As you move up in class, this loudly desperate fashion fades away. The affluent aren't so inclined to brand their chests, backs, butts and car bumpers with slogans and mass produced one liners. No WHERE'S MY BAILOUT? No MY SON CAN KICK YOUR HONOR STUDENT SON'S ASS. Ballasted by a healthy bank account, they don't need to assert themselves so literally. It's the voiceless who strut around with a message, often goofily anti social, on their boobs and pecs. I HAVE MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES AND NONE OF THEM LIKE YOU. I've noticed more screen printed skulls, daggers and guns on the streets these days, but also more LOVE and peace signs, and no, not on hippies.
The poor man wears gold outside his stupid T-shirt. He can't afford POLO anything, so he wears "POLO," like a talisman, on his stupid T-shirt. Of course, there are also many who walk around with nothing but dyed underwear on their person. The poor man does not see himself defined truthfully anywhere, so he defines himself with his stupid T-shirt. This, in turn, becomes another strike against him.
Turning on the TV, the poor man sees himself being chased through the streets and alleyways, then pinned to the ground, grass and dirt on his face. On another channel, he's being kicked and clawed by his significant other, then lectured by the avuncular Maury, or vaguely professorial Jerry. His stoicism, physical and spiritual strength, and the empathy he has for others who struggle, just like him, are never conveyed. The biggest tippers are bartenders, waiters and waitresses, since they know what it's like to depend on tips.
Visiting the Camden tent city, now shut down, I was struck by the number of interracial couples. The encampment itself was highly mixed, with blacks, whites and hispanics all living together. Up to a hundred and twenty people shared one bathroom, a honey bucket, and two shower stalls. They often ate communally. The self-appointed "mayor" was Lorenzo, a Jamaican immigrant, Vietnam vet, ex-con and near suicide. Jumping off the Ben Franklin Bridge years ago, Lorenzo was grabbed by a white cop. Together they plunged onto the water, 130 feet below. Lorenzo was saved, but the cop was paralyzed. This experience changed Lorenzo, transformed him eventually into a kind of pastor for his desperate flock. I don't cite this tent city as any kind of Utopia. It was certainly a dire place, but it was also proof that the most abandoned could band together to help and protect each other. Camden is very menacing, frankly, but I never felt safer there than in this tent city.
Gangs are nearly always ethnic, and as the economy collapses, we will likely see a spike in ethnic gangs terrorizing each other and the innocent, but no, America doesn't have to become a kind of San Quentin from sea to shining sea, with the only havens isolated homesteads and gated communities, where the wealthy are already safely ensconced. Wealth always means isolation, private this, exclusive that--the rich don't even want to share a toilet seat with their spouse--but poverty is communal. No chairmen, these are bench people. Think bleacher seats. Think Greyhound, which, to the poorest, is hotel as much as mode of transportation. Desperation will bind folks together, force them to share, barter and employ new and neglected strategies for survival.
The formal economy has looted, swindled and bankrupted us all. Now rises the informal. In our stupid T-shirts, we're already dressed for the occasion.