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We lost Milo last year but I'm going to start reading books to dedicate these pages to him. Miss you, feller.


“Moth” James Sallis

The map is not the territory. The limits of your language are the limits of your world.

Here’s what I think in higher flights of fancy. Once there existed beings, a race, a species (call it what you will) who truly belonged to this world. Then at some point, for whatever reason, they moved on, and we moved into their places. We go on trying to occupy those places, day after endless day. But we’ll always remain strangers here, all of us. And for all our efforts, whatever dissimulations we attempt, we’ll never quite fit.

“Murder In the Hollows” Declan James

“Red Knife” William Kent Krueger

“All the Light We Cannot See” Anthony Doerr

You know the greatest lesson of history? It's that history is whatever the victors say it is. That's the lesson. Whoever wins, that's who decides the history.

The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the globe . . . The sea is only a receptacle for all the prodigious, supernatural things that exist inside it. It is only movement and love; it is the living infinite.

“Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?” He says, “Not in years. But today. Today maybe I did.”

We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust. Much smaller. Divide. Multiply. Add and subtract. Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as a microscopic electrical swarm. The lungs the brain the heart. Forty weeks later, six trillion cells get crushed in the vice of our mother’s birth canal and we howl. Then the world starts in on us.

“Chasing Darkness” Robert Crais

“If She Wakes” Michael Koryta

“Kill You Twice” Chelsea Cain

“A String of Beads” Thomas Perry

“Under the Color of Law” Michael McGarrity

“The Watchman” Robert Crais

“The Glass Hotel” Emily St. John Mandel

What kept her in the kingdom was the previously unimaginable condition of not having to think about money, because that’s what money gives you: the freedom to stop thinking about money. If you’ve never been without, then you won’t understand the profundity of this, how absolutely this changes your life.

You know what I've learned about money? I was trying to figure out why my life felt more or less the same in Singapore as it did in London, and that's when I realized that money is its own country.

Simone had been in New York City for six months by now, and she thought that she was beginning to understand how a person could become very tired here. She'd seen them on the subway, the tired people, the people who'd worked too long and too hard, caught up in the machine, eyes closed on the evening trains.

“All the Living” C. E. Morgan

Every evening was like this, the night taking the day with no clear demarcation of its passing so she could not mark the precise moment when night arrived again. It took her continually by surprise and she had grown to hate that.

She wondered what kind of luck was required to be someone other than the person you were born to be.

“Fruits of the Poisonous Tree” Archer Mayor

“Shine Shine Shine” Lydia Netzer

Sunny was there, poised. The mother tried to gasp out a warning, gasp out a final endearment. Sunny, I love you. But there was no air, and there was no blood, and the blackness came down from on top of her head and shut her down. In the reverie, she hung there, her body limp and crumpled against a beam. In reality, she died there, in the hospital bed, and went into the dark. Her brain stopped working and that was it, just at the wrong moment. One minute there were electrochemical processes inside the skull. The next minute there were not. No one shared it, no one eased it to its end, and no one could have prevented it. It just happened. A death happened at 3:12 in the morning. A private death between the mother and herself, before she could finish her one last dream. This is what it means to die: you do not finish.

“Migrations” Charlotte McConaghy

“The Forgotten Man” Robert Crais

“Tom Lake” Ann Patchett

“One Step Too Far” Lisa Gardner

“Poison Flower” Thomas Perry

“The Shooting at Château Rock” Martin Walker

“So Say the Fallen” Stuart Neville

“The Last of How It Was” T. R. Pearson

Pearson’s storytelling in this yarn is so non-linear and difficult to read it’s taken me over five years to get through. I LOVE his writing, but after reading a dozen pages at a time, there is so much to absorb that I just have to put it down. I am happy not to dust this book on my bedside table over and over, finally. The book is also hilarious, but there are racial slurs included, so if you’re bothered by that, just don’t read this. Percival Everett said, “Just the presence of that unfortunate word is enough to ban, apparently, ‘Huck Finn.’ Ironically, the presence of that word is not offensive in any way, because it makes perfect sense in the story. Without it, it would be impossible to understand the world in which the story happens. It would be impossible to understand the character of the people who were oppressing Jim and all of his family. People who seek to ban that book, let’s face it, haven’t read it. If they have read it, they’re not capable of understanding it.”

Daddy said him and momma would come to Neely and then go away and then come back again and then go away and then come another time and the dogwoods would have budded and flowered and the grass roundabout would have got thick and the weeds would have got high and some people would have moved into town and settled into houses that other people would have moved out of or died out of sometimes so that people that had been weren’t anymore and every now and again people that had not been were, and Daddy said if there was anything constant about any of it, any one thing that did not bud or flower or sprout up or get laid under, any single item that him and Momma could come back to find just like they’d left it, it was Granddaddy’s guitar playing which was not ever any better and sometimes even seemed worse though likely it could not have been. Daddy said Granddaddy simply could not make his fingers do what fingers need to do on a guitar if the end result is intended to be musical and melodic and Daddy supposed Granddaddy was intending to be musical and was intending to be melodic too, still supposed it and theorized it even those times Granddaddy was something extremely otherwise and he was something extremely otherwise most all the time on account of his strumming was spasmodic and his chords were haphazard and inaccurate and, even after months of unflagging and devoted practice, he still could not change his fingers with even the speed and alacrity that some men change their trousers in the bedroom. Daddy said it simply did not seem to him that Granddaddy was intended to succeed at guitar playing and he admitted he oftentimes wondered when the instrument itself might be laid away in a corner so as to get dusted once a week with all the rest of the furniture, but Granddaddy would not give it up and persisted in the tuning and the strumming and the ponderous finger changing even if he did not get better at any of it, and he worked on through Mr. Mel Bay’s book, if it was in fact Mr. Mel Bay, and learned to play so many songs so badly that Daddy could not determine anything much from just a Doo da and he still insists even now that the most trying and rigorous question he has ever been pressed to answer usually followed a spell of tuning when Granddaddy would set his fingers on the guitar neck and lay his pickend on the bass string and hold off from strumming just long enough to ask Daddy, “What’s this here?”

They had on their green Rotarian blazers with the little round insignia on the pocket that the handkerchief stood up in and their blue Rotarian trousers and their striped Rotarian ties with their silver Rotarian toeclips midway up them, and Mr. Emmett Dabb was impressed quite immediately on account of he did not ordinarily run up on many Rotarians dressed so that you’d know what they were but he did not know what they were anyhow even with the blazers and the trousers and the ties and the clips too since he did not ordinarily run up on many Rotarians dressed so that you’d know what they were. He figured instead that they were maybe Rosicrucians judging from the letters roundabout the emblems but then he did not know what Rosicrucians were either and anyhow he was quite certain that Mr. Estelle Singletary, who seemed to be one of them on the left, was a Free Will Baptist and he did not suspect a man could be a Rosicrucian and a Free Will Baptist at the same time.

Daddy said they had all married well, Daddy said it was a habit with Underwoods to marry well like it was a habit with some people to bathe and eat, and it seemed to Daddy that the Underwood men had got the best of the bargain as the Underwood men tended to be prettier than the Underwood women primarily on account of the Underwood nose which Daddy insisted was noble on a man but just conspicuous on a woman, and Daddy said did not but all the Underwoods seem happy in marriage in that way people of money and prominence tend to seem happy in marriage which is not ever anything open and giddy but just your basic blank and civil harmony that people like Underwoods call bliss. And as best as Daddy recollected, it was Mr. Robert Rosemont Underwood and his wife, Mrs. Sophia Jane Womack Underwood, that were the most noticeably blank and civil and so likely the most utterly blissful of any of the remaining bulk of Underwoods and there was a considerable bulk of them.

And Aunt Sister told him, “Not just precisely, Louis. It was the inkling first, the dark murky inkling.”
“Nameless?” Daddy said.
“Nameless,” Aunt Sister told him, “and murky and dark.”
“And then the lightglobe?” Daddy said.
“The visitation,” Aunt Sister told him.
“On the lightglobe,” Daddy said.
“On the lightglobe,” Aunt Sister told him.
“So she calls her neighbor the Semple,” Daddy said.
“Just precisely,” Aunt Sister told him.
“On account of she always calls her neighbor when she’s dark and murky,” Daddy said.
And Aunt Sister looked at Daddy that way she looks at Daddy when she knows what he’s up to and wants him to know she knows.
“Troubled too,” Daddy said. “The lightglobe, don’t you know, with the brother on it.”
“Visitation,” Aunt Sister told him and then kind of veered off the subject proper for a moment so as to explain to Daddy how there are actually some people on God’s earth that do in fact like other people on God’s earth and feel the need to communicate with them from time to time so as to express some one thing or another and Daddy said he’d heard tell of such previously and wondered at Aunt Sister was a brother on a lightglobe the manner of thing people on God’s earth might feel a need to communicate about and Aunt Sister told him, “Some people,” told him, “Faithful people,” and Daddy said he’d guessed as much.

“Well,” Uncle Jack said and Daddy left off so as to fetch out a Tareyton and so as to fetch out a match and while he lit the one with the other he commenced to tell us through the smoke and the sulfur smell how there was some people that had a natural talent for pauses and for your general drama, how there are some people that knew how not talking sometimes said more than talking and said it better than talking ever could, how there was some people that could take just a plain and usual word like Well and put it to actual work the way most people didn’t and couldn’t, how there was some people that could render it up into a thing otherwise than just to spend breath on, how there was people like Uncle Jack that could say just “Well” and leave it at just Well for longer than most everybody else can stand not to talk, and Daddy said it just lingered there in the air and held everybody firm like a pure incantation while Uncle Jack, that had been standing where he’d stood all along, stepped across the porch towards a stoppered upended nail keg which Daddy said a Littlejohn just got up off of before Uncle Jack even had to ask him would he and Uncle Jack set himself down on it and laid his hat bottom upwards on the planking beside him and then reached over with his hat laying hand and removed from his boot the bonehandled knife that he took hold of midway up the blade and commenced to clean under his fingernails with. “What I had me was,” Uncle Jack said and wiped some grit off of the bladetip onto his pantsfront prior to setting in on a new finger altogether, “what I had me was a lethal sort of run-in.”

“The Mars Room” Rachel Kushner

There had been a girlfriend, Simone was her name, a teacher at the community college where he’d been an adjunct. She was nice-looking and plenty smart and didn’t talk too much. Most people talked to fill silence and didn’t know the damage they reaped. Simone spoke only when she had something to say, but he’d ended the relationship and there was sometimes no why. She’d liked him more than he wanted her to, maybe. He understood there were people who didn’t want to be the wanter, but he could not make himself feel that way. As soon as a woman turned to Gordon with a look of need, he was halfway gone. He occasionally missed Simone, but every time, right after feeling a desire to see her again, he was always relieved not to have to deal with her. If she could just appear at certain exact moments—when he was horny, or needed someone to talk to—that would’ve worked out fine, but people were not like that. There were hours built in where you had to hear someone express feelings about something that didn’t seem important, and you nodded and pretended that it was. You had to mask your own ambivalence and pretend to be in love one hundred percent of the time, and he’d rather swim in a lake of hellfire.

Did you ever notice that women can seem common while men never do? You won’t ever hear anyone describe a man’s appearance as common. The common man means the average man, a typical man, a decent hardworking person of modest dreams and resources. A common woman is a woman who looks cheap. A woman who looks cheap doesn’t have to be respected, and so she has a certain value, a certain cheap value.

A man could say every day that he wanted to change his life, was going to change it, and every day the lament became merely a part of the life he was already living, so that the desire for change was in fact a kind of stasis that allowed the unchanged life to continue, because at least the man knew to disapprove of it, which reassured him not all was lost.

No Tank Tops, the sign had said at Youth Guidance. Because it was presumed the parents didn’t know better than to show up to court looking like hell. The sign might have said Your Poverty Reeks.

The word violence was depleted and generic from overuse and yet it still had power, still meant something, but multiple things. There were stark acts of it: beating a person to death. And there were more abstract forms, depriving people of jobs, safe housing, adequate schools. There were large-scale acts of it, the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians in a single year, for a specious war of lies and bungling, a war that might have no end, but according to prosecutors, the real monsters were teenagers like Button Sanchez.

All the talk of regret. They make you form your life around one thing, the thing you did, and you have to grow yourself from what cannot be undone: they want you to make something from nothing. They make you hate them and yourself. They make it seem that they are the world, and you’ve betrayed it, them, but the world is so much bigger.

All the talk of regret. They make you form your life around one thing, the thing you did, and you have to grow yourself from what cannot be undone: they want you to make something from nothing. They make you hate them and yourself. They make it seem that they are the world, and you've betrayed it, them, but the world is so much bigger. The lie of regret and of life gone off the rails. What rails. The life is the rails. It is its own rails and it goes where it goes. It cuts its own path. My path took me here.

“Confederacy of Dunces” John Kennedy Toole

I read this in the 80s when it was first released. It’s the story of Ignatius J. Reilly, a self-professed genius, who stumbles and bumbles his way through his beloved city of New Orleans. The book opens with a Jonathan Swift quote: When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.

Ignatius keeps a journal and this is an excerpt: Although residing along the Mississippi River [This river is famed in atrocious song and verse; the most prevalent motif is one which attempts to make of the river an ersatz father figure. Actually, the Mississippi River is a treacherous and sinister body of water whose eddies and currents yearly claim many lives. I have never known anyone who would even venture to stick his toe in its polluted waters, which seethe with sewage, industrial waste, and deadly insecticides. Even the fish are dying. Therefore, the Mississippi as Father-God-Moses-Daddy-Phallus-Pops is an altogether false motif began, I would imagine, by that dreary fraud, Mark Twain. This failure to make contact with reality is, however, characteristic of almost all of America’s “art.” Any connection between American art and American nature is purely coincidental, but this is only because the nation as a whole has no contact with reality. That is only one of the reasons why I have always been forced to exist on the fringes of its society, consigned to the Limbo reserved for this who do know reality when they see it.] . . . The only excursion in my life outside of New Orleans took me through the vortex to the whirlpool of despair: Baton Rouge. In some future installment, a flashback, I shall perhaps recount that pilgrimage through the swamps, a journey into the desert from which I returned broken physically, mentally, and spiritually. New Orleans, is on the other hand, a comfortable metropolis which has a certain apathy and stagnation which I find inoffensive.

I would very much like to know what the Founding Fathers would say if they could see these children being debauched to further the cause of Clearasil. However, I always suspected that democracy would come to this . . . “A firm rule must be imposed upon our nation before it destroys itself. The United States needs some theology and geometry, some taste and decency. I suspect that we are teetering on the edge of the abyss”.

“I dust a bit,” Ignatius told the policeman. “In addition, I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”

Is it part of the police department to harass me when this is a flagrant vice capital of the civilized world? This city is famous for its gamblers, prostitutes, exhibitionists, anti-Christs, alcoholics, sodomites, drug addicts, fetishists, onanists, pornographers, frauds, jades, litterbugs, and lesbians, all of whom are only too well protected by graft.

In this tale Ignatius lands a job as a hot dog vendor at Seven Paradise Vendors, which in ‘real life’ is Lucky Dogs:

Seven Paradise Vendors, Incorporated, was housed in what had formerly been an automobile repair shop, the dark ground floor of an otherwise unoccupied commercial building on Poydras Street. The garage doors were usually open, giving the passerby an acrid nos-trilful of boiling hot dogs and mustard and also of cement soaked over many years by automobile lubricants and motor oils that had dripped and drained from Harmons and Hupmobiles. The powerful stench of Paradise Vendors, Incorporated, sometimes led the overwhelmed and perplexed stroller to glance through the open door into the darkness of the garage. There his eye fell upon a fleet of large tin hot dogs mounted on bicycle tires. It was hardly an imposing vehicular collection. Several of the mobile hot dogs were badly dented. One crumpled frankfurter lay on its side, its one wheel horizontally above it, a traffic fatality.

“Knife Creek” Paul Doiron

“Beluga” Rick Gavin

Rick Gavin is a pen name for T. R. Pearson. Under that name he wrote three crime novels featuring repo man Nick Reid and his sidekick Desmond. Beluga is the second in the series.

I don’t think any of them quite understood what sort of peril they were in. Partly because they were not the sorts to plan ahead for things. They were all of them accustomed to doing whatever impressed them at the moment as just precisely what they’d like to do. Consequences didn’t enter into it. They had impulses they were perfectly happy to act on as if they were actual sound ideas.

“A Delicate Truth” John Le Carré

“The Turning” Tim Winton

“Runner” Thomas Perry

“Faithful Place” Tana French

“Bluebottle” James Sallis

She wanted Scotch and got it. Sat swirling it around in her glass the way stone drinkers do that first hit or two, savoring color, body, bouquet, legs, letting those first sips roll across the back of her tongue, equal parts anticipation and relief. Before long she’d be slamming it back. Not testing it at all, just letting it take her where she needed to be. Before long, too, her conversation would start to narrow, go round and round in circles like someone lost in the woods. I knew. But for the time being she lay warm and safe in the bosom of that wonderland alcohol grants its acolytes, a zone where, for a short time at least, everything fell back into place, everything made some kind of sense.

Stories never do end, of course. That’s their special grace. Lives end, people die or walk away from you forever, lovers depart in moonlight with paper bags of belongings tucked beneath their arms, children disappear. Close Ulysses and nothing has ended. Molly’s story, Leopold’s, Stephen’s, Buck Mulligan’s—they all go on, alongside yours.

“Thunder Bay” William Kent Krueger

Canadians are sensible about firearms. They don’t like them. They don’t like the idea of their fellow citizens owning them. They’ve passed laws that give good, sharp teeth to gun control. The United States has a homicide rate three times that of Canada; two-thirds of those homicides are committed with firearms. A child in the United States is twelve times more likely to die of a firearm injury than a child in Canada. I could go on. The evidence in support of Canada’s attitude and legislative action is so convincing only an idiot wouldn’t get it.

“Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sans” Kate Beaton

“The Last Detective” Robert Crais

“Poverty, By America” Matthew Desmond

In the land of the free, you can drop all the way down, joining the ranks of the lumpenproletariat (literally the “ragged proletariat”). According to the latest national data, one in eighteen people in the United States lives in “deep poverty,” a subterranean level of scarcity. Take the poverty line and cut it in half: Anything below that is considered deep poverty. The deep poverty line in 2020 was $6,380 annually for a single person and $13,100 for a family of four. That year, almost 18 million people in America survived under these conditions. The United States allows a much higher proportion of its children—over 5 million of them—to endure deep poverty than any of its peer nations.

Roughly one in three families headed by a single mother is poor, compared to just one in seventeen married families. This disparity has led some to conclude that single parenthood is a major cause of poverty in America.
But then, why isn’t it a major cause in Ireland or Italy or Sweden? A study of eighteen rich democracies found that single mothers outside the United States were not poorer than the general population. Countries that make the deepest investments in their people, particularly through universal programs that benefit all citizens, have the lowest rates of poverty, including among households headed by single mothers. We could follow suit by investing in programs to help single parents balance work and family life, programs such as paid family leave, affordable childcare, and universal pre-K. Instead, we’ve increasingly privatized daycare and summer programming, effectively reserving these modern-day necessities for the affluent. In doing so, we’ve made it impossible for many single parents to go back to school or work full-time. Choosing to have a child outside of marriage may be an individual choice, but condemning many of those parents and their children to a life of poverty is a societal one.

Most people in prison are parents Men have been taken from the families by the tens and hundreds of thousands, then by the millions. Poor black and Hispanic families have paid the highest price. Other countries, like Germany, permit their incarcerated citizens to visit family members outside detention centers, but the American prison system seems designed to break up all sorts of relationships. By one estimate, the number of marriages in the United States would increase by as much as 30 percent if we didn’t imprison a single person. America’s obsession with incarceration has removed scores of poor people from their families, strictly controlling when they can call their children, spouses, and loved ones, and then releasing them back into society with a criminal record that impedes their already dim job and housing prospects. In the history of the nation, there has only been one other state-sponsored initiative more antifamily than mass incarceration, and that was slavery.

…capitalism is inherently about workers trying to get as much, and owners trying to give as little, as possible. With unions largely out of the picture, corporations have chipped away at the conventional mid-century work arrangements, which involved steady employment, opportunities for advancement and raises, and decent pay with some benefits. As the sociologist Gerald Davis has put it: Our grandparents had careers. Our parents had jobs. We complete tasks. That’s been the story of the American working class and working poor, anyway.

Every year: over $11 billion in overdraft fees, $1.6 billion on check cashing fees, and up to $9.8 billion in payday loan fees. That’s over $61 million in fees collected predominantly from low-income Americans each day—not even counting the annual revenue collected by pawnshops and title loan services and rent-to-own schemes. When James Baldwin remarked in 1961 how “extremely expensive it is to be poor,” he couldn’t have imagined those receipts.
The exclusion of poor people from traditional banking and credit systems has forced them to find alternative ways to cash checks and secure loans, which has led to a normalization of their exploitation. This is all perfectly legal, after all, and subsidized by the nation’s richest commercial banks. The fringe banking sector would not exist without lines of credit extended by the conventional one. Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase bankroll payday lenders like Advance America and Cash America. It’s expropriators all the way down, orders from the East and all that. Everybody gets a cut.

In Tommy orange’s début novel, There There, a man trying to describe the problem of suicides on Native American reservations says, “Kids are jumping out the windows of burning buildings, falling to their deaths. And we think the problem is that they are jumping.” The poverty debate has suffered from a different kind of myopia. For the past half century, we’ve approached the poverty question by attending to the poor themselves—posing questions about their work ethic, say, or their welfare benefits—when we should have been focusing on the fire. The question that should serve as a looping incantation, the one we should ask every time we drive past a tent encampment, those tarped American slums smelling of asphalt and bodies, every time we see someone asleep on the bus, slumped over in work clothes, is simply: Who benefits? Not Why don’t you find a better job? Or Why don’t you move? Or Why don’t you stop taking out such bad loans? But Who is feeding off this?

Roughly half the benefits of the thirteen largest individual tax breaks accrue to the richest families, those with incomes that put them in the top 20 percent. The top 1 percent of income earners take home more than all middle-class families and double that of families in the bottom 20 percent. I can’t tell you how many times someone has informed me that we should reduce military spending and redirect the savings to the poor. When this suggestion is made in a public venue, it always garners applause. I’ve me far fewer people who have suggested we boost aid to the poor by reducing tax breaks that mostly benefit the upper class, even though we spend over twice as much on them as on the military and national defense.

Those who benefit most from government largesse—generally white families with accountants—harbor the strongest antigovernment sentiments. And those people vote at higher rates than their fellow citizens who appreciate the role of government in their lives. They lend their support to politicians who promise to cut government spending, knowing full well that it won’t be their benefits that get the ax. Overwhelmingly, voters who claim the mortgage interest deduction are the very ones who oppose deeper investments in affordable housing, just as those who received employer-sponsored health insurance were the ones pushing to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It’s one of the more maddening paradoxes of political life.

With respect to the federal income tax, some believe that middle-class taxpayers are carrying the poor on their backs. But let’s look at the data. In 2018, the average middle-class family had an income of $63,900, paid $9,900 in federal taxes after all the deductions, and received $13,600 in social insurance benefits (like disability and unemployment) along with $3,400 from means-tested programs (like Medicaid and food stamps). In other words, the average middle-class family received $7,100 more in government aid than it paid in federal taxes, a serious return on investment. The claim that middle-class Americans are subsidizing the poor with their tax dollars and receiving nothing in return just isn’t true.

How do we, today, make the poor in America poor? In at least three ways. First, we exploit them. We constrain their choice and power in the labor market, the housing market, and the financial market, driving down wages while forcing the poor to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. Those of us who are not poor benefit from these arrangements…Second, we prioritize the subsidization of affluence over the alleviation of poverty. The United Sates could effectively end poverty in Americas tomorrow without increasing the deficit if it cracked down on corporations and families who cheat on their taxes, reallocating the newfound revenue to those most in need of it. Instead, we let the rich slide and give the most to those who have plenty already, creating a welfare state that heavily favors the upper class. And then our elected officials have the audacity—the shamelessness, really—to fabricate stories about poor people’s dependency on government aid and shoot down proposals to reduce poverty because they would cost too much…Third, we create prosperous and exclusive communities. And in doing so, we not only create neighborhoods with concentrated riches but also neighborhoods with concentrated despair—the externality of stockpiled opportunity. Wealth traps breed poverty traps. The concentration of affluence breeds more affluence, and concentration of poverty, more poverty. To be poor is miserable, but to be poor and surrounded by poverty on all sides is a much deeper cut.

Ideas for a new kind of labor law were the result of a two-year effort that brought together more than seventy union leaders, academics, advocates, and workers from around the world to sketch a blueprint for how to empower labor in the twenty-first century. The collectives 2020 report, Clean Slate for Worker Power (, champions plenty of other solutions, too, including mandating that corporate boards have significant worker representation and levying heavy penalties on companies that thwart organizing efforts. These proposals are not anti-capitalist; they are anti-exploitation, anti-raw-deal, anti-purposeless-and-grotesque-inequality. (Orwell once said that “we could do with a little less talk of ‘capitalist’ and ‘proletarian’ and a little more about the robbers and the robbed.”) These are calls for a capitalism that serves the people, not the other way around.

As Nietzsche wrote, “One must want to experience the great problems with one’s body and one’s soul.” Integration means we all have skin in the game. It not only disrupts poverty; on a spiritual level, over time it can foster empathy and solidarity. This is why opposing segregation is vital to poverty abolitionism.

Let’s call it scarcity diversion. Here’s the playbook. First, allow elites to hoard a resource like money or land. Second, pretend that arrangement is natural, unavoidable—or better yet, ignore it altogether. Third, attempt to address social problems caused by the resource hoarding only with the scarce resources left over. So instead of making the rich pay all their taxes, for instance, design a welfare state around the paltry budget you are left with when they don’t. Fourth, fail. Fail to drive down the poverty rate. Fail to build more affordable housing. Fifth, claim this is the best we can do. Preface your comments by saying, “In a world of scarce resources….” Blame government programs. Blame capitalism. Blame the other political party. Blame immigrants. Blame anyone you can except those who most deserve it. “Gaslighting” is not too strong a phrase to describe such pretense.
The opposite of the scarcity diversion is a recognition of the nation’s bounty. The ecologist Robin Wall Kimmerer has recently advocated for “an economy of abundance.” ( Why do we continue to accept scarcity as given, treating it as the central organizing principle of our economics, policymaking, city planning, and personal ethics? Why do we continue to act like the farmer who, upon learning that hid dog is lying on a pile of hay meant for cattle to eat and baring his teeth when the cows come near, chooses to drop their rations, feeding them with what scraps he can snatch from the edge of the pile? Why don’t we just move the dog?

Alicia Garza, co-creator of the Black Lives Matter Global Network out it, “To build the kind of movement that we need to get the things that we deserve, we can’t be afraid to establish a base that is larger than the people we feel comfortable with.” That is, “We have to reach beyond the choir.”
Antipoverty movements are doing just that. People’s Action (whose tagline is “Join our joyous rebellion”) has brought rural and urban poor and working-class families together to campaign for housing justice and healthcare for all. Co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, Reverend William Barber—who has found receptive audiences among struggling Black families in deep-blue cities and struggling white families in deep-red rural counties—advocates for “fusion coalitions” made up of people of different faiths. Ethnicities, and political identities joining together and demanding change “from a moral perspective.” Poverty abolitionism transcends partisan divides because, frankly, poor and working-class people deserve more than either party has delivered for them over the past fifty years. Visionary organizers don’t view “those people”—liberals or conservatives, the young or the old, undocumented immigrants or citizens—as adversaries but as potential allies in the fight against poverty. They ascribe to the old political wisdom that there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent issues. This can be slow, fraught work, and also electrifying and invigorating work, much like democracy itself. Perhaps the reason protestors often chant “This is what democracy looks like” is because we can so easily forget.