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Thoughts on Nickel and Dimed

  • Subject: [cg] Thoughts on Nickel and Dimed
  • From: Sharon Gordon gordonse@one.net
  • Date: Thu, 17 Apr 2003 12:48:57 -0400
  • Importance: Normal

For those who have read Ehrenreich's book chronicling her year long
experiment attempting to live off low wage jobs(waitressing, Wal-mart, maid,
etc.), I have a question.  I felt she did a good job of showing the
treadmill and near slavery that low income workers are on.  She also does a
good job of showing the lack of
respect for people/workers in the lower income jobs.

One thing I have a problem with though is that she made the situation worse
than it needs to be and didn't utilize available resources.  I got the sense
that she wanted to add drama to the worker's plight by creating sort of the
worst possible scenario.  I got the same sort of feeling when I was emailing
with the trio who were living in Indonesia and living on a Nike worker's
salary as a demo of how awful that was.  While that situation is truly
awful, they weren't making the best use of their food money.  Also, I
emailed them some fairly detailed basic info about biointensive gardening
and permaculture that they could teach the Indonesian workers they were
living in shack village with to use around their houses which would have
helped the workers' financial, nutrition, and health situations.  However
they refused to share this information with the people living around them
and told me there was no where to plant anything.  However I could see in
lots of their pictures that there was open space all around the
shack-houses.  It did not look to me like there was anywhere near enough
land to grow a complete diet for the people living in the shack-village, but
there was enough to grow a lot of nutritious vegetables, and probably some
vine fruit could have been grown up the walls and over the roofs as well.
They also weren't interested in using free or frugal materials to make a
solar or rocket stove.

And I realize two things that made her situation harder in N&D were
artifacts of the experiment itself.  One is that she chose to live in
different locations for 3-4 months and do different jobs.  This enabled her
to make the case that the problem is widespread.  But it eliminated a lot of
ways you could make life better if you lived in one place for the whole
year.  And she also spent her after work time writing up details of her
experience which cut into a lot of time that she could have used to make her
daily life more pleasant.  I am wondering if she had rigged up a tape
recorder in her car, if she could have made a verbal diary while commuting,
and had the tapes transcribed by someone else.  Then she could have used her
nonworking time in more life enhancing ways.  On the other hand this 2nd
writing job does reflect some of the realities of low income workers with
two jobs.

I think there are a number of opportunities she could have utilized which
would have made her low-wage-life a lot better--most of the topics aren't
directly related to this list.  But I have wondered about how her life could
have been improved if she'd stayed in one area for awhile and had a
community garden plot.  So my question is what aspects of her (or someone in
a similar real or experimental situation) life could be improved by having
an average size community garden plot?


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