Friday, 22 February 2008

Got attitude, will travel

If all you had was twenty-five dollars, a gym bag and a good attitude, how far would you get?  Adam Shepard set out to see whether starting with in a homeless shelter in Charleston, South Carolina with only those three things to his name was enough to get him his goal of a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within twelve months, and without relying on either his education or his former contacts.

He made it in ten.

The most important thing he started with was a good attitude, something apparently missing with author Barbara Ehrenreich who set herself a similar challenge and then whined about her failure in her book Nickle and Dimed, which "chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor."  As Megan McArdle helpfully points out to Mssss Ehrenreich, "If you set out to prove you can fail, you will generally find it is not that hard. That failure is therefore not good evidence of the impossibility of success." But it does provide evidence that if you're poor in spirit then you'll likely remain poor in more tangible ways too.

It's only a small example, but it illustrates a point well made by both Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell, that most of today's rich are yesterday's poor, and that 'class' is more an adjective than a noun. [Hat tip Noodle Food]

1 comment:

  1. Adam Shepard is, in my opinion, not too different from what I call “Nomadic Trustafarians.” Picture this, young rich brats, usually just out of college (as Shepard) from areas of socio-economic deprivation like Lincoln and Duxbury, MA; most of Fairfield County, CT; Scarsdale and Great Neck, NY; Alpine and Summit, NJ; the “Main Line” near Philly, etc.

    These rich, college educated, but very naive people temporarily “go native” in many third world countries, notably Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Thailand. After spending 6-12 months “keeping it real” and eschewing western culture (except for the things these people “need,” such as a multi-band cell phone and an internet connection), they return to the Larchmonts and Marbleheads of America and act if they have been “transformed” by the experience.

    Here is an anecdotal account of “Muffie” calling her friend “Leesa” (notice the affectated spellings?). Muffie is just about to return to West Moneybucks, CT from 10 months in Costa Rica. Leesa returned from Nepal a week earlier. Of course, Leesa and Muffie want to get together to discuss how “fabulous” their slumming-it-with-the-natives experiences were.

    Leesa offers to pick up Muffie at JFK. Leesa told Muffie she will be driving “dad’s car.” “Oh, which one?,” Muffie asked. Leesa replied, without any tint of irony in her voice, “I’m not sure if I want to take the 2005 Jag, the 2003 BMW Convertible, or mom’s 2007 Acura MDX.” Muffie asked Leesa to take the Acura, since she thinks her backpack will fit best in the SUV.

    Just as most of his trustafarian brethren return “close to home” after about 10 months or so, Adam Shepard returned back to his wealthy North Carolina family, ostensibly due to “family problems.” HELLO? Poor people have family problems, also. However, the REAL poor cannot escape the “Trustafarian Disneyland” when there are family issues.

    These people must continue to WORK and SCRAPE BY in spite of whatever life throws at them. If these people are lucky enough to even have a car, it is likely out of warranty and prone to mechanical breakdowns.


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