"Poor But Deserving Boys"

Michael Bettencourt | Scene4 Magazine

Michael Bettencourt

Part of my college tuition at Harvard College was paid from a scholarship dedicated to helping "poor but deserving boys" achieve the summum bonum of being a Harvard alumnus.

Part of the deal with the scholarship was that I had to compose a letter of thanks each year to the fund's managers thanking them for their support and giving a brief but pungent update of what I'd been doing. I don't recall the text of anything I wrote, but I do remember the brief but pungent humiliation of having to abase myself for the sake of money. I was thankful and resentful all in the same moment.

This is a feeling about money that I have never lost.

I did manage to make it through Harvard and several other schools, but I've never been able to shed the dislike of having to work for a living, of being at the mercy of money. I don't mind working hard—working hard is the only way to get to know the world and transform it through the body—but always being a slave to a wage, to be "poor but deserving," is terrible.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I don't have an entrepreneurial bone in my body and have never been able to pull together gigs, side hustles and so on to supplement what I earn in my salary. I just don't seem to have the talent or ingenuity to do this, so in a sense I have only myself to blame for my dilemma.

And blame myself I do, often, turning myself into a miser who can't see money as a means to an end (pleasure, safety, compassion) but only as an end itself, the end being the ability to discard the feeling of being at the mercy. I don't want to be rich in the usual sense; what I want is enough money as a cushion again the vile buffets of the world so that I don't have to think about it. I want enough money to be amnesiac about money.

It's the thinking about it all the time that is most wearing on me: constricting me, pinch-mouthing me, turning me sober and calculating and killjoying and wetblanketing everything. I hate myself for it and can't seem to get out of my own way.

I am such a bad capitalist. The threat of, the feeling of, poverty does not spur me to change my state or innovate my fate—I want a different system, with different incentives and obligations, "from each…"

I had always planned to die broke. I just hate being broke along the way.


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Michael Bettencourt is an essayist and a playwright.
He writes a monthly column and is
a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.
Continued thanks to his "prime mate"
and wife, María-Beatriz.
For more of his columns, articles, and media,
check the Archives.

©2022 Michael Bettencourt
©2022 Publication Scene4 Magazine


Scene4 Magazine: Perspectives - Audio | Theatre Thoughts  | Michael Bettencourt April 2016 | www.scene4.com


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