same radio station because we like to switch whenever we get bored of the shitty songs some popstars release in the air to punish our ears.

So this particular day, there was a lady talking about the dazzling amount of families being expelled of their own house because of financial problems. A guy took the word, a locksmith, and said something like ‘When I enter houses like these, it is remarkable to see how almost all of them have a flatscreen in their living room despite not having the money to pay for it. If only they would spend smarter, they wouldn’t be in this position in the first place’.

I mean, think about it.

Why is it that we (yes, you and I too probably) feel like someone in financial trouble loses credibility when turns out that this person has a flatscreen? Or a smartphone? Or nice clothes? We buy these things without even blinking twice, but we have the money of course. So we argue. They don’t, so they cannot possibly buy something as luxurous as these multimedia devices. Having an iPhone (or just a common smartphone) is a luxury and thus not for poor people. When we see someone begging for money but looking nice, wearing decent clothes and having a fast smartphone, we tend to ‘tsk’ and walk away. But when we see a woman begging in the streets and obviously haven’t had a shower and fresh clothes in a few days, we tend to pity her and even give money.

If we look at this common feeling closely, it is not difficult to see the flaws of our consumer society. We want our ‘poors’ to look poor. We have this biased conception of the ‘good poor’. If you don’t fit that conception, you are not poor. Someone that looks like everybody and spends like everybody cannot possibly be poor. If you are poor, then act poor, seems to be the new slogan. We judge people only by these outer appearances. But paradoxically this society also dictates us to buy, to spend and to have certain things to be able to live a good life.

I think that when you are poor, you feel the pressure of keeping up at this pace even more. You feel like you have to buy these things to be like everybody else. And actually, we also want people to do so. That most of the people are susceptible for such notions of consumption and thus have a flatscreen TV is not spending unwise.

It’s just being human.

Note: when googling to build my argument I found this article by Dartagnan in the Daily Kos. The author talks more in depth about the same issue and goes further by explaining how it would be difficult for someone acting ‘like a good poor’ to find a job.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. It’s a troubling perspective. Each class faces its own cruel and limited perspectives and I agree much of all behavior is fueled by a drive to fit in. Human brokenness creates various expressions of insecurity and entitlement which often lead to very bad decisions; over spending, blame, choosing another bad partner, having a revenge baby, posting social media images of our bum. We all do these things until we find our way back to love.
    Incidentally, I now want to write about the time my stepfather spent $1500 to buy a new flatscreen but sent my brother off to school no winter coat. Ugly.


    1. I agree that people can make bad life decisions (based on fitting in or not), regardless their social status. It’s especially when you’re financially deprived that these decisions may have huge impact, like your own example. I do not really know what it is like to have to make that kind of decisions, but I wanted to point out this rather paradoxical conception that I’ve been hearing from a lot of different people. It really bothered me that people tend to be harsh on other people’s spending habits but don’t realize they are just normal human beings who want the same things. It was never my intention to hurt anyone with this post, so I want to apologize if I did.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No harm done! I completely agree we’re too quick to judge. I’ve had the opportunity to see different sides which was why I shared that example, but everyone is walking their own path. There’s a million reasons for our choices. I enjoyed your post.

        Liked by 1 person

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