Sunday, March 02, 2008

The shame of the poor

John Scalzi has a post about shaming the poor. I started composing a comment but decided it was long enough to post here, instead.

Shaming people for their poverty generally assumes that the only reason for poverty is that people are poor for reasons they can be shamed out of — i.e., poor people are poor because they are lazy and shiftless no good spongers who prefer to be poor, because really, it’s just less work. This is a nice little fantasy, which like most fantasies sort of falls apart when it meets up with the real world. People are poor and sometimes become poor for lots of reasons. The number of poor who are poor because they like it is, as anyone who thinks about it for more than half a minute may imagine, rather small. Most people would prefer not to be poor, as it happens, and would be willing to work to escape it.

That's not my experience of poor people, but my experience is more than 30 years old. Maybe they've changed, but I remember them as those lazy, shiftless, no-good spongers that Mr. Scalzi asserts are rather small in number.

The ones I knew were happy to cheat the government out of food stamps, welfare, and unemployment insurance (and I still know some of those--people who within the last 10 years bragged to my face about living on unemployment insurance without bothering to look for work). They didn't want to have to go to a regular job, and they were willing to break the law in various ways, scrabble around among friends and family, and just get by instead.

Maybe more people are poor now for other reasons. I can imagine that.

1 comment:

Mark Jones said...

I would suggest that you post your experience over there, but I see they're too busy with an orgy of self-congratulation on being kind, benevolent, REASONABLE people to listen. The only person with the temerity to argue with them about the unspeakable awfulness of poverty in the US is getting hammered.