“Just use the library internet”

A favorite theme of mine is the utter cluelessness of the privileged when it comes to the way the rest of us live. I keep seeing a common theme when it comes to whether people who are struggling on their current incomes should have internet and phones. One person posted that she got along fine without a cell phone in 1999, so poor people now should also be able to get along fine without cell phones. Considering that cell phones are cheaper than landlines, I’m not sure if this person is saying poor people should have no phones at all, or if she is oblivious to the expense of a landline compared to a burner phone.

As for the internet issue, we in the US now live in a society where internet access is essential for many basic functions. “Sure,” say the Marie Antoinettes. “Just go to the public library! The internet is free!” Let’s ignore that these are often the same people who think that we don’t need libraries any more because we have the internet and these are often the same people who will vote against more funding for the libraries, and look at the practical issues of what these people are suggesting. I often wonder if these people have ever been to the computer area of their local public library. Have they seen the waiting list? Are they aware of the half-hour time limit?

If the person they’re judging needs to fill out a job application, she will need longer than half an hour. Using my computer at home with high-speed internet and all my data on hand, it takes between 45 minutes and an hour to fill out a typical online job application. I am college educated and know my way around forms. How long would a person have to stay in the library in order to be able to fill out one job application? And what of using social networking to get a job? It is apparently a trend of the future, but it takes time and access to update a Linked In profile, and it takes time to maintain the social network. Should people be denied access because of bad luck, bad health, or bad decisions?

If the person they’re judging is trying to improve her education level so she can apply for better jobs, I wonder if they’re aware that many traditional universities have unavoidable online classes. I have personal knowledge of programs that require applicants and students to have high-speed internet access at their homes in order to take classes. Perhaps the Marie Antoinettes believe these people deserve to be denied opportunities to improve their lot since they lacked the good sense to be born rich.

If the person they’re judging has small children, she gets to figure out how to wrangle the children while using her precious thirty-minute allotment on the computer. (“Then she shouldn’t have had children she couldn’t care for. But we don’t believe in comprehensive sex education. And we shouldn’t have to fund her birth control.”)

If the person they’re judging works fast food or retail, it’s likely she is working during the hours the library is open.

Most libraries are doing the best they can with the limited resources the public allows them to have. This is not a critique of libraries. It is a critique of people who do not know what they are talking about when they say a person needing assistance should get rid of at home internet and “just use the library internet.”