Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What's with the anonymity? About the author, about the site, etc.

I'm one person working alone, living with a disability, living on disability payments, I used to live on welfare, and before that I had various jobs, including web design and advertising copyrighting. I didn't have a post-secondary education, because I didn't have access to one. Not everybody does have access. I grew up poor, and so did my parents, and so did my grandparents, and poverty is a beast that, like the rest of us, tends to want to preserve itself. Poverty comes back from your past to catch you and bring you back into its clutches. Poverty disconnects one's attitude from one's circumstances, so my outlook, no matter how positive or negative it's been, has never had much effect on the outcomes of my efforts. The culture of poverty has followed me into whatever employment situation I've had, and I've never had someone who can teach me how to not act poor and think poor. And it's really how you act and how you think that dictate your outcomes. I've failed to fake it 'til I made it, because honestly, I didn't know how, and I didn't have the will to do so. It just involves so much lying. So that's my story. That's as specific as I'm going to get. There are tons of people out there just like me. So there's not a lot of possibility of discovery. And, shit, for all you know, the whole story could be a fabrication, full of lies, or full of delusions that make it easier for me to deal with.

What's my motivation for publishing this anonymously? It's mostly just so I can say whatever the fuck I want about these places. It's journalistic independence and integrity, basically. What do I have to lose when somebody finally outs my identity? Just access to meal programs. Or rather, safe access. I fear being recognized by staff and clientele, and any reprisals that may come along with that. But I mostly fear simply not being able to say what I want to say about these places. It's like the Vice Magazine album reviews, and a lot of the more contentious articles. They're published under bogus names. Because that way, they can say whatever they want. And because of that, they're worth reading. They're not boring bullshit.

Of course, it's occurred to me a thousand times that having authored this website may lead to employment of some kind, or recognition of some kind, and those things are nice. But in my experience, employment is fleeting and exploitative. I may find some way out of the cycle of poverty. I might be able to somehow access education, or make some partnerships that lead to an entrepreneurial success story. But at the same time, I have to hedge my bets by becoming as good at being poor as I possibly can be.

I've tried to write most of these articles using grammar that obfuscates the authorship of things on this site. But it's impossible to disguise my writing style. I haven't really tried. I've pulled the old web designer trick of trying to make it seem like I'm several people working for some big company, that I'm a team when really I'm just one person. And I've tried to enlist people from the poverty community to contribute articles, so that the site really can be a group effort. And so that the geographical range of the information can expand. And I still want that. But so far, none of that has happened. The site has a fantastic amount of usage, with the impressive traffic profile that comes along with it. And people do contribute tips in the comments of the various articles. And I'm very, very grateful for that. It's wonderful. It demonstrates that the poverty community does have collaboration skills, and the will to share information. It's just that, generally, our time online is limited and our energy for productivity time is limited. Everyone I know who lives in poverty needs an extreme amount of downtime in their lives, just to cope. Poverty causes illness, and is caused by illness, and people who are ill have trouble doing this kind of thing. And I have trouble doing this kind of thing. I'm in and out of this site. I sometimes work a lot on it, and sometimes not. I miss closures, and leave the calendar inaccurate for months. It's bad. But I do what I can.

Why do I feel like doing this, ultimately? It does involve a sense of indebtedness to the poverty community. Like I owe something. Also, the welfare and ODSP (disability benefits) that I've been living off of are paid for by the taxpayer. I have years of payments to make up for. There aren't any volunteering programs that I can work with... they all have requirements that I simply can't fulfill. So I do all sorts of little anonymous things, to give back. To reduce my shame. To contribute to my own sense of dignity. To be part of the world. And it's also partially just out of frustration: I can do this. It's relatively easy. And those who are being paid to do it... they do a horrible job of it. They're not being paid enough to do it, and not enough of them are being paid to do it. Because of my skillset, it's easy for me. It started out as just me making a google calendar and map of this stuff, to keep my notes straight. And then I was like shit, I could just tie this together on a blog to make it easier to use. And then other people could use it too. And then maybe I'd get intelligence (tips) from the community. And then maybe... maybe maybe maybe, something nice could happen. And it's been nice. Now I have power. Because people visit the site, and my words and experiences, which reflect the experiences of the poverty community, are here. They're not elsewhere, not really, not on the 'net. They're not on meal program websites. Because we're not stakeholders. Charity organizations, government departments, NGOs, and contributing companies, are the stakeholders. They're the ones that get representation and attention. Not the clients. We are the product. We get whatever representation the stakeholders give us. But not on this site. On this site, the truth has lease. Actual real-world experiences have lease.

I do have a plan for my identity being outed. For one thing, anybody could pretend to be the creator of this site. So I have plausible deniability. If somebody posts a picture of me, I can change my look. I can continue to go to these programs, with the additional fear of reprisal that's provided by being outed. I already fear going to these programs. The're not safe, after all, anyway. They are there to be there. They are harm reduction, because they reduce property crime. They are window dressing, because they provide something for the public to point at, saying, we're doing something... somebody is doing something. They're there for companies, to point at, saying, it's not a solution, but it's something. And yeah, it's not a solution. It's an opportunity. And it's a deterrent, for the masses, to leaving their jobs, to questioning their working conditions, stuff like that. It's something to point at to say do I want to be one of those people? No I sure don't, so I'll just ignore my employer's workplace standards violations, just like police threaten people with like you're gonna get raped in jail everyday, and nobody's going to question these charges, only you and I know they're lies.

I had plans to reveal my identity this year. I even wrote about it on this site. And then I removed the post about it. I can do that whenever I want with this site. I can change my plans. I can change my mind. I can present erroneous information. I can delete people's comments. And of course, Google can do whatever it wants with this site. Take it down, track me down, take it over, write bogus stuff... whatever it wants. Maybe I've broken the service agreement. Maybe I've broken the law. The agreements and laws can change at any time without notice, and the public doesn't have the means to know the law, anyway. So any of us could be investigated for any time, and jailed at any time, for any or no reason. And if there is a reason, nobody has any way to know, or any legal right to know, what the reason is. So there are risks to publishing this site. Since I don't know what those risks are, and have no way of finding out, I can't say that I've accepted the risks, but I have accepted the unknown.

Not that I can prove this in any way, but this site isn't published by the hacktivist group anonymous. I don't believe they are a legitimate collective of private citizens. I don't believe anything else about them, either. I just know I have no way of knowing what the fuck they really are, so I'm not drawing any conclusions. But I will sign this "anonymous," and I will continue to publish in anonymity, for now.

Yours in poverty,
Anonymous Journalist

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