Once again I draw my inspiration for writing this blog from a Facebook discussion.
It is interesting to me how I find myself associated with so many people I disagree with on fundamental issues. Conventional wisdom says that birds of a feather flock together. Yet, many of the people I maintain in my circle, and with whom I have discussions, disagree with me on a lot of important points.
Of course some of the people I end up in discussions with are not actually part of “my circle”, but rather friends of friends. How it happens that I and someone I simply cannot get along with share a friend in common is a topic for another post.
The topic for this post is poverty.
My dear friend, and soon to be PhD., Thaeda, sent to me a study confirming that in the minds of our best and brightest poverty is a condition, and not so much a state of mind. To many people this might seem self evident. Many of those people have never in fact been poor. I have.
No, not crawling on a garbage dump looking for an edible orange peel poor. But I have been living in rent controlled housing, can’t afford gas to take my kids to the park, driving a truck 10 hours a day and making under 20k a year, poor.
But I have talked before about the long climb from the ghetto to where I find myself today. I will not rehash that story here. What I want to address is the mindset of those who are not poor, who bleed profusely from the bottom of their great big hearts, and who think that if I oppose taking even more of my income than is already taken from me, I must be a hateful, evil man.
First let me address a plain and simple fact. The fact that someone, somewhere, brings a child in to this world does not make that child my responsibility.
Let me also state that if overpopulation is leading to climate change, deforestation, pollution, and an overall decline in the quality of life for other life forms on this planet, nature has a solution. We are the only animal on this planet which attempts to contravene the laws of nature by preserving the weak. Perhaps we should stop…
However, let us assume that because we have a conscience we are obligated to do all in our power to keep every individual to ever successfully transverse the vagina alive for as long as possible. Then, let us think for a moment about these programs and campaigns the hearts that bleed concoct so that sleep will once again come to them. Having made no real difference, but creating the impression thereof, so that they, and others, might be fooled in to believing that a difference is being made.
However, rather than think on these things in abstract terms, or academic terms, or statistical terms, let us think on them in the terms I like most, practical terms.
If a bum on the street stretches out his hand as you pass by, and you drop a $20 in it, you will no doubt feel better about having “done something”. But the reality is, he will buy one meal, or two. Or, he will buy booze or drugs. But either way, he’s still sleeping on the street. And tomorrow he will be right where he was, hand out, waiting for the next bleeding heart to stumble by. And the reality is, you have changed nothing.
You hold events, galas, concerts, drives…and amass money or food to send off to the world’s poor. And the governments, or warlords, or drug cartels, or what have you, confiscate it all. And the poor are still poor and hungry, and you have changed nothing.
The give a man a fish mentality subscribed to by the majority accomplishes nothing other than to assuage the conscience of those who suffer from guilt over the things they have. I suffer no such guilt. Having earned all that I own, and coming by all of it honestly, I sleep soundly at night knowing that there are those less fortunate. Why? Because fortune had nothing to do with how I got to where I am.
I was accused of not caring about the plight of the poor by a person who compared money spent on healthcare, in spite of the fact that people still die, to money spent on poverty, in spite of the fact that it never goes away. I am sure this person thought themselves clever at the time they were typing. But to compare a universal, inescapable, law of nature, to an economic condition…is at the least asinine.
The simple fact is, we have spent trillions of dollars on “The War on Poverty”, and poverty has not only remained, it has gotten worse. There are more people in poverty now then there were when the programs to fight it began many decades ago. Because, unlike medicine, when it comes to poverty we treat the symptoms and leave the root cause alone.
I know a girl who is 27 years old. She has earned $2,000 in her lifetime. She is on Social Security Disability. She will be for the rest of her life. What is her disability? She’s fat. Oh…and she suffers from depression. So, exercise, better diet, Prozac. Wow…I just changed her life forever in one sentence. Somehow, all the programs, benefits, and free shit in the world cannot reverse her economic condition. But I know something that can. It’s called hunger.
Not content to be a solo burden on society, she has brought two children in to the world. Both with a deadbeat who has no job, but does have 5 children with two different women. So he collects checks. She collects checks. Her kids collect checks. What do I do? I provide the checks. And what is her motivation to resolve her situation in some kind of positive way? Nothing. Nothing whatsoever. She just sits on her giant ass ignoring her kids, playing videogames, and trying to scam men on the internet out of money. And the checks keep rolling in.
Food stamps. Social Security. Section 8. You name it.
So I get involved in her life. I drop $10,000 helping her clear up her credit report, get a computer, a desk, a chair, a variety of other household goods that most of the rest of us take for granted. I fix her vehicle 2 or 3 times as various things go wrong. I get her all set up to go to college. I help in every way possible, including driving across three states to watch her kids so she can go to doctor’s appointments and get her meds straight, etc. She signs up for online classes…takes them for about 6 weeks…and drops out…for the third time…and cannot go back to that college ever again.
By way of contrast I have a gamer friend who has an incurable disease. She is slowly, and very painfully, losing the use of her extremities. She used to work for Microsoft. Now she cannot really work at all. But she does supplement her assistance income by teaching art classes to a small group of students. In other words, she is trying. And because she is trying I am there to get her back. And anything she needs, big or small, she gets (if I can afford it). No glory, no ceremonies. No plaques or wings of buildings in my honor. Just thousands, and thousands, and thousands of dollars over a lifetime, given to those who are truly in need, and not suffering from conditions they brought on themselves.
So I want to make 2 points here.
1) A lot of people are poor because they do stupid shit. Like make babies with losers; go to jail; do drugs; spend half the money they do earn on lotto tickets, etc. Choices have consequences. And no matter what your circumstances are, it is possible to overcome them if you want to badly enough and you’re willing to put in the work.
For those whose circumstances are not of their own making, and for whom no solution is readily available, I have been and always will be there to assist them.
2) Don’t pick fights you can’t win. I have sheltered the homeless in my house. I have walked down the cold, dark streets that scare you. I have given the last dollar in my pocket to a stranger in need. I have driven long distances to help a friend. And I will put the things I have done and the changes I have made in the lives of individuals up against your change dropped in the Salvation Army kettle or your one hour a week at the soup kitchen any time you like.
Because I do believe we should help those less fortunate. But I believe we should help them to become more fortunate. Not keep giving them just enough to get by for the rest of their lives. So my help is free to those for whom there is no help, like my friend with an incurable medical condition. And it comes with strings for those who can improve their situation if they apply themselves. Those strings are that they must fight, and struggle, and try.
Lastly…never judge those you do not know. Because walking a mile in the shoes I have worn over the course of my life would break a lot of you who talk a lot and do a little. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to come give it a try.