Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Understanding The 1%ers

Life is all about finding what makes you happy. What drives you, where your priorities lie. For me, especially now that I'm retired, chasing that dream of contentment is much higher on my to do list.  A recent blog entry, from one of the more philosophical gentlemen I met last fall at the Grand Canyon, enlightened me about the life and motivation of those seemingly so far below the poverty line, it's amazing some of them survive at all.

Back in the 50's and 60's, after a news report labeled them, the bad boys of the motorcycle world adopted the label of 1%ers.  99% of all motorcycle riders being decent upstanding citizens, only the remaining 1% could be considered outlaws.

It's from that perspective that I look at society as a whole.  We have 1%ers all around us, many of whom are very interesting people.

My friend wrote of talking with a number of people living in tents and lean too's near Yuma AZ. Tucked between some bushes with makeshift enclosures created from sticks and twigs, these bare bones minimalists for the most part are content with their lives. They are choosing this lifestyle over anything more complex.

One in particular flying out from the east every winter to enjoy the mild temperatures and solitude. Having more substantial means, he prefers to leave civilization behind during the hard months out east. Yet others existing on very meager means still managing to pass their time reading such authors as John Updike.  Some bicycling into town to work jobs, others just choosing to live without accepting societies handouts and religions charity.

I also have some good friends on the east coast that are 1%ers. It's the opposite end of the scale, they earn well over $250.000 a year.  According to national figures, only 1.2% of the population have household incomes over $250,000 annually.

These friends have a definite disconnect from the opposite end of the scale, or for that matter most of the other 98% of the population. I say this with no malice, because all of these friends are very generous with their time and lifestyle. When in their circle, they are very open, giving, and welcoming.

The disconnect comes in to play because they simply can't relate to the day to day financial concerns the vast majority of the population carries with them every day.  The best way to qualify this is they put as much thought into spending $1,000 as I do to spending $100.

Knowing there are many others that take my comparison to the opposite extreme, thinking long and hard about expending $10 to my opulent $100, only makes me question my priorities even more.

I shop at Walmart...I stay in Walmart parking lots when I travel...Do I say this like an alcoholic admitting to his addiction? No, I say it because Walmart allows me to live closer to the life I choose.  I like to travel, I like to live simply, I like to make the most of what assets I have.

Walmart's lower prices, especially with their store brands, allow me to buy what I need to get by, and still leave me the ability to enjoy life beyond just existing, or enduring it.  That makes a pretty decent statement for society. We all like to enjoy something special now and then.

Most living in the bottom 1% of the population rely on Walmart to survive. Without modestly priced goods their basic needs couldn't be obtained without charity. Walmart provides a way for them to maintain their independence, their lifestyle, their dignity.

One of my friends in the other 1% group has commented to me that he/she doesn't shop at Walmart because "Those people just give me the creeps". Hence the huge disconnect between the two so dramatically different groups of people.

Wealth and social position have no bearing on the worth of a person. Every one of us has an opinion, ideals, and desires. Everyone of us is capable of showing compassion, and caring. What makes the Wall Street yuppy in the Brooks Brother's suit any better than the old guy in blue jeans, pocket tee shirt, and suspenders.

At the beginning of this article I thought I was floating somewhere in the middle. Not belonging to either of the two 1% groups, but somewhere in the middle. Maybe that's not true. Because I can seamlessly blend into either group I will take my place in a third group.  The 1% of the population that holds no bias toward any other small group of non-conformists.

We all need to be more understanding, more accepting of those around us. We all have the right to freedom and the right to live life the way we choose, as long as we don't infringe on the same rights of others. Every one of us has worth. You may have to dig for it in some, but if you take the time to do so you may be surprised at how much happier you will become for the effort.