Have you noticed how much easier it is to give help than to receive it? I imagine this is due to the location of power in that relationship. It’s generally better to be in a position to help than to be in a position of needfulness. Most people would prefer, I’m sure, to be the helicopter winch-man than to be the poor soul being swept out to sea.
I’ve never aspired to be a princess that needs taking care of. It’s helicopters and heroism all the way for me. And, if I had to be a princess, it would be Xena, the Warrior Princess. That’s the wish, but, everyone, it transpires, no matter how strong the biceps or sword-fighting ability, sometimes finds themselves in deep water.
I’ve got myself into something of a pickle, you see. The mortgage company is seeking to repossess my abode. I have missed two (non-consecutive) payments, but I didn’t expect them to act so quickly. After all, they allow people to take mortgage holidays of up to six months. But those holidaying people aren’t me. They’ve not been branded with the Debt mark. Us Debt people are much beloved by mortgage companies, banks and officially sanctioned loan sharks, because there’s a vast amount of money to be made from our not having enough money.
I’ve ever struggled to get my head around this: you have no money, so here’s a big fine for having no money. And when you can’t pay that back, we’ll give you another fine, and another, and we’ll bombard you with endless humiliating phone calls and letters reminding you how hopeless things are, and then, when you’ve reached your wits’ end and have fallen to the very bottom of the darkest pit of despair, we’ll take you to court so that we can repossess your home. And, you can pay our court costs. And then we’ll give ourselves another six figure bonus for all our good work this year.
Of course one must take responsibility for the choices one makes in life. This debt problem is of my own devising. Some credit could be given to the always-ready-to-help pay-day loan people (interest rate 4,071% – yes, that’s right Four. Thousand) but it was my choice – from a set of limited choices (if only the bank would at least allow an overdraft) – to go to them. However, once one has patronised this particular brand of super-expensive assistance, a future of prostitution and/or broken kneecaps is practically assured. Sadly, for many people, this isn’t a joke. It would be illuminating to investigate how many people have taken up ‘escorting’ in an attempt to rid themselves of ever escalating debt. When you have nothing left to sell but yourself, what do you do..? I’d also be bleakly unsurprised if such bottomless debt was connected to an increase in suicides. I’ve experienced the feeling of ‘no matter what I do, it only ever gets worse’ and it’s easy to imagine where such thinking could lead.
I’ve not yet applied for a role within the world’s oldest profession but I am doing all I can to pull in extra cash to supplement my salary (almost the entirety of which, each month, is fed straight to the sharks). And this isn’t such a bad thing. Out of adversity, the phoenix of a Fulfilling Career may yet arise. Before the current crisis, I had already started out along the route to freelance consultancy and my current panic-inspiring situation has motivated me to get a move on. I’ve also come to realise that I can’t give so much of my time and expertise for free; so perhaps I’ll develop some much needed business acumen. (Whatever that means.)
For another positive to be found in the midst of misery, I return to my opening comments about helpers and the helped. Much as I loathe being in need, it’s a nice thing to discover that people are wonderfully – if embarrassingly (but maybe that part’s for me to deal with) – kind. This should come as no surprise; I have always maintained that it’s human nature to be altruistic. This belief is supported by the findings of many an eminent clever person, such as Kropotkin (a personal favourite) a scientist and Russian anarchist who lived according to his beliefs (based on his pioneering research) that social animals are most likely to thrive when they cooperate. In my case, one social animal friend (we’ll call him Steve, because his name is…Steve) has decided to employ his skill in and love of photography to raise funds to help with my predicament. Furthermore, a number of other social animals – some of whom don’t even know me – have signed up to take part in the photo shoot he’s arranged. (It seems likely that I wasn’t meant to know about this, but in the world of social media, cats in bags do not stay for long.)
How does it feel, to discover one is to be the recipient of a charitable act?
I mean no disrespect to well-meaning folks, but my initial reaction wasn’t favourable. I felt shocked, horrified, embarrassed and all manner of other uncomfortable emotions. I imagine this is quite a typical reaction. I am responsible for the mess I make of my life – I don’t expect, or want, anyone else to sort things out. Nor do I want people who are also struggling for money to feel they ought to be helping me. (Heck, I didn’t even want people to feel obliged to buy cards for my birthday!)
If I can’t manage, and can’t fix things, then I’m not in a position of power. Rather, I’m a loser. Worse; If others have to step in to help, then I’m a burden. And as we all know from films, tellie and a certain type of newspaper, such burdensome losers are the bane of society. Certainly a debtor has to be the bane of a capitalist society; where success is measured by ambition, status and financial wealth. If I have no money then it matters not what other gifts I can give the world – for that’s but namby-pamby socialist nonsense.
However, as a drowning person (or at least a somewhat soggy person), I also felt a significant degree of gratitude that someone cared and wanted to take action to aid me. So I attempted to consider that aid from a happier perspective. Perhaps people aren’t helping me because I’m a hopeless charity case in need of pity, or out of a misguided sense of obligation. Perhaps they’re helping because I’m great and they love me. Which would be a nice think to have. And perhaps, because they are social animals for whom altruism is its own reward, it makes them feel good to help someone. In which case my situation could be said to be a cause of happiness in others. Which is another nice think. Or perhaps they’d just like some nice photos taken and don’t mind what happens to the money.
In fact, wouldn’t it be nice if society worked like this more of the time – people getting together to help one another out? It would be a thumbed-nose to the sharks and bankers that make millions out of misery if we did. However, I think it’s important to bear in mind that financial assistance isn’t the only way to help a person who’s experiencing hard times. Support can come in many forms – a listening ear, for example, is to be highly prized.
I still feel rather uncomfortable about the arrangement. Acknowledging the need for, and accepting, help is usually difficult, and accepting financial help especially so. (And of course there’s that whole, horrible, stigma about being the person in debt.) However, I understand that the sentiment behind this is nothing but compassionate, and I really am very touched that anyone would take the time to help me.
So thank you, people, for doing such a happy and kind thing. However, if you’re worrying about me, don’t. This is a rocky (or possibly damp, if I’m to stick with the watery metaphor) patch, but we all have them. I know it will pass and that happier times lie ahead. There are even happy times to be found in amongst the rocks/rock pools (to stay with the water theme. Although I expect very few people ever need rescuing from a rock pool).
Solidarity, power to the people, and don’t let the buggers get you down.