Ignorance of Politics/Current Affairs

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Back when I was still an angsty teenager, I had a current affairs class. We brought up current affairs and discussed recent news in class as well as learned how to debate. I, in all my teenage glory, lashed out at my teacher regarding news in the middle east, and screeched about why should I even give a damn. My teacher provided the above quote, and I’ve referenced it every few years since.

A lot of people in this country purposely ignore the news, whether it’s about the Midwest farmers struggling or what moronic thing our government has done that day. It’s a privilege that people believe they have, as surely x, y & z will not effect us!  However, that is most definitely not the case even in the broadest of instances.

When you go to the grocery store, and marvel at the prices of food as they increase, if you’d turn on the news, you’d know why. If you see someone filming a police officer making an arrest, if you paid attention to current events, you’d know why. If you rage about getting a ticket for code compliance for something you’d never gotten a ticket for before, reading your town’s newsletter might explain that (or your code compliance officer is a dick like our neighborhood’s).

On the larger scale of current events, it’s even more important to pay attention, in my opinion that is.

When your country is ordering “retaliation” against other countries, you might want to pay attention. Even if you agree, this might effect your family in numerous ways. It could result in a loved one being sent over seas in the military, it could effect your income and prices of goods.

When your government is detaining people in camps, regardless of what you would call the camps, not only should this appall you, but you should pay attention. If your government will detain people that they don’t agree with, regardless of laws, what’s to say that they wouldn’t detain you and your family in the future.

Things you don’t pay attention to effect your daily life quite easily.

Regardless of where you stand with politics and our current laws, hell even our Constitution, knowing your laws, knowing your party/country’s stance on certain things is essential. Why? Every time a new person is elected, they have the opportunity to change those laws, your rights.

Something to always keep in mind is that a country doesn’t always change via a coup or by some other drastic means. Sometimes it’s a very slow, gradual change. So keep your eyes open, that way if your country goes in a direction you don’t like, you’re aware and in a position to do something.

As always, Nazi-Germany is a great example. Do you think that one day people woke up and knew that their neighbors were being carted off to the gas chambers? Nope, because that’s not what happened. First there was rhetoric and propaganda. That progressed to deportations. From there, detention camps started, a la concentration camps. Once labor wasn’t the easiest solution, death camps were created. It wasn’t an overnight thing, it was gradual.. and everything starts somewhere.

The argument that it doesn’t effect you, is almost always null. Politics effect you, whether or not you like it, whether or not you pay attention. In order to understand the world around you, understand the things that are happening and have happened, you have to pay attention.

So please. Pay attention before it’s too late.

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Negotiating with the Government

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Student Loans = Student Debt

I went into college unaware of the consequences of student loans.  I knew I wanted to go to college, the sole goal was to get a degree so I could get a job that paid well.  At that point in time, I had an inkling that I would be leaving my husband and I wanted to be able to support myself.  I looked online and asked for advice on how to pay for school, and everyone said to talk to an adviser, they’d lead me in the right direction.

So I went in, stupid and blind, and sat down with my adviser, picked a major and asked questions.  My biggest mistake was listening to these people with out a second thought.  How could an adviser lead me wrong?  They encouraged student loans, they explained that aid would cover half of it, and loans would cover the rest, and that in my degree I’d easily be able to make the “low monthly” payments once my loans came due, which wouldn’t be for a long time.

So I enrolled in school, selected my classes and started.  Nine semesters in, (including summer semesters… yeah I was over-doing it) I decided I needed a break.  I took a semester off and took time to myself.  When it was time to pick my classes and start back up, I cracked open my student loans.  I was shocked, they didn’t come due for 2 years, but really?  I called and spoke to someone who informed me a rough estimate of what my monthly payments would be.  By this time, I had left Tim and was a single mom, that amount was definitely not do-able, even if I made $10,000 more yearly than I did then (hell, even now).  I debated for a while, and decided that I could NOT afford to go back and finish my degree.  I had an idea of what I was looking at after finishing, and quite frankly, looking at my friends who had already graduated, who still hadn’t found work in their major, and were struggling to pay rent on top of student loans, I decided it wasn’t worth it.

Fast forward 2 years.  My loans have now come due, and to say the government has been harassing me, puts it lightly.  Yesterday, I finally decided to answer the phone when they called, and say something beyond “The Dept of Education can blow me.”  I hate owing money, and decided to settle.  I explained my finances on the phone, and the lady was quite helpful.  The way it is, is that while finances aren’t completely in dire straights, we are technically living from paycheck to paycheck.  At this current time I cannot put away anything in my savings account, which means I cannot fit another major bill into my budget, especially not one for a few hundred a month.

So I spoke with her for almost an hour, and intermittently with her supervisor.  I’m able to enter into a payment plan because of hardship and in 9 months, I’ll be out of delinquency and will be able to sign up for a new plan and continue.  The lady I was speaking to made a comment about how in 9 months I’ll be eligible for another loan to go back to school.  I laughed and told her I’d never put myself in that much debt again.

I got off the phone and explained what happened to my coworker.  We talked about it for a while, and I reiterated that I will never go to school again, unless I can pay for it out of pocket, which won’t happen anytime soon.  She talked about her student debt, and we came to the conclusion that.. well.. it sucks.

I am not lucky enough to have someone pay for my school, and I don’t make enough money to pay for classes each month.  I was a fuck-off in high school so no scholarships were given to me.  Do I regret it?  Not particularly.  Honestly school isn’t in my game plan right now anyway.  I’d much rather take my money and save what little I can (or will be able to) for Noodle to go to school.  However, what it comes down to is what do kids do now days?

What about the kids who parents couldn’t save money?  What about the kids who didn’t earn scholarships?  Who don’t make enough money to pay out of pocket?  I know a huge chunk of people who are not eligible for aid.  Those kids are stuck getting loans to go to school, and while a chunk of them might make enough money to pay them off, a lot of them will be paying well into their fifties.  Maybe I’m too pessimistic, but it looks quite bleak to me.

Did I make a mistake and go in blind?  Yes.  But if I hadn’t been blind, I wouldn’t have gone to school at all.  I’m not the first, and I’m not the last, going to college on student loans was one of the worst financial mistakes I have made yet, and it won’t be one I’ll repeat.