In a coliseum where all the spectators are hyenas, strip naked. Cover yourself in shit–yours and the shit of your friends and neighbors and the shit of strangers. Bend over while someone you used to trust sticks an enormous carrot up your ass so that it dangles about a foot from your bare buttocks and wobbles as you move. Hold out your hands while your fellow citizens crush every bone therein. Now, pick up a limp reed to defend yourself from a charging pride of starving lions.
One broken-rung ladder is all the escape possible. The floor of the arena is packed with millions just like you. The mob continuously spills off this ladder, crawling over each other for the way out. For most, the crowd surrounding that lone avenue toward hope is so congested that they cannot even see let alone reach the base of this so-called exit.
At the top, sour-faced merchants and mocking bureaucrats inspect those that have made it thus far. They push almost all of the would-be escapees back into the pit.
At one end of the arena, a few of the more sympathetic members of the audience toss in bread crumbs as if feeding a handful of pigeons rather than a huge assembly of men, women, and children. These charitable spectators are then chastised for their generosity and the largesse of their gift by the fat patrons around them. Over the rest of the arena, no sustenance is tossed down at all while the audience feasts in excess and gluts themselves on the miseries of those below. Watch the greed in their eyes and listen to the jingle in their purses as they hide their coins. They count their spoils while they masturbate to visions of themselves. They weep over the gold and silver they do not possess, and they plot to steal from their neighbors. Their life’s work is to accumulate wealth till there are no more vaults left to fill. And the pain of those below must be made a joke to quell the conscience of those above. Pockets emptied and lives ruined must be burned so that the self-righteous are not reminded from where their wealth is taken.
Add in the laughter of the crowd and their jeers, deriding you for your circumstance and expressing their deepest contempt for you. Listen to them shout how you are responsible for your own fate while they encourage those who push you back into the pit and exclaim you have every resource you need.
Watch as the spectators go deaf to your screams of agony and witness the glazing of their eyes. Watch those you know and those you don’t turn their backs on you, refusing to witness your pain.
Your suffering is shared only by those with you in the pit.
That is what being poor feels like.
It is painful. It is humiliating. It is terrifying. It is hopeless. It fills the heart with hatred and anger and self-contempt while it ravages the body and soul.
No one is immune. Even emperors can be brought low.
As the pit brims, so shall it overflow.