The “scarcity mentality” is as strong an argument as any for Maoist reeducation through agricultural servitude. I know people who went to college and believe in that shit. At least one of them has a bachelor’s degree in economics. This is like graduating from a reputable geology program and believing that the earth is flat and all old sedimentary deposits of all ages are from the Flood. I know people who emerged from four years of liberal arts utterly unable to live in truth, and as Sgt. Van Abel told us, frankly, that’s disgraceful. We got that dressing-down for being slow, but merely on the obstacle course. It might be said that these “scarcity mentality” idiots are failing the obstacle course of life. I couldn’t propel my fat ass over the six-foot wall, but these fuckers are more like tumbling down all three flights of stairs and getting back up with Jesse Ventura-grade brain damage, and the solution isn’t as simple as Officer Markland encouraging me to lose some weight. He was right (and has remained so for most of the time since, unfortunately), and I’m right that these overcredentialed, undereducated dipshits should lose some stupid. How does that work? Chime in in the comment thread if you have the faintest idea. All I can think of is to hand them machetes and order them to cut some damn cane.
There are some interesting versions of the scarcity mentality, including the “gas needle on my car is showing empty” mentality, the “my car just flat ran out of gas and I need to call AAA” mentality, the “no more milk in the fridge and my kids are hungry” mentality, and the “all hotel rooms in Elko are booked for the night” mentality. They’re related to the “don’t cross the tracks now or you’ll get hit by a train” mentality. We might as well say that the FBI has a scarcity of Jimmy Hoffa mentality and chide the G-men for being so negative just because that mobbed-up concrete inclusion has been scarce for a number of years.
The scarcity mentality is basically a conceit of pretending that there’s enough money when there isn’t actually. In practice, it’s believed and preached either by the facepalmably gullible and desperate poor or (maybe more often) by people who in fact do have enough money and are running a con game on other people with enough money so that they, too, might partake. Either way, it’s disgusting. But I have to say, there’s a funny thing I’ve noticed about money: I don’t gots none. That’s close enough to the exacting truth when dealing with people who earn upper-middle-class incomes, have stable housing, drive cars worth tens of thousands of dollars, and hobnob with millionaires for business purposes. I can’t hold a candle to them financially. It is by necessity that I live in a financial world dramatically different from theirs. I have as high a net worth as I have for two reasons: not going into debt when I had the chance (using a credit card quasi-backed by my employer, but on which the debts would have been mine; I paid off the bill every month) and being extremely frugal most of the time. I have abundance because I presume scarcity.
Certain others have abundance because they presumed abundance, ignored their bills, and, oh, by the way, declared personal bankruptcy. I actually found a life-coaching dipshit bragging about this on the internet. The Donald isn’t the only one who used the chapter laws. When I first started reading that dude’s breathless chronicle, I figured that there was probably a secret behind his success, and there it was, discreetly hidden in plain sight. Muh Chapter Eleven.
But the well-heeled, very well-connected salesmen I mentioned above? The smugness does not look good on them. Nor does the up-by-the-bootstraps shtick with which they occasionally indulge themselves. They’re the beneficiaries of a lot of behind-the-scenes string-pulling, power networking through family connections, pay at above-market rates for household chores, and other forms of not-quite-sleaze. Or maybe not not-quite, depending. Meanwhile my parents effectively pay most of my bills, but I do extensive unpaid skilled farm work for a second-order mooch who tries to pull shit like guilting me into going to the farm to feed his cat collection. Not why I came to Oregon, dude. Slightly off-topic, Joe Dirtbag has told me that the nasty animal smell by the front door to the winery building is probably from rats. This means that I can check your privilege if you work in a rat-free office. Full indoor plumbing and rural electrification of all rooms without daisy chains of outdoor extension cords may be other privileges that you enjoy. Meanwhile, I know all these people who use the abundance mentality, or some version of it, as a subtle test to ensure that they’re doing business with people who are financially secure enough not to worry about actual scarcity (because they aren’t suffering from it) and are hence worth milking for commissions. After all, why buy the barren old she-goat when the nubile Holstein gives up the milk for free? No, I’m not advising anyone to go into dairying; getting up at 0400 every morning to pull titty is actual work.
As obnoxious as this circle-jerk of the secular wealthy is, especially insofar as it’s ultimately funded by scams and rackets on the productive poor, these guys aren’t nearly as bad as the religious shitheads I overheard at Starbucks the other day. One of these dudes was also very much into the abundance mentality as a source of church fundraising. The whole time I was half-overhearing, half-eavesdropping on this shit, I was sorely tempted to tell these guys, yo, I’m homeless and I haven’t had a chance to shower yet today because I slept in my car again last night. I didn’t know what sort of reaction this might prompt from them, so I held my peace, but it occurs to me that perhaps any of the possible reactions would have been instructive enough to be worth pelting them with my two cents. If they’d been able to direct me to charity services worth more than a pot of shit, it might have gone very well. Alternately, a cross reaction might have confirmed my suspicion that I was dealing with crooks who clean up well. These dudes were all about charity, especially volunteering, so they’d look pretty bad to openly treat me like a turd in the punch bowl.
The one guy’s comments on volunteering just about stunned me. He carried on about how some old lady in the congregation (whom he was quick to praise as “beautiful”) had given over 90,000 lifetime volunteer hours since she turned 38 or some such. Cue vigorous jerkoff motion. Some of the other volunteers he described had clocked hours as theater ushers, so it’s obviously possible to accomplish jack shit for society through volunteerism. What really blew me away, though, was his enthusiasm for the rate at which the State of Oregon credits each volunteer hour to the organization facilitating it. I forget the exact amount, but he said that it was something over $41 per hour. I did a double-take at first and assumed that I must have misheard twenty-something, but he repeated the same figure, clearly enunciating “forty.”
I don’t grok the mechanics of what he was describing, but I find it powerfully objectionable that, when all the interagency and intergovernmental financial transfers are balanced, I’m most likely paying taxes to support this faith-based racketeering. It’s bad enough that secular nonprofits are running some sort of deduction racket on the state government. This dude at Starbucks sounded worse. What he described sounded disgustingly close to Joel Osteen’s practice of badgering Waffle House waitresses into tithing discretionary income they don’t have to wealthy preachers. That’s a good example of the abundance mentality at work: Pastor Joel doesn’t need your tithes specifically and is happy for other well-compensated men of the cloth to receive them because there’s more than enough goober money to go around for the relatively small number of clergy scummy enough to go full Ephesians 3:20 in the misappropriation of the collection plate.
This fuckhead at Starbucks wanted his congregation to develop an abundance mentality and forsake the scarcity mentality so that the church as a financial institution might prosper. When Catholic priests refer to church finances as temporalities, one of the points is that, Lord help us, we shouldn’t be spending so much time on this shit. Evangelicals rarely have any such insight into their own condition. I’m pretty sure the Starbucks dudes were nondenominational, although I didn’t quite catch which church was to receive this financial blessing and glory &c, praise God.
What I did catch was that this blessing was to be a state gimmedat in recognition of the congregation’s generosity of time, i.e., its holiness. This brought an important point into focus: these dudes need to be on public assistance. The premise of public assistance is check it, we give you this money from the state treasury every month, and in exchange we don’t expect you to do jack diddly. You get this money just for being you. It’s like something out of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Next thing you know, you’ll be chilling with the mailman and that freaky hermaphroditic king, and the trolley won’t be back to fetch you nearly soon enough. If this sounds like moral hazard, the thing to realize is that anyone with any sort of middle-class values, defined as broadly as possible, finds this sort of parasitic dependency shameful and does something to atone for it by not being a total wanker. There’s still quite a bit of middle-class virtue floating around in American society, sometimes in places where bourgeois supremacists least expect it, so handing out gibs without an expectation of reciprocal productivity will not inevitably produce a population sitting on the stoop drinking Mickey’s all the live-long day.
Instead, what the Starbucks dipshit described is a regime in which bougies with the time and resources to devote to volunteering, as well as those organizations blessed with high bougie contents, are explicitly rewarded for their virtue with disbursements from the state treasury, or at least with lower tax burdens. Society ends up with a bunch of smug bourgeois supremacists preening about their own great virtue. Not only is this really fucking obnoxious, it has a history of justifying attacks on important government services, explicitly charitable and otherwise, on the basis that the church or the nonprofit sector is already providing these services, so the state needn’t bother. America needs more of this rhetoric like it needs a hole in the head.
No, I’m not against volunteering, and I’m not against religion. I’m against self-righteous religious pests advocating the downsides of bourgeois moralizing without doing anything meaningful to bring about the upside of broad bourgeois stability to their society. I’m against the looting of government treasuries by organizations using volunteering as an opportunity to fish for praise and handouts. This is profane.
It wasn’t the only profane thing I heard that afternoon. The same dude who enthused about the gibs-for-hours scam (and did ninety percent of the talking) also waxed eloquent about a fellow who had given some sort of testimony at an event he had attended, a testimony that had gotten him “choked up. And I want him to bring that same choked-up-ness to our church services.” God. More charismatic exploitation of the emotionally unstable. Maybe even abuse. When will this ever end? This fucker wants this other dude to cry in public at a sort of tent meeting for the spiritual and financial glorification of the church. It’s like having John Boehner chop onions in a cage while listening to James Blunt records as a traveling circus act. The emo we will have with us always, but this doesn’t mean that we should be so aggressively unscrupulous as to exploit them at every opportunity. Are there any residual principles in the nondenominational movement? When the Scoutmasters found us luring the troop subnormals into similar stunts, they told us to cut it out, and they were right to do so, even though having some dipshit thrust his head out of a tent and yell “STAY ON THE SUNNYSIDE!” was the only thing standing between us and another afternoon of picturesque ennui.
This is what happens when entire congregations are run day in and day out without any meaningful adult supervision. We end up with orgies of feels calibrated to maximize fundraising and tax deductions. Of course these congregations end up leaning towards evangelical con artists like Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. It’s just birds of a feather joining their flock. What sucks is when they end up driving the rest of us out of the prime habitat and shitting on us when we don’t comply.
Christianity is supposed to be better than a lot of things. It’s certainly better than any of this. No church should look like an Inferno-style onion of ever-deepening circles of profanity. As a nation, we should be deeply, deeply ashamed of ourselves for giving our assent to any of this.