ALAB: “This week, on Hoarders…”

Whenever I hear conservatives preaching the gospel of Personal Responsibility, I think of that time when the assistant manager told me I needed to take better care of myself.

I was a restaurant server. Situation was, I had expressed anger at being scheduled for a third double-shift in a row, totaling seven shifts back to back, the very next day expecting me to close the lunch shift.

Digression 1: Oddly enough I was very calm and controlled in how I expressed my anger about this. Didn’t raise my voice or make a scene or anything.

Digression 2: Let’s not even get into the haphazard fuckery of giving us less than 1 day’s notice for the next week’s schedule. So much shit we restaurant workers accepted with minimal complaint.

ANYWAY. Seven shifts back to back, combined with a long, cumbersome mass-transit commute, makes for a very tired, sore, ill-used worker interfacing with a lot of customers. My general view of the situation was: How can anyone think it’s okay to do this to someone? How is this scheduling not self-evidently abusive?

So that night, the assistant manager called me up to the office and she explained to me that our boss the General Manager had agreed to give me the next morning off so I could get some rest before dinner. That’s good news! And then she advised me that my anger at the scheduling was scary for them and that I needed to take better care of myself.

And that’s the part where I said, WHY YES I need to take better care of myself. This schedule is making that impossible. That’s the entire problem here. I’m pissed off because the boss expects me to spend half the week without a chance to take care of myself. See? Chocolates and scented candles aren’t going to help when I can’t even get 8 hours of sleep between one 13-hour day and the next. Or whatever the fuck they thought “self-care” was for someone who didn’t have time to shower.

Right? That’s how it sounds when privileged fucks open their yaps about Personal Responsibility as the substitute for anything that makes life less of a shit-show for ordinary people. They tell us to behave responsibly while they make every effort to arrange the system in favor of privileged fucks behaving irresponsibly. They say “personal responsibility” but what they really mean is, “you’re not supposed to have needs, now shut up and get back to work.”

The most exquisite example of this gobbledegook was on display on an episode of Hoarders I saw last night. Most of the subjects on Hoarders are old people with empty nests. Then there’s Flora, with her adult daughter Louvnia and two small grandchildren packed into her hoarded-out, cockroach-saturated house. One of the driving forces in this episode is the very real threat of CPS taking the children away because the house is unsafe and unsanitary.

Digression A: There’s that structural feature where the state doesn’t want children living in a giant compost heap (understandable), so their solution is that they take the children away from their mother and pay some strangers to foster them, RATHER THAN help the mother get a new apartment and pay part of her rent.

Now Louvnia seems like a very level-headed, capable young woman who does her best to look after her kids and knows this shit isn’t healthy for them. So then we’re wondering: WHY IS SHE LIVING IN THIS HOUSE? The answer is: because her last house was ALSO infested with filthy invertebrates and when she gave her landlord an ultimatum on the pest problem, he evicted her.

Yeah, so, first of all: that landlord is worse than garbage. Unfortunately this sort of fuckery is hardly unique.

AND THEN, AND THEN, AND THEN! Louvnia tried to find another place to rent, and aside from the rent being too damn high, she couldn’t get approved because she had an eviction on her record.

Just in case anyone’s wondering if these children have a father in the picture: he is very much in the picture. He is a loving, attentive parent who doesn’t have enough money to solve their housing problem. He is in the episode, helping to clean up Flora’s house.

Following that eviction, the family had nowhere else to go. The daddy wanted to stay with them but he (unsurprisingly) had a fight with Flora so he moved back into his parents’ already overcrowded home while Louvnia and their two toddlers went back to her mother’s house. Which is stacked to the ceilings with junk and raining cockroaches from every pore.

Now look at what’s been done to this family: they were living in a toxic house, and when the young mother demanded her landlord take action on the toxicity, his response left them with no options except to move into another toxic house. Now they’re living with the threat of the child welfare authorities treating her like an unfit parent because they live in a toxic house.

The bigger problem here is how the system is arranged for the benefit of that oxygen-thieving slumlord. An eviction is not a private matter; it is a court decision. Rather than deal with his property’s pest problem, the slumlord decided the young family should be homeless, and the court ruled in the slumlord’s favor. Unsurprisingly, other landlords treated that decision as a mark against the young mother rather than a mark against the slumlord. And the law allows them to do that.

Within this system, if Child Protective Services gets wind of small children living in a toxic house, their most likely response will be to put the kids in foster care while their mother gets no help at all in escaping the cockroach factory. It would be healthier for the kids and likely cheaper for the state if they simply helped the mother obtain safe housing, much like it works out to be cheaper for the state to give homeless people free housing and counseling rather than keep them on the street. BUT YOU KNOW, just like most states would rather keep on spending the money on police action and ER visits rather than spend less money on housing the unhoused…doesn’t matter if the more humane response is also the cheaper and more efficient one. Gotta treat poor people like criminals.

In this situation, the young low-income parents are trying to act responsibly. The property-owning class and their judicial enablers are making that impossible.

Man, I felt for Louvnia SO HARD. Fortunately the cleaning expert was there to give her lots of hugs and pats. I wanted to be there and join in. She deserves ALL the hugs. As well as a nice apartment within her price range.

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