What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Addendum to the Barriers to Entry

Ooops.....  update to the Barriers to Entry..... it seems that the $17,000 I made in 2011 exceed the $15,600 threshold I need for the fee waiver on the application fees.  It doesn't matter that in the last year I haven't made $5600 dollars, only that over a year ago I made slightly more than the threshold.  What about now?  What about that I haven't made much of anything since and have been living off of the assistance of others right now?  As if the only people that need fee waivers are the perpetually poor, not the recently unemployed or underemployed.  Does poverty only exist in line with the tax year?  No, it is endemic and symptomatic of American society, yet we can't even offer education for our citizens to bring themselves out of poverty.  Basically, the system that's fucked you, just keeps on fucking you.  That's no meritocracy.  That's capitalism.   

The Barriers to Entry

So I am applying to PhD programs again this year.  But as is the American motto, it takes money to make money (or even to try to get the chance to learn how to make money).  This is an issue for me.  I am poor.  I have made maybe 4 to 5,000 dollars this year so far.  I've been staying places for free, working whenever I could find money - political fundraising, childcare, construction, catering, whatever.  All the while looking for real work and doing volunteer stuff.  Nothing has been materializing in my over/underqualified world.

So here I am, back to the old dream and applying for schools.  This of course is met with a broad smack in the face at America's true shame: the barriers to entry faced by low income individuals.  To get into programs I need to "apply widely" (as I've been advised) to increase my chances of entry.  This is something I intended to, but did not do last year for various reasons mostly revolving around my involvement with Occupy.  But the shear barriers to be able to apply to a number of programs are immense.  Between application fees, the cost of sending GRE scores ($25 per school), and transcripts ($25 to send them from all three schools that I attended), is a lot of money.  If I want to apply to ten schools, that is $250 for the GRE scores, and then another $250 for one set of transcripts each (though many schools require you to send two), before you even look at application fees.  The cost of fees which are usually between $75 and $100.  So that's $12-1500 to apply to ten schools.  I have 18 on my short list and 12 that I feel that I need to apply to.  So I'd be looking at $1600 minimum and over $2000 to apply to the bulk of them and give myself the best shot at getting in.  NOt to mention the cost of my time to do the research and write the applications.

Now granted some schools offer application fee waivers for low income applicants.  But not all.  Three of my first six don't.  And it is $275 for those three.   I had been counting on them all having waivers, but there are solid schools for me that I really have to apply to for the best chances of admission.  Two of these I have connections at already working for me that are strongly encouraging me to apply.  But I may not be able to now.  To everyone that thinks America is a meritocracy take a second look.  I may not even be able to apply to some schools because just I don't have enough money.  And one of these mentioned is my fall back school.  I have to apply, it is the only way to try to guarantee my acceptance.  

But what if I was rich?  I could apply to 20 schools, 30 school, whatever.  My chances of getting in would be greater, thus my chances of success in this field greater.  But no.  Not mine.  I'm low income.  I have to make strategic decisions (such as the one that I made last year and then didn't get in anywhere).  I have barriers to my entry.  The Lohan's, Kardashian's, and Hilton's, and Drake's of the world throw money around on glitter, bottles of champagne, strippers, and superficial material things, yet a person looking to go back to school and make both themselves and hopefully some day the world a better places can not do it for the simple cost of one of those bottles of champagne. 

How can anyone say this is the greatest country there is?  We claim to be a place where you can do anything!  Well I may not be able to apply to go to school because I am not wealthy enough.  In most places in Europe, school tuition is free, never mind applications.  If you are good enough to go, you get to go.  I may not even be able to apply, and for no other reason than that I am poor.     

Monday, November 12, 2012

Individualizing Desperation

It is amazing how the human psyche works.  I am continually working and acting in cooperative and communal ways.  The work I do, the volunteer stuff, my Africa project, academically and intellectually, everything is team focused, egalitarian, and about working together.  But it is amazing how when times are tough and a longstanding at that, that your body and mind enter into a survival mode that is tough to work through sometimes.

My situation is well chronicled here on this website.  Lots of education and experience, a keen analytical capacity, hard working, whatever.. but no professional place to use it right now.  It is tough.  But beyond just the remorse of not being in the place I'd like to be, there is a desperation that comes with poverty and the basic human struggles for food and shelter.  What I'm referring to is a selfishness that comes about.  A selfishness that would drive the starving to snatch food out of a child's hand, or knock an old lady down to get to a loaf of bread.  Now obviously I am not there, and would like to think I could always overcome something like this.  But I can feel and see subtle moments of it seeping into my conscious awareness and attacking my subconscious on many levels.  The instinctive self medicating that so many of us do when we are hurting such as rushing to "comfort foods" (I ate a bunch of doughnuts yesterday, which I have no business eating with my allergies), or to liquor, or risky things, sports.  Things that make us feel rebellious  alive, viral, whatever.  We all do this stuff at some point.  Act out in individualistic ways that inject enzymes, adrenaline and such, into our world and brains that make us feel "better", if even for a moment.

What I am talking about right now though is an overlooking of others and even perhaps sometimes basic protocols of human interaction and attention based on immediate feelings of personal desperation.  Not taking the time to say thank you, somehow feeling it is implied, not responding to a call or text, not paying attention to someone else's efforts to help you with or care of their ideas and works in respect to what you are so desperately trying to do.  I am finding myself doing these things.  Just so desperately focused on trying to change my situation that I am pushing myself internally, working to market myself, survive myself, that I lose track of those surrounding me and the attention they deserve.

I have been speaking in "we" terms for years, and have really struggled focusing on the proverbial "I" - marketing myself.  But that is where I have to be right now.  My resume needs to make me sound like King Kong, my writing projects need to sound like I am the smartest thing ever, my PhD prospectus like I thought of all this shit myself.  At times I lose track of the care for others that has been the cornerstone of my adult existence   I've rescinded into home-life more and more, and am not paying attention to others in the way I am accustomed to.  Not saying thank you, not working with someone in a way that expresses a team effort....  sad.  I know I am better than this.  I know I will be back there some day.  But I am worried that some of these situations and ways of life may become bad habits.  Since I left Europe I have gone in the wrong direction.  I've been training myself in desperation ever since I got back to this country over three years ago.  I definitely don't like these desperation and individualistic habits I'm picking up here.  But what can you do?  I just want to get back to being stable - if such a thing ever existed.