Actively wanting less
After reading Garlin’s fantastic post on the Black Middle Class, I was inspired to think of ways that we can maintain an engaged and active middle class. This idea is not original, but I think the answer comes from actively wanting less.
Generally speaking, the middle class trajectory is to move into nicer neighborhoods with bigger homes, better cars, better schools, better positions, and better food, etc. With this trajectory, for those who are politically conscious, comes the idea that, “I simply can’t afford to be engaged right now but once I get settled, I am all yours.” Of course, more often than not this plan falls to pieces as our justice warrior glides into retirement, giving their best years of their life for what?
Some of you are probably screaming, “Their best years are for their family!” And my response is that yes, family is vitally important but too often used as a scapegoat. You can spend time with your family volunteering at a shelter, going to a rally, or even helping to clean up the city. I need to comeback to this issue because I just typed this paragraph like Speedy Gonzales.
Coming back though, I think when you really evaluate yourself, you pretty much know if you are setting yourself up to be on the typical middle class trajectory. Isn’t that part of the reason you feel so desperate to go to graduate school right after undergrad? If not, I am pleased, but you are unfortunately in the minority.
Regardless, the middle class trajectory has a very strong impact on your willingness and ability to be hungry and fight for positive change. So what if we could re-imagine the typical middle class path to make it more palatable to your desires to change your community?
I think it means different things for different people but let’s start from the perspective that you are going to make more and more money as you get older. Do you find that the more money you make, you still find yourself broke? This is a sign of the upgrade culture that takes away your hunger.
A prime example of this is cell phones. Imagine that you have a decent cell phone that gets the job done and you are 7 months into your 2-year contract. All of a sudden you get a new job paying you $10,000 more than what you made before. What do you do? You find some inane reason that you need a new phone, then go online and buy a new jazzed up phone when you could have received a new free phone at the end of your contract. You say, “Brandon, it’s my money, leave me alone.” OK, but let me be clear, I am not putting down nice phones; I am putting down the idea of doing things because you can and not because you need to.
I hate when people feel the need to do across the board upgrades when they make more money. It is silly. Multi-billionaire Warren Buffet has lived in the same house for I think thirty some odd years. The lesson is simple, why upgrade when you don’t have to? Your house and you/or your child’s education are critical areas that need your attention and investment. So maybe instead of wanting the nicest car, we actively wanted the most reliable and not mind if the model year is less than 2002. Maybe instead of buying your eighth ‘freak um’ dress, you bought some Black activism books from Amazon.com.
By now, some of you are saying, “I can have my books and my dresses!” (figuratively speaking) I hope you can but the larger point to be made is, “Where is your heart?”
Being stylish and being conscious are not mutually exclusive but you can’t buy hunger, even though it is more satisfying than most anything you could buy. Actively wanting less of the world allows gives you the clarity to better understand your life’s purpose, which will undoubtedly somehow help others.
I was a little over the place with this one, but I hope you are still with me,
Stay up fam,