By Renay D. Burger
We have lost our endearing sense of peasantry.
As a country of compulsive consumers, renegades of the plastic, we have become the pseudo-highbrow, the contrived class, a wash of fraudulent images. Though we American Express ourselves into the pit of debt, we are out of touch with the reality of dirt, hurt, and poverty.
We are cushioned, catered, and have, for the sake of same-day shipping and handling, forgotten how to work with our hands. Likewise, we have become aloof, isolated, and irrational. We have gone from an age of reason to an age of absurd and impulsive ill reason; namely, we are asphyxiating ourselves with the fluff of stuff.
As a woman, I feel perplexed. Raised in the agrarian foothills of the Appalachians, seared by the ethics of pressed resourcefulness, hard work, and dear family, disillusioned by the realities of rural isolation, moving to the urban grid-iron of Chicago has been a mixed blessing. As I drive down some nearby road, though I am quickly charmed by the occasional eighteenth-century salt-box cottage with English roses and multiple-pane windows, I find it juxtaposed and dwarfed by garish condos and consumerist excess.
Content in my 13-year-old, economy-sized, sticker-littered Nissan, I find at the subsequent red-light that I am swallowed in the menacing shadow of a Hummer, often driven by some commuting suburbanite or Gold-Coaster.
Furthermore, I find it ridiculous for individuals to waste so much gas and four-wheel drive just because one can; in my apocalyptic nightmares I see yuppies drinking water from an extended sea of oil puddles. It is likewise ridiculous when someone lavishes their home with Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn, designer companies (as indicated by even their name) that specialize in reproduction of authenticity, simulacrum, i.e., overpriced quaintness.
If faint for quaint, all those who hanker for oldish looking nostalgia, for goodness sakes, look in your aunts basement; still, if your antiquated lust is insatiable, go to a resale shop. Spare a little effort, and please, dont buy the paint that mimics weathering; if you desire your living quarters to represent the interior decor of a barn, live without a roof for a couple of years.
At our present job, Aaron and I make 16 whopping dollars an hour each. Perhaps I sound facetious. Coming from the Ohio Valley where the only persons bringing home a comparable loaf of bread are those working in law or medicine, I thought financial normalcy was sure to soon follow. Wed rented a humble, bright one-bedroom, compromised our need for personal space, and attempted to live as frugally as we could, which, when habitually frequent visits to local coffee shops were rationed, seemed to prove successful.
However, though we repeatedly cut fiscal corners, buying our groceries and bare necessities at multiple places all for the sake of a good deal, the credit card balance began, nevertheless, to ascend. Several months later, after paying off the old credit card, we maxed out the transferred card, found our budget to be squeaking once again, and began to put purchases on the once cleared and empty card. Now, might I remind you, all this trouble merely to survive. We are far from frivolous spenders.
So, Ive had an epiphany. Though a large portion of the urban pace and moreover American ethos discourages work, encourages restaurant dining, and looks ruefully at the homemade, Ive found that this is the only means by which Aaron and I can survive without prematurely burying ourselves in credit-card debt.
Reaping the benefits off of someone elses sweatshop labor isnt conscientious, nor is it aesthetically appealing. Simply put, a little critical creativity on our part in making a home and a living might save a random few underpaid workers blisters and might make our home a little more ours and a little less everyones.
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Renay Burger currently finds herself roosting in . A graduate of Chicago, she pecks around in writing poetry, fiddling bluegrass and hiking
mountains in her spare time. The majority of her moments, however, are spent teaching
English to her on Tucson’s south side, tending her backyard
and chasing her organically-raised chickens out of her garden. in