Sunday, November 8, 2009

The World is a Ghetto: Economic Apocalypse Now

The World is a Ghetto: Economic Apocalypse Now

Paul Scott

"Families buying dog food now. Starvation roams the streets."

Village Ghetto Land- Stevie Wonder

Back in 1972, the funk band, War, recorded the grim hit ,"The World is a Ghetto." I thought about this dire ditty when I read an article last week about a recent study out of the Sanford School of Policy that announced the shocking (yet, self-evident) revelation that poverty has something to do with drop out rates and out of wedlock births.

No shellac, Sherlock.

I wish that I would have been part of that little study, I could have given them a whole laundry list of social ills that are caused by being broke ranging from high blood pressure, nervous breakdowns to a rare form of Tourette Syndrome that makes one have the irresistible urge to kick the neighbor's poodle for no apparent reason.

Yeah, I've heard the talk about how the Reagan-esque voodoo economics of the stimulus package is finally beginning to bailout the average Joe and how the report of the 10% national unemployment rate is just an illusion or part of some vast right wing conspiratorial misinformation campaign.

I don't mean to burst any one's bubble or rain on your parade but I don't think that post recession America is going to differ ,significantly, from recession America. Kinda like when gas prices all of a sudden jump to $4.00 a gallon. Sure, the prices will eventually go down but you know in your heart of hearts that the days of $1.25 a gallon premium are dead and gone.

We are quickly moving into an era where there will only be two groups of people; the haves and the have nots. While in the past, the average homeowner may have been two paychecks away from the poor house, nowadays, a short bout with H1N1 will have you up all night trying to figure out how you're gonna fit your giant flat screen TV into the homeless shelter.

Welcome to the ghetto.

Although the term "ghetto" is usually meant to describe a place full of poor African Americans and Latinos, the term was originally used to describe a place where European Jews were forced to live around World War II and also places where immigrants resided when they came to America. However, in the 21st century, ghetto-ism has taken on a more universal meaning; a place of hopelessness and despair.

Contrary to popular belief, the ghetto doesn't start at the first boarded up house in Northeast Central and end at the first coffee house downtown. The ghetto is a village without boundaries.

While most well -off folks only know the ghetto as the home of 70's sitcom, "Good Times" reruns, those of us who have ever had to dine on "Oodles of Noodles Surprise" every night for dinner are well acquainted with the place

There was a time when poverty was seen as a condition of the chronic underachievers. You know, the kids who skipped Algebra class to hang in the hallway quoting Run DMC lyrics. But now, for many, unemployment is in the "stuff happens" category, striking even the most educated, hard working person for no rhyme nor reason.

The gainfully employed are now seen as those who have their positions simply because "somebody up there likes them." In this case, I am not referring to the proverbial "man upstairs" but the head honcho in the seventh floor corporate office who makes the hiring/firing decisions. We live in a time when a human resource department has become a virtual Mt. Olympus with folks with almost god-like powers granting favors to those who swear their undying allegiance, vowing to sacrifice coffee breaks, holidays and family time on the altar of economic stability.

So, the writer with the cushy job and the scenic view at the newspaper's corporate office may not, necessarily, be a better wordsmith than the poor, unemployed journalism major holding a "Will Write for Food" sign in the Herald Sun parking lot. Or the lucky sap who is charging $50 a pop for balcony seats to see him perform at the DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center) may be no more deserving of the spotlight than the guy with the four string guitar singing his heart out on the sidewalk of Ninth Street.

Economic success is not an exact science.

So, are we quickly approaching a sci-fi -type Apocalypse where bands of roving poor folks will start rollin' up on suckas sportin' Argyle sweaters and drivin' Volvo's, jackin' them for their Starbucks money?

It's possible. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

As hardcore rapper, Freeway, once warned when facing economic uncertainty, "if my heat stops workin'...I'ma rob me a person."

Maybe there is a bright side to these days of gloom and doom. Perhaps the recession will force us to focus on the important things in life.

Maybe, we will stop being so blinded by the bling of celebrities like Jay Z and Paris Hilton and realize King's dream of judging a person by the content of his character and not the size of his paycheck.

I don't know.

But in the perpetual, purgatory of poverty, one thing is certain. We'll have more than enough time to figure it out.

As the late, great funkster, Rick James once said;

"One thing 'bout the ghetto, you don't have to hurry. It'll be there tomorrow. So, brother, don't you worry.

Paul Scott is a self-syndicated columnist and author of the blog, No Warning Shots He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 or . To join the "No Warning Shots Firing Squad" on Twitter visit