Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Satellite Suckas

My wife, Noni, and I did a little experiment yesterday. Nothing scientific but the results are fascinating nonetheless. You see a few weeks ago, I noticed a strange phenomenon on the streets of Providence. No, it wasn't the volume of rats, trash, or jaywalkers staring you down saying, 'come, run me over.' Instead, it was the amount of satellites attached to the sides of many houses. Doing some digging, DirecTV's base package costs $41.99/mo equating to a little over $500 per year. In a community whose median income is about $22,000 if we have $500 dollars to spend on entertainment, shouldn't we be putting this into mutual funds, IRAs, or at worst-the local bank? But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's what we did. We drove down a few blocks in Providence and East Providence to see which area had more dishes per block. It wasn't even close. For Providence we ended up with a total of 27 satellite dishes whereas East Providence only had 6. We actually passed more houses in East Providence because we were so shocked that so few houses had satellite dishes. It seems that we can infer that the dish volume may have a direct correlation to the level of income, only in that more dishes equal less income. My theory going into all of this was that affluent people would have more dishes because they have more leisure time. That was completely debunked by this study. Thus, I think there's a mentality the folks in East Providence have that Providence residents need to catch. A mentality of not watching their lives away, but of doing. Doing for themselves, doing for their families, and doing for their communities. It seems Providence residents need to turn off their tv's and turn on their minds-becoming actors in this game called life instead of zombified reactors.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Mike said...

Don,

Not trying to butter you up here, fella, but there is more honesty, insight and wisdom in that final paragraph than in most of the liberal gimme-screeds put together. Well said!

4/19/2005 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Thanks, Mike.

Ownership and responsibility.

Two things sorely lacking within the Providence psyche.

Not to say that my neighbors are dead-beats. No, just that they are resigned to their current standard of living. And in order for Providence to be better..more money/programs/whatever isn't the answer. A mindset change is needed. Otherwise all that money will be a complete waste of time.

4/19/2005 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Don,

Rather than just driving by houses looking for satellite dishes, I think you should try talking to folks and determine the median amount of hours people work in South Side Providence vs. East Side Providence.

A majority of people in South Side Providence are working almost all of the time - not watching TV.

I think it's a rather ignorant statement to say that people in poor areas are sitting in front of a TV all day.

The fact is that a majority of the working poor - people working very long hours - live in areas such as South Side Providence, Olneyville, or the West End.

These are the folks who pay the most amount of tax dollars, which are used to keep Downtown Providence looking nice for the tourists and business people - but, you'll never see anyone picking up any trash in South Side Providence. It's Ok for poor kids to play in garbage and broken glass.

I had to make a few calls to get garbage picked up in a park near my house, even though I always saw someone from the DPW there - playing with a fence or something. This is a park where a lot of kids play. Finally, someone did a half-assed job of picking up a bit of the trash there.

Oddly, Kennedy Plaza always seems nice and clean.

So, why do so many poor people have luxuries such as satellite dishes? Because it's one of the small pleasures in life that they can have.

Also, a lot of companies target and prey on the working poor. That's why you see so many Rent-a-Center's and Aaron's in poor areas. The working poor bend over backwards to make their kids happy, even if that means paying 3 times as much for a TV for their kids to watch because they have bad credit.

Furthermore, when you're working 2 jobs or have just spent a 12-hour shift in a factory, you tell me how involved you can be with your family or community.

Since you're so concerned with the community, why don't you talk to some people about how to budget their money more effectively? This may sound crazy to you, but most people are never taught how to effectively budget their money.

It's truly astounding how much the working poor are getting ripped off. If you have some knowledge to share, then get out there, knock on some doors, and talk to people. With the weather getting nicer, it's a great time to get started.

4/20/2005 08:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Don,

Rather than just driving by houses looking for satellite dishes, I think you should try talking to folks and determine the median amount of hours people work in South Side Providence vs. East Side Providence.

A majority of people in South Side Providence are working almost all of the time - not watching TV.

I think it's a rather ignorant statement to say that people in poor areas are sitting in front of a TV all day.

The fact is that a majority of the working poor - people working very long hours - live in areas such as South Side Providence, Olneyville, or the West End.

These are the folks who pay the most amount of tax dollars, which are used to keep Downtown Providence looking nice for the tourists and business people - but, you'll never see anyone picking up any trash in South Side Providence. It's Ok for poor kids to play in garbage and broken glass.

I had to make a few calls to get garbage picked up in a park near my house, even though I always saw someone from the DPW there - playing with a fence or something. This is a park where a lot of kids play. Finally, someone did a half-assed job of picking up a bit of the trash there.

Oddly, Kennedy Plaza always seems nice and clean.

So, why do so many poor people have luxuries such as satellite dishes? Because it's one of the small pleasures in life that they can have.

Also, a lot of companies target and prey on the working poor. That's why you see so many Rent-a-Center's and Aaron's in poor areas. The working poor bend over backwards to make their kids happy, even if that means paying 3 times as much for a TV for their kids to watch because they have bad credit.

Furthermore, when you're working 2 jobs or have just spent a 12-hour shift in a factory, you tell me how involved you can be with your family or community.

Since you're so concerned with the community, why don't you talk to some people about how to budget their money more effectively? This may sound crazy to you, but most people are never taught how to effectively budget their money.

It's truly astounding how much the working poor are getting ripped off. If you have some knowledge to share, then get out there, knock on some doors, and talk to people. With the weather getting nicer, it's a great time to get started.

4/20/2005 09:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Sorry for the double comment, but this site was moving at crawling pace.

4/20/2005 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Alex,

First It was the South Side of Providence vs. East Providence, not the East Side.

Your post assumes that I am not actively engaged in sharing knowledge with the working poor. That would be a mistatement as I am actively engaged in educating the community about resources available to them and indeed a mindset change.

For instance, the very first post on this blog entitled "Liquor Stores" stemmed from my engaging residents who seemed to think that Rent-a-Center was the best thing since sliced bread. As you correctly pointed out, companies like this prey on the working poor sucking whatever disposable income they have and offering products at inflated prices.

My little experiment was not scientific, but my inferences are based in large part of conversations I have had with my neighbors, residents, and community leaders. Indeed, last year you would have seen me going door-to-door educating people about our political process and our political power as a community (I live in South Providence). You can learn a lot about a community by walking its streets and I do not back away from the inferences I made about satellite dishes. As a community, we're more concerned with entertaining ourselves than improving our situation. If we continue in this fashion, we'll only perpetuate the current situation. We have fancy cars, little home ownership. We have kids going to school in $200 shoes, but the school can't buy a $125 book. And on and on and on. It's about the mind. What you think dictates how you act.

And companies do prey on the weak. Weak in this sense are the disenfranchised thousands living in South Providence whose streets are run not by gangs of young men but by rats, whose schools seem marginally better than those of 3rd world countries, and whose political efficacy amounts to tokenism. Predatory companies salivate at the chance to exploit South Providence. And until minds are changed they will continue to do so.

My inference isn't correct. But it's sad that you have chosen to assume I do not a) live in the community, b) speak to people in the community, or c) address the real concerns behind satellite dishes. Perhaps you should take a fresh look at our community to see that problems won't be solved until we educate people to start thinking like other communities who take ownership of their communities and refuse to take the table scraps offered to them. In the NJ community where I grew up, it took years for a Dunkin Donuts to open. Why? The community wasn't about to let some rinky dink company come into its community. And until South Providence starts thinking like this, we can expect nothing more than to continue to be labelled-rightly so- 'satellite suckas'.

4/20/2005 09:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Alex said...

I don't have much time to reply. But, here goes.

Don, I already know that you live in South Side Providence. Have known it for a while, actually.

I also know that you are pretty active in the community.

Anyway, I think we both agree that education is the key.

Since you already know all of these things about companies preying on the working poor, then I don't see the point of a satellite experiment in the first place.

Just keep talking to the people, my friend.

4/20/2005 01:47:00 PM  

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