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On the subject of so-called "Trust Fund Kids"

I've noticed that some of the right-wingers and Bush lovers who post on IMC -- most notably those with nothing of substance to say -- are fond of using the term "Trust Fund Kids" as a pejorative to somehow diminish the contributions of those whose financial circumstances are anywhere above the poverty level. Let's dispel some of the "popular" misconceptions.
First, I can assure you I'm not a "Trust Fund Kid" myself, in age OR in means (far from it, in fact), but having been involved with social issues for many years, I'm acquainted with quite a few who could be said to fit that description. I have to say that not all young people - well-heeled or not - make social activism a lifelong commitment, at least not to the extent that they pursue it full time, and certainly there are a few dilletantes and fair-weather players, as there are in any field of human endeavor, but by and large I've met very few who weren't totally committed to their cause.

That someone's family may have the resources to provide a financial cushion for their children doesn't make those children "spoiled rich kids" any more than the lack of financial resources makes less-fortunate kids street criminals or pickpockets. Quite the contrary, in fact. I have known many young men and women -- whose "trust fund" (or generous allowance) was their sole source of income -- who devoted themselves full-time to a cause when few others could afford to. I have seen some spend their limited resources (since most parents and trustees keep the financial leash reasonably short) on photocopying and printing costs, postage, telephone charges, legal expenses, and even rent to keep their organizations ticking along. I've known a few who gave selflessly to support the work of shelters and community kitchens, even to the extent of having to eat there themselves because they hadn't enough left for a restaurant meal.

Time is money, and spending time on anything non-remunerative is spending one's capital. Time devoted to social causes is the equivalent of money given away, and when financial resources are also expended in that behalf, the contribution is compounded. There is no difference between people who spend half their capital -- earned or not -- on important public issues. Those in a position to make such contributions deserve the eternal thanks of the community -- not the sanctimonious sniping of small-minded people with nothing better to do than sit at their computers and denigrate those who try to make a difference. To all the ankle-biters out there, when was the last time YOU tried to make the world a better place? And spare me the bit about having fought for your country -- so did I.
Well said, and... 05.Nov.2002 00:53

not a trust fund kid

...not only are there some people-of-monetary-means who are making legitimate contributions to activism and positive change in the world, there are a lot folks *not*-of-monetary-means who are doing so, too. the forest kids are one inspiring example. many of them are living in poverty, without permanent homes, and devote the majority of their time to saving the trees. they are taking things to a whole 'nother level, living honestly alternative existences that are more sustainable and less destructive than almost just about everyone else i know. eating dumpstered, donated and wildcrafted food, wearing cast-off clothes (and fixing and patching them to make them last longer), recycling "trash" into useable items, composting, using old computers with linux operating systems, biking/walking/bussing everywhere, and doing all this with a tangible -- and infectious -- joy that shows how happy a simple life can be. i'm in my 30's but have learned an immense amount about satisfying, sustainable living from these kids, some of whom are half my age. trust fund kids they are not, and if more folks followed their example, we would be living in a much different world -- less destructive, more peaceful, and a lot more loving. YAY for the forest kids and all the others who are trying, and succeeding, like they are!

less money = more joy

 http://www.cascadiaforestalliance.org

But of course 05.Nov.2002 03:15

Glen Owen theKnownUniverse@yahoo.com

IT IS SO REFRESHING to find someone else who not only understands this, but has the courage to say so--and in the Indymedia environment no less. I studied and taught sociology of America's upper class under Edward Digby Baltzell at Penn/Wharton in the 1970s. Dr Baltzell, most widely noted as author of bestseller THE PROTESTANT ESTABLISHMENT 1963, published his masterwork PURITAN BOSTON QUAKER PHILADELPHIA in 1979. On his retirement in 1982 he was featured center column front page with picture in The Wall Street Journal, and was one of fifty one world figures who rated a full page obituary in the Economist in 1997.
. . . People secure in their social position, if they want to bother with it, and not compelled to tailor their public remarks to avoid the kind of ostracism that leads to economic ruin in a herd driven economic station, are so often those who break barriers that climbers and strivers dare not challenge. Baltzell's favorite examples are Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy. Elenor Roosevelt was both richer and more radical then Franklin--and please note the supremely confidant iconoclasm of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, not to mention that of her aunt Alva Vanderbilt Belmont.
. . . It is first rate elites who first break ethnic, racial and other counterproductive and cruel socioeconomic rigiditoies: it is second raters and those whose lives are consumed by a deadly combination of incompetence and jealousy who promote caste solidarity and victimization of those who, with towering righteousness, are denied a voice.
. . . And then there is the aberrational monstrousness of George Walker Bush...but then, after all, Vlad the Impaler can from such a 'good family'...

503 2873473

Not leaders 05.Nov.2002 08:23

asspain

It's true that so few people of any sector do anything politically worthwhile that rejecting someone for their background makes no sense. But they shouldn't be leaders, because their experience is so utterly removed from that of most people as to twist their idea of reality. If a dollar doesn't represent a certain amount of shit you had to go through to get it, and if not having enough doesn't mean homelessness or sick kids, then I don't think you understand reality well enough to decide how a movement should spend that dollar or any other resource, and you certainly can't help in the essential broadening of a movement to include more folks whose reality is capitalist terror. The points about FDR & Eleanor are true. It's also probably true that his presidency preempted and coopted more fundamental changes which, had they happened, might have prevented immense misery to millions of people here and abroad at the hands of the US government.

Trust - worthy 05.Nov.2002 17:09

ranger

Fed up;

Thanks for bringing up this topic. These catch phrases are meaningless and are only their to stigmatize and degrade people. Let's get real and stop the sweeping generalizations. What would people rather have these supposed trust funders do?

pic for feature 05.Nov.2002 18:17

pdx indy volunteer

pic for feature
pic for feature

Profit by any other name 05.Nov.2002 21:20

anti-trust

But couldn't the argument be made that trusties, living off interest paid by mommy and daddy's shreud investments in the capitalist system, bear some similarities to those who continue to profit from property stolen from holocaust era jews.

Since profit is theft from the working class, interest on that profit is still theft from the working class.

Hate to harsh your mellow.

Look at it another way, please 05.Nov.2002 22:16

Liberal who knows his way around boostraps

My family is poor. Very poor. When I grew up I had two choices that I was aware of. Severe poverty in a very conservative state, or go to school, get an education and make something of myself. 10 years later I wish I didn't have $30,000 in student loans (and thus the attendent responsibilities that come along with those loans), but I really had no choice. Or at least, given the education I was afforded in a small hick town, I didn't know there was another way. So yes, there are some of us out here who are liberal AND a little annoyed at the trust-funders who (while good-intentioned) don't have to deal with reality in the same way we do. It sucks. I wish I could donate 100% of my time or 100% of my money. I would do it. But I can't. Some of us weren't so lucky.

msg from down under 06.Nov.2002 00:05

-r.

g'day

im just visiting your site, i'm normaly on sydney.indymedia.org and i'd just like to say it is amazing how friendly and constructive the posts here are. on our indymedia things go like this --



*article*



1st comment

good point in that article keep it up

2nd comment

all poofs should die

3rd comment

Jews are taking over the world they are the sons of pigs

4th comment

yes that is a very good article but i have these points to raise....

5th comment

indymedia is crap and you're all a bunch of tree huggin' hippies

6th comment

so why are you on indymedia dickhead

7th comment

arabs are the devil

(it slowly gets worse and worse and on the rare occasion there is a proper discussion it soon turns into trots vs. anarchists)

So portland congatulations on being more friendly than 'the most friendly nation on earth'

sydney

A few ways to look at it 06.Nov.2002 00:11

Me not left nor right nor in-between

Pure Altruism is rare indeed. In most of recorded history, especially that of the Xtian world, this guise masked the worst of intentions. Thus the Spaniards conquered a huge portion on the Americas. Not that the Aztecs, or even the Mayans were free of pirates masquerading as clergy. Bill Burroughs even went so far as to suggest that the priest caste in pre-European America had access to a hidden, third, rotating calendar within a calendar within a calendar, that gave this caste the ability to primitively "predict" meteorological and astrological data, and thus proclaim that the "Holy Days" of that particular religious system were indeed not coincidental, after all, thus guaranteeing their hegemony.

Of course, Burroughs was the archetypal trust fund rich kid, who could AFFORD to slum and steal and deal and shoot dope, knowing full well that the fortune of his blue-blooded family would bail him out of whatever mess he wound up in. And, moreover, that he would be free of a 40 hour grind, so that he might have more time to write.

Read Herbert Huncke, the man who introduced the "Beats" to "Beat", especially his thoughts on these originators of the lifestyle. Also, Bukowski.

It is telling that this is even a topic here on the Chomsky Media Center. I sense a good deal of guilt here. Now, when I finish a 12 hour shift at my job, the last thing I feel is any sort of righteous prolaterian self-satisfaction. No, I wish I had inherited a bunch of money, so that I might be able to write more. The argument has been made that this very immersion in the misery that is work is what produces quality, so called. I won't contest THAT, but I sure don't see it in my work...

As far as pure Altruism goes...well, people are pretty predictable and socially oriented creatures. Most of them are continually competing for status in a peer group, especially the ones who most loudly proclaim that they are not. Chomsky Media does not deviate from this constant, for the most part. Now, there is the rare impoverished soul here who really is working night and day for the betterment of all of humankind. I learned long ago not to argue with the devoutly religious. But, by and large, your average Chomsky Media Activist does fit the stereotype that this article begs, and I am positive that any honest attempt on the part of any statistician to correlate the socio-economic background of the aforementioned Activists would verify this.

All I can really say in conclusion is, as someone who grabbed a boxfull of thrownout pizza last night and took it home to feed my friends, I would not feel a shred of guilt at all if some unknown relative willed me 5 thousand dollars tomorrow, and died, like in some fairy tale.

pseudo-trust 06.Nov.2002 00:29

Talus

Here's my situation as i see it. I go to Lewis and Clark, an admittedly bougie, expensive school. I have to work hard during the summers to make money, but combined w/ the money my parents have saved over the past two decades, I should be able to make it out w/o loans against me. I'm a biology major and intend to put my knowledge to work attempting to preserve this beautiful world we are ravaging so quickly. LC has exposed me to an incredible ammount of knowledge that i need to know (outside my of major), and is doubtful i would have found, lost in the sea of students at some midwestern state school. Its my hope that I will be able to take advantage of the privileges granted to me, and use those privileges to create the change that i see so badly needed.

Its true that I'm putting neither 100% of either my time or my money towards activism right now, however I see educating myself as an incredibly strong tool in the battle for social and environmental justice.

Trust fund kids, etc. 06.Nov.2002 01:58

Forty-one And Broke

In all truth, there really *is* a disproportionate degree of both affluence and youth in these "radical" scenes, which raises a number of issues...

1. As mentioned by someone else, people don't have quite the same perception of reality when they don't understand in a true and visceral way that every dollar comes from labor, usually from doing some shitty job when you'd rather be doing something else. Or, these days, they might not understand what it's like for many of us who can't find jobs and don't know how we're going to pay the rent and utilities.

The movement might be very different if poor people enter it out of some hope that they might be able to collectively overcome (or overthrow) the system that makes them poor. That kind of imperative can help to create a far more extensive movement than one in which fighting oppression, for most people, means doing something for *other*, less fortunate types.

2. A background of privilege often makes people *accustomed* to privilege and to power, i.e., to being able to command a certain amount of attention and respect from others, to having a certain sense of entitlement, and to being able to manage things a certain way. Also, knowing the right social codes can enable some people to climb the (unofficial) hierarchy within the "radical" culture the same way they might in the mainstream culture. Thus, the same old patterns of privilege and hierarchy are simply recreated or sustained.

4. The forest kids and young crusties are doing something that is admirable, but many probably do have the security in the back of their minds that this is something they can do because they're young. Many can be (or periodically are) taken back by parents into a comfortable home when things get too rough. Also, when you're particularly young, you don't have to worry as much about things like health insurance, and you are simply physically able to rough it a little more. Plus, there is a certain ageism in these circles, so one can't really get accepted and fit in with that scene, or seek refuge in it, as easily at a later age. So, even this culture of "voluntary poverty" is still not quite the same as living in completely involuntary poverty, as an adult struggling with mainstream society...

Yes Forty-one and broke 06.Nov.2002 07:53

Thirty-three and broke

Perhaps a bit like Henry V running with riff-raff and "partying" with Falstaff until the time comes for him to assume the throne? He quickly remembers what his true station in life is and abandons his "friends".

The Bootstrap Liberal is correct 06.Nov.2002 09:25

working class lefty

I take issue with what's being implied by the Indymedia folks who featured this right-wing drivel. Republicans who complain about "snotty nosed trust fund radicals" are trust funders themselves. They are using that as a propaganda ploy to manipulate the discontented working class. The wage gap is wider than it has ever been and the working class couldn't have less in common with the elite neoconservatives who are trying desperately to keep them on their side, and trashing the left by painting them all as a bunch of rich white kids is pretty much all the amunition they have left.

On the other hand, working class people on the left DO have a legitimate axe to grind with leftists from affluent backgrounds. Many working people are sick of the hijacking of political movements i.e., avoidance of class issues in favor of identity politics and other diversionary crap and the watering down of the rhetoric to avoid offending the sensibilities of the upper classes. Poor and working class people who are Asian or Black or Latino or gay or women are quickly steered away from joining forces with whites and pressured into becoming a part of some liberal group lead by someone of their "own kind".

Then there's the paternalism, the patronizing, and blatant disrespect and bigotry that comes out of the mouths of some of the privileged left. I have heard poor whites being referred to as "white trash" or "trailer trash" too many times to count as well as obvious attempts to divide everyone by social categories and downplay what they have in common. Maybe all this is the result of their breeding, but they often seem to end up engaging in the same behaviors of the imperialist they purport to be fighting against.

This is unacceptable. There need to be a conscious, ongoing effort on the part of all those involved in any social/political movement to deal with classism head on, not run away from it.


Confronting Classism

(From Handbook for Nonviolent Action, published by theWar Resisters League)

We live in the wealthiest country in the world, but the greatest percentage of that wealth is in the hands of a tiny
percentage of the population. It is environmentally and technically possible for everyone to enjoy a good standard of living if wealth were redistributed, exploitation ceased and the arms race abandoned. The inequitable distribution of wealth prevents the whole society from enjoying the full benefits of people's labor, intelligence and creativity and causes great misery for working class and poor people.

Classism is the systematic oppression of poor people and people who work for wages by those who have access to control of the necessary resources by which other people make their living. Classism is also held in place by a system of beliefs which ranks people according to economic status, "breeding," job and level of education. Classism says that upper class people are smarter and more articulate than working class and poor people. It is a way of keeping people down, it m eans upper-middle class and wealthy people define for everyone else what "normal" or "acceptable" is. Many of us have come to accept this standard as the norm and many of us have bought the myth that most of the country is middle class.

Criteria for determining class identity is subject to debate, being variously defined by origins, workforce status, income and/or outlook. For example, some consider all who derive their income from wages members of the working class; others exclude that percentage of the workforce which constitutes the professionals and managers whose incomes are high enough to provide a stake in the capitalist system. Depending on the breadth of one's definition, 70-85% of the population can be considered working class. This is true despite the fact that the individuals themselves might identify as or with the middle class. These individuals, however, are not beneficiaries of middle class privileges.

Class affects people not only on an economic level, but also on an emotional level. Classist attitudes have caused great pain by dividing people from one another and keeping individuals from personal fulfillment or the means to survive. Consequently, the process of rejecting such attitudes and their accompanying misinformation is an emotional one. Since people tend to hurt each other because they themselves have been hurt, and since most forms of oppression are accompanied by economic discrimination, class overlaps with many other social issues, all of which move as we unravel how we've been hurt.

The stereotype is that poor and working class people are unintelligent, inarticulate and "overly emotional." A good ally (a non-working-class committed supporter) will contradict these messages by soliciting the knowledge and histories of poor working class people, being a thoughtful listener, trying to understand what is being said, and not criticizing how the message is being presented or responding with automatic defensiveness. Distrust despair and anger are common consequences of oppression; it is the test of a true ally to remain undeterred when these flare up and to refrain from withdrawing support at such points. When targets of oppression believe the lies about ourselves, we are "internalizing our oppression.'' To begin to undo the damage caused by classism, it is useful for everyone to examine our own feelings about money, education, privilege, power, relationships, culture and ethnicity. This advice applies to organizations as well.

For general discussion:

As a movement, who are we and who are we trying to reach in terms of class? How? To whom do our literature and events appeal? How are poor people's needs being met in our organizing? What steps are being taken to change people's attitudes about classism? Are poor and Third World people invited to participate in organization planning? What is being done to reach and involve organized and unorganized workers? What are we doing to support poor, workingdass and people of color in their struggles?

The situation for poor and workingclass people in our movement and organization:

Is classism evident in who does what work in the organization? Are poor and workingclass people facilitators, spokespeople and/or media contacts and leaders, and not just relegated to cleanup crews and collating
mailings? Are organizing expenses paid upfront, or promptly reimbursed?

Meetings and events:

Make meetings and events known and accesssible to poor and workingclass people. Be aware of how the length, time and frequency of meetings affects full-time workers, especially those who parent. Arrange for transportation. Routinely provide childcare and sliding scales. Ask people what they need to be able to attend meetings and events. How does income-level and dass composition affect the development of resources, the dates of demonstrations, the levels of commitment and power working people can have, the events sponsored? What are the cultural offerings? Who are the speakers and entertainers?

Process:

Make sure that process isn't actually being used to tell poor and workingclass people how to behave by
"proper" etiquette.

Is consensus being used so that decisions favor those who can stay the longest, or who are used to getting their
own way and will block to do so?

Watch that group hugs and rituals are not imposed--allow people to interact with each other in whatever ways
feel comfortable to them.

Civil disobedience (CD):

Does class determine who is able and who is unable to commit civil disobedience? How can we make it economically possible for those who want to commit CD to do so? How do we keep CD from being a movement privilege, with activists who can afford to tally arrest counts granted subsequently more political prestige? How do those who are arrested relate to the regular prison population (taking into account how class figures in their treatment)?

Be aware of how police are dealing with people of color, gay, lesbian, and known movement people during arrest situations. Be prepared to come to the aid of anyone who has been singled out by the police and may be receiving harsher treatment than others.

Realize that during the booking process questions that are being asked to determine whether or not people can be released on their own recognizance, are particularly discriminatory. These questions concentrate on your economic, social, sexual and prior arrest standing.

Realize that bail is the most blatant example of classism. Those who have money get out of jail--those who don't
stay in.

--from articles by Donna Warnock and Laura Briggs

False dilemmas? 06.Nov.2002 20:55

anarchist

It is kind of curious how we internalize, from both workerist and statist sources that our value among our comrades or class is tied intimately to our being employed. I am probably a trust fund kid. Just living in america probably classifies you in the most affluent 5% of the world no matter how low your income is. Likewise, my parents who desperately earnestly want me to succeed in the capitalist world as they have, do assist to stretch out those paychecks and that partial scholarship in meeting my tuition. I don't work 2 jobs, or even 40 hours a week. I estimate the value of my contributions to the larger society. Of course it is zero or negative if you count not sustaining the status quo, but between term papers, weekend warrior activism and the job of the month, I'm not going to feel bad if some other anarchist types wouldn't deign to be associated with me. There is a common stereotype of the college reformist, which isn't uncommon, but is still a stereotype. Just as there is a false dilemma between summit hopping and doing local actions, I think the same is true between workerist activists and workerist activists who are also students. Somehow, I am just sufficiently convinced that this capitalist credentialism I am pursuing (or coasting along in the general direction of) is somehow going to help accomplish something worthwhile. I could "drop out and tune in" now, believe me I could, but I wonder if I'd be doing a disservice to my ideals in abandoning the current potential opportunities without a clear idea of what the alternatives will be. (Conveniently, this parsimoniousness doesn't seem to conflict with any of my other ideals.)

use all resources 07.Nov.2002 19:05

weapon

good thread...damn,it boggles my mind how the
fractured as fuck progressive movement (if you
can call it that) in this country loves to
wallow in divisiveness by overscrutinizing
any possible resource and ally.
heard of popular fronts? vietnam beat back the
french and u.s. with a nifty one that got
incorrectly dubbed the Viet cong.
well, i definitely grew up in a privileged home.
my mom taught sociology at a university in philly
and my pop was a selfemployed (which turned out to
be seldom employed.haha) architect.middleclass
lifestyle, trips to italy to visit our family
and always a meal on the table.i can understand
how i might not be able to tangibly "understand"
what its like to be poor in America, or black
in america, or republican in america for that
matter,but how can you pigeonhole and judge
what someone's head, soul, heart and life of
experience has shaped them into? growing up in
the diversity of an innercity and attending
its wack public schools definitely expose you
to what many people's realities are.i dont think
i'm a trust fund kid, but i know there is money
in the bank (from a grandparent, actually).
due to the consciousness, modest living,
and frugality of my folks, they've shaped a
28 year old me who chooses to spend only the money he earns (
(and even with that i spend hyper selectively
and politically...no nikes on my feet!) and is
studying this world long and hard to figure
out the most effective use for my time, efforts,
and yes, resources.
i went to a small, northeast liberal arts scvhool,
thereby living with all types of trustfund kids.
looking back, i wish i had built more with the
sons and daughters of the world's elites. those
kids have some hellafied influence! and good
folks, trust fund or not,sometimes sacrifice much
for the greater good. damn, i should have been
building a database of these potential funders!!!
anyway, i ended up being tight mostly with the
other folks with my shared urban background.some
from money, others not.
this is somewhat rambling of an essay, sorry.
the glorification of the working class, the
working poor and the flat out broke in this
country makes me shudder.everyone has assets that
they can contribute to movements.do y'all
divisive suckers realize how grassroots the
republicans and their christian coalition
people are? up and down. they got minimum wage
workers,hard hats, christians, soccer moms,
all the way on up to the penthouses voting
republican (god help all of us!!!). all this
while the voting-wont-get-us-nowhere activists
dont even register! damn! republicans vote
religiously. they utilize all their
capital and human resources. i believe that
the left has more human resources but just doesnt
fucking use them. true, trustafundians and
other fleeting activists can be quite obnoxious, but
you expose them to new ideas, new cultures,
new visions for change, new ways of living and you
may reshape someones world view. remember that
budhist (or was it krishna) dude and george
harrison and carlos santana? he didnt turn his
back on them cause they werent raised budhist
or indian. for gods sake, we need everyone in
the progressive fold we can get, maybe not as
leaders...but you deal with those issues once
you are working together. thats part of
the whole struggle. but to shrug off well
intentioned people cause of their monied background?
silly. i will learn from anyone willing to teach
and contribute everything i can.
and i used my life as an example not to
rationalize my own background, but simply
offer that not every book can be judged by its
cover or bank account.
be well, tonyL