The USA: land of bullies

NOMADLAND, by Jessica Bruder

The book, ‘Nomadland‘ fits this BULLY section for many reasons.

The book is a sad commentary on life in the United States. Americans pride themselves on being the richest country on earth. Do not believe it. They may have a population of about 1% who may justify to the claim, but the rest of the population is locked into a caste system that may be worse than in the poorest countries in the world. The demographic division may be: the ‘somewhat making a good living, the ‘somewhat barely making a living,’ and the ‘barely surviving.’ The last group live lives arguably harder than the poorest and most impoverished anywhere else in the world. Read NOMADLAND to understand how America is a country that bullies the majority of its people beating them into submission by the economic might of the ‘1%ers’ who control the giant corporations, regulate the financial institutions and govern every aspect of society with their monetary clout.

I have travelled the roads of the USA many times over many years, by car but more importantly by motorcycle. The motorcycle treks were the most enlightening. Biker garb is an entry ticket to places where ‘middle class’ fashion would bar the door. The biker wear knocks down the defensive barriers poorer people construct to psychologically defend themselves from the entitled superiority of the richer factions of society.

The 2008 recession in the USA
In 2008, the chickens came home to roost, the cats were let out of the bag, divine hubris rained down on Americans. American greed had invested relentlessly in the endless pursuit of the American dream, wealth beyond the wildest expectations. Except the bubble burst. The piper was called to pay for the tune, the owed demanded remuneration for the melody. The blast did far more than peripheral damage. Those who had borrowed relentlessly to invest in the dream had their debts, bets, called. Those who borrowed against their pensions, those who borrowed against their mortgages, those who borrowed for second or even third mortgages, all those who had borrowed money based on the collateral of pipe dreams, of wishes fulfilled, of hopes and aspirations. Called upon the carpet of paying the bill, these people had no real money to settle or saving accounts. Debt forfeiture meant losses beyond description, losses of homes, of possessions, of investments, of pension funds, of education funds, of all monies and any nest eggs people had set aside, invested in, thinly veiled protection destroyed. 

Bankruptcy of the oppressed
The financial barons of banks, the backers of the entitled greedily lending money to the hamburger flipper at Mcdonald’s, the floor mopper at Walmart, the warehouse-floor sweeper at Amazon now demand their due. The barons of the buck never worried about receiving repayment for the debts they were owed, the returns on the investments they have made. The law guarantees that lower-income Americans will meet their monthly repayment obligations. There are repercussions if they don’t.

Then economically the unexpected happened upsetting the financial apple cart. Cars broke down, roofs were severely damaged by storms, homes were destroyed by tornadoes, the diagnoses came with unpayably high costs. Those unexpected events triggered the collapse of the American financial house of cards and burst the bubble of boundless wealth.

Those caught in the domino tumble had no recourse but to abandon all that they possessed. Abandoning ship as the desperate Titanic passengers did after striking the iceberg in 1912. Get overboard, abandon the ship, skip town in the dark of night, run away from debt collectors and financial recovery hound dogs. 

Soon the realization hit. Park benches as beds only work for a night or two. Hunger pangs are calmed for only so long with water. Even finding free drinkable water is a problem. The new hapless, houseless increased in number, hundreds became thousands became hundreds of thousands within a decade. Today estimates seem to agree that a million Americans live in RV’s, living the life of nomads of Bruder’s book.

Jessica Bruder lived among the nomads for three years as she gathered material for her book. She became one of them in order to gain their trust and get behind the facade of “life is good” as portrayed to outsiders. Life is not good. They scramble for money, constantly, every single day. Trying to find jobs to earn enough money to foot the bill which subsistence living entails is a never-ending treadmill.

Prioritize everything, first and foremost
Shelter is the foremost concern for every nomad. Where to sleep, where to escape the rain, the cold, the snow. Solutions are found in the purchase of old cars, wrecks, discards of ‘regular society,’ purchased at the lowest possible price. Nomads live in cars while RV’s, SUVs, and pickup trucks are upscale housing, not a lot but better than just a car.

So where is the bullying?
Nomads prefer to be off of society’s normal grids for the most part. They cannot afford to pay taxes, government deductions from their pay stubs. In fact, they prefer to work for cash. A boon for unscrupulous employers who may wish to avoid federal records. Cash payment allows employers to pay reduced salaries. Nomads, desperate for work, will take what they can get. A vicious circle that becomes increasingly vicious with seasonal weather changes, diminishing food stocks, and God forbid a medical problem. A medical issue in the USA can be a catastrophe. Americans will do anything to avoid the dreaded face of socialism that is usually associated with medical benefits a government might provide. To an American, socialism is too close to communism, two ideologies Americans avoid at all costs. For the 1%er’s, the ideologies are easily avoided; for others, not so easily; for the nomads, an impossibility with disastrous repercussions.

Let’s compound their problems.

‘Home’ has to be parked nightly
Nomads must find locations to park their portable homes. Public streets, no go. Parking tickets are unpayable problems. Finding free parking is a severe challenge. Shopping mall parking lots? Only if mall managers are nomad-friendly. Too many are not, labelling nomads as bums, shiftless freeloaders, drug users or worse, drug dealers, and such. The nomads have Internet databases to help each other find potentially friendly parking areas. Walmart lots, shopping mall lots where managers will look away allowing free overnight parking for the nomads provided they vacate the lots by the start of the next business day.

Shopping for necessities
Food shopping, necessities shopping are problematic for nomads at the best of times. Prices, tolerable or acceptable to many people, are astronomical in the eyes of a nomad. With a monthly income that may be less than a few hundred dollars, a grocery bill of $50 or more is a serious and unacceptable problem. If repeated weekly or every two weeks it is viewed as catastrophic.

Work and salaries
Nomads try to live on the least possible income, to have enough food, to have their roof over their heads, to be warm, safe and secure while spending very little money. Finding work that pays fairly or satisfactorily is a huge problem. Large corporations, Amazon, FedEx and the like are insatiable in their need for warehouse workers but shareholder demands for big returns on investment and executive office greed drive the salaries relentlessly downward to increase profits. Salaries equivalent to $8 or $9 dollars are not unheard of even though minimum wage laws exist. These salaries are the result of unpaid overtime which the nomad cannot refuse to work for fear of losing the job outright. No one can exist on that salary level, especially if the hours of work are stringently regulated and limited.

Who cares?
Amazon, FedEx, Walmart operate like privately run entities, with policies in place that they see fit and government regulation of any kind in that area of the economy smacks of socialism, an American abhorrence. Nomads have little choice but to accept physically taxing jobs in the warehouses of these corporate giants no matter the cost to personal health or physical safety. Bullies, 1, Nomads, 0.

Salaries and working conditions
Read the book to confirm that salaries and working conditions are such to which no one should suffer, let alone older people in their sixties, seventies and beyond, such as the nomads. Bullies, 2, Nomads, 0.

Prices, for food, for gas, for necessities…whatever the market will bear. The average population has the income to continue buying. Nomads don’t, nor regular enough incomes to be able to pay such. Bullies, 3, Nomads, 0.

Homestead locations
Nomads must find places to park their movable homes, frequently and preferably at no cost. There are only so many shopping mall parking lots with nomad-friendly managers. Street parking runs the risk of police ticketing, worse, being towed to a cash-demanded redemption. Bullies, 4, Nomads, 0.

Social security
Social security payments seem to have a law of diminishing returns attached to them. Nomads, maybe because they have left the regular workforce early, terminating social security payments early, receive less social security than people who have worked to their full term of employment. Bullies, 5, Nomads, 0.

Americans reject any kind of medical assistance programs. These have the whiff of socialism about them. But for nomads, medical issues are another problem altogether. For that matter, in the United States, medical issues are a very serious issue for every American. Get treatment and then pay for it, big time, is every American’s anathema, for nomads, a nightmare. The majority of American hospitals are private businesses. Run with that!  Bullies, 6, Nomads, 0.

Government controls
The government is no less a villain in this bullying saga. Nomads often find work in the national parks and recreation areas. Campsites need to be regulated, rented, managed and maintained and the nomads are the low-hanging fruit of possible workers. They never question work conditions, never complain about poor weekly hours, never grumble about unregulated lengths of the workday. The enslaved slave labour force of today, accepting it all in return for the salary at the end of the work period. Unimportant that working conditions may violate government regulations, hours may surpass legal limits and work conditions may be risky or outright dangerous. Again…Bullies, 7, Nomads, 0.

Author Bruder lays it out for her readers. America’s a fool’s paradise and nomads live there. They survive and sustain lives as conned as any other American into believing life in America is good while corporations and private companies exploit every citizen with absolutely minimal regulation,  without practical limitations and without any real controls.

Bully for you America!


Read the review of the book at REVIEW


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