Day Twenty Four

Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Louise Arbour was appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2004. Photo CP (Martial Trezzini)

Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Louise Arbour was appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2004. Photo CP (Martial Trezzini)

We spent tonight at the Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego as attendees of their distinguished lecture series. Tonight’s lecture from the Honorable Louise Arbour, the former UnitedNations High Commissioner for Human Rights, helped me understand the connections between security, development and human rights. Her talk, titled “Crafting Human Security in an Insecure World,” was the opening to the Women PeaceMaker Conference at the IPJ.

In the spirit of this conference, I think it appropriate to recognize that according to the United Nations Population Fund, “More women than men live in poverty and the disparity has increased over the past decade, particularly in developing countries.” Additionally, “Improving women’s education helps reduce fertility and child malnutrition and improve maternal and child survival.”

I think it’s important to recognize this because many of us make assumptions about what it means to be “poor”. We make assumptions about who lives in poverty. And of course, assumptions as to why people live in poverty.

We started this project with little (if any) focused reason to put ourselves in such a challenging situation, and I have found many of my own assumptions changed by this experience. What makes this experiment even more rewarding is that I have been given the chance to dialogue with others about their own assumptions concerning food, poverty and a whole host of other issues.

I’ve noticed a stark contrast concerning who people see as “the poor”. I’ve made comment in a previous post about the lack of conversation concerning poverty in our own country. I’ve also posted some data about the number of people around the globe living on very little. While there are certainly themes woven through both scenarios, each individual situation and individual set of circumstances is different.

The most distressing part of these assumptions is that many of us make broad generalizations about issues based on a belief we have surrounding a particular scenario. For instance, “I know someone on welfare who sits around and collects checks,” turns into, “poor people don’t deserve to just be given handouts, they need to earn their keep.” While there may be some truth in that particular instance, the danger is that all of a sudden “someone on welfare” morphs into “all those poor people.”

I watched this happen at a meeting today concerning discounts for students who can’t afford prom tickets. Assumptions based on individual experiences were being translated into what could become school policy. The challenge lies in recognizing that our own experiences, no matter how powerful, cannot possibly account for the infinitely diverse number of experiences regarding an individual’s economic situation.

I would not think of asking anyone else to try and eat on a dollar a day in order to test their own preconceptions, but I challenge you to try this: Spend five minutes writing on each of these two topics…

1. Write down everything you know about “poor” people. (Five minutes)

2. How do you know this? (Five minutes)

Leave it to a teacher to give you an assignment. Please post your reflections to this exercise. I’d love to hear what came out of it for you.

– Christopher

Daily Totals:

Breakfast: Oatmeal – $0.05 (less than a cup cooked – Christopher only), 1 Slice of toast with peanut butter – $0.15 (Kerri only)

Lunch: 1 Bowl of Southwestern Soup – $0.18, 2 Tortillas – $0.08 (Both Christopher only), 1 Bean/Rice Burrito – $0.15 (Kerri only)

Dinner: 2 Bean & Rice Burritos – $0.29 ( Beans – $0.07, Rice -$0.14, Tortillas – $0.08)

Dessert: 1 cup Tang – $0.07 (Christopher only)

Christopher Total: $0.67

Kerri Total: $0.59

Donation Total: $717

(THANK YOU FOR CONTINUING TO DONATE!)

NOTE: If you think what we’re doing is interesting, inspiring, or just plain nutty, consider SPONSORING our efforts. Simply enter in an amount, click “update total” and follow the prompting. If you don’t have PayPal, it will let you use a credit card. At the end of the of the month all proceeds will go to the Community Resource Center (here in Encinitas, CA). We will post evidence of donations at the end.

19 Comments

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19 responses to “Day Twenty Four

  1. Cattie

    All right, I’ll be the first brave soul to embark on your little assignment. Good thing I’ve always loved learning things. :*)

    Just off the top of my head (which, I’m guessing, was the aim of the question):

    1. Poor people do not have as many privileges as people with more money.

    The poor are forced to live on less, and stretch their limited resources to cover greater ground (as opposed to more affluent people).

    The poor, depending upon the situation, could have been born into poverty, gotten there due to their own bad choices, or a combination of those and other circumstances that for one reason or another could not be staved off.

    The poor are human beings, with the same human skin and human blood and human bone and human thoughts as wealthy people. They may have different immediate concerns and circumstances, but they are people all the same, and deserve to be treated with all the respect and dignity with which wealthier people are treated.

    “Poor” can mean a lot of different things – when we think of “poor people,” we may think of homeless people, people living in third-world environments, or even the people who live in a different part of town than we do, in perhaps a slightly smaller house. The word is surprisingly broad, now that I think about it. My family considers itself “poor,” mainly because my mom is a single mom and we live paycheck to paycheck, BUT we have running water, jobs, a house, plenty of food, a car, more than one television, pets, even a little bit of money for a few new clothes every now and then. When compared to the rest of the world – which, by the numbers, is MOST of the world; that is, those who live on less than we do – that does not stack up as “poor.”

    2. Personal experience, mostly. This includes living it, and listening to people’s stories (I used to be involved in a street ministry in which I got to talk with a lot of homeless people).

    A little bit of research (college lectures and classes, etc.).

  2. lynda holeva

    I’ll try this exercise over the weekend and post, but for now , is there a link to these lectures ? I’d like to attend the next one!

    Thanks!
    xoxo
    mom

  3. This is a subject which brings out a lot of mixed feelings for me. I come from Southern Ohio where there are a lot of poor people. There is also a lot of animosity about the poor there. You have a few different kinds of poor. You have the working poor which is the catagory you could have put us in (me, my mother and my sister) when I was growing up we lived in an apartment with no heat, often no electric and very little food. But my mother worked and we didn’t ask for any hand outs. No one even knew that we were poor. Then you have generational wellfare. People who drop out of school and go straight to wellfare even though they have no disabilities. I get so angry when I see a perfectly able bodied 18 year old girl collecting wellfare so she can buy that coach purse and go out to party with her friends. My sister and I worked hard to get out of our situation. We went to school on grants and student loans we got good jobs and now we are both doing very well. We own our own houses, 2 cars each, a condo in Mexico but you have to work for it. I realize that living in America we are so lucky to have had the opportunity to go to school. I have had the opportunity to travel to Turkey, China, Malaysia and other countries where they live in very poor conditions and I’m sure it would be much harder for them but even in these countries the working poor are proud people who will take you into their house which is always as neat as a pin. They will offer you what food they have which they have always loving prepared and it’s usually really good for it’s inexpensive ingredients. I feel for the working poor both in America and around the world but the American poor who use their well fare checks to buy a satelite dish to strap to the roof of their trailer just make me so mad my head wants to explode.

  4. Eris

    1. I know that it’s ridiculously hard to get out of a situation if no one has ever taught you that it’s important or possible. It’s hard to save any money or advance at all when there are friends and family around you who are not; so you share when you have money or goods, and they share when you can’t, and no one ever gets enough to advance because it’s better for all to have some, rather than one to have all. And if no one is there to teach or set an example, saying “If you’re selfish for a little while, and you keep your successes for yourself and move up, then you can truly share with others.” I also know that’s the best case scenario.
    Too many times it’s lack of the basic necessities that keep the poor poor. Housing, medical care, food, education, child care, transportation: how do you choose which ones are a priority, or are you even given the choice?

    2. I know this out of personal experience; I grew up as part of the working poor. Subsidized lunches, medical care, after care, government help. But I was lucky enough to live in an area where this income bracket was reletively uncommon, so there was a lot of help spread over a few recipients (much more advantageous than most are likely to recieve). I live in an area where most people are at least middle class, and a premium is put on education, so it is assumed everyone will go to college. I’m the first in my family to go, so without this environment, I probably would not have even considered it as a possibility. While in college, I’ve taken courses on race, on education, gender, all those things that make a difference on how you can afford to live. I quit being a scholarship student at an elite school when I grew tired of being asked what it was like to work a summer job. I now attend an urban university, in the ‘bad’ part of a working-class city, and see the rich and the poor together everyday.

  5. frizzyivy

    cool. I’ll try this one

  6. Mary Sunshine

    Everything I know about poor people:

    Taking as my definition, “poor people are people who are unable to meet their basic needs”, here’s a bit of what I know.

    Poverty is virtually impossible to quantify, even though its myriad manifestations all involve shortfalls, most of which are, in the moment quantifiable.

    Some people are in poverty who may have access to money, but are unaware of that access. In fact, unawareness of access to various “available” resources is a frequent facet of poverty.

    I have lived in poverty at different periods of my 64 year life. I am a white North American, with post secondary education. Although it has often been extremely difficult for me to get access to information sources, once I attain that access, I acquire and process information with great skill.

    For me the most frightening part of poverty, and I imagine for others with experiences of poverty, has been housing insecurity. Fear of homelessness, of exposure to violence, of exposure to the elements without relief.

    I instinctively, and without fail, find the cheapest, simplest and most nourishing forms of food in my environment. At times, I have grown all my own. I am currently living in “poverty” (far below the poverty line) but always keep a year’s supply of food on hand. My parents lived through the Depression and WW2. I am totally disoriented to fast food, whether restaurant or grocery.

    The answers to this exercise all flow together for me, because everything I know about poverty is from having lived in it for years, and from knowing so many other people living in poverty.

    Really, this is just a stream of consciousness.

  7. Pingback: But rice and beans are cheap! « Travels With Snacks

  8. Stacey

    I know your intentions of this project are good – but one thing I didn’t see in your diet is fruits and vegetables. I know you mentioned many times that these are more expensive foods, but what ever happened to gardens and baring your own fruit and vegetables. Seeds don’t cost that much to be able to redeem fruit and vegetables that you can freeze and store for the entire year. Our country is so focused on the cost of fruits and vegetables boughten at the store that we forget about our ground roots of harvesting. Fruits and vegetables are just like the tortillas and beans – you do have to put a little more work into them, but you do get the proper nutrition this way and are able to eat a healthy diet on a budget!

  9. I know a lot about the poor in my area of Southeast Tennessee. The most rapidly growing population of homeless is families. The average age of the homeless here is about eight years old. Half of the homeless here have full-time jobs. My community is hostile to people who are poor and have nowhere to sleep. They have stonewalled on shelters and refuse to have a safe public camping area. They force people out of public areas and won’t allow them to sleep. Our poor who have homes live in the areas with the highest crime rates and go to the worst schools in the city. Ironically, this is a city known for its philanthropy and progressiveness, known for being forward-thinking and for good planning. We just haven’t practiced how to really sit down with “the poor” and learn why they are poor and why they can’t get out of it, and offer solutions that really work. We have half measures and good intentions but little long-term follow-through.
    I know these things from reading the statistics, from being a physician in this community for twenty years, from making lots of housecalls and volunteering in a number of initiatives.
    Now that I am disabled and on a limited income, I am afraid I may know these things from personal experience, however, I know that education and “connectivity” will change the experience.

  10. ~veronica

    I am from a third world country that has no (clean) running water. Though I was born there, I have been in the U.S. for over 30 years, and my grocery bill exceeds $600 a month (family of four). It was not until I returned to South America as an adult that I began to understand why my parents save and refrigerate those packs of “maple syrup” from McD’s, and why they don’t use plastic containers to save their food (they use bowls, covered with dishes). They will eat a meat dish for every meal, every day until it has been in the fridge for a week or smells funny. The glasses they pour soda into are maybe 6 oz., and you have to ask for seconds (about 10 times). My relatives in South America are fortunate enough to pay private school tuition for their children, because they value education – but at the end of the day, they are left with nothing but a loaf of bread on a table they share with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who all live under the same roof. In a nutshell, Americans are misunderstood for greedy, when the reality is that many of us are just ignorant.

  11. Janz

    My experiences are all in the United States. I call it being “poor” when you are taking government help. The people that I have known that are on assistance have cable, even at rates of $80. per month, live in a nice apartment or decent house with the government paying the majority of the bill, and can afford to smoke and eat lots of meat.

    I am a divorced parent raising three children and have not been on assistance. I feel that in order for people to get government help, they first should not be able to pay for that cable, and they should be required to work when possible. When not working, I would like to see them required to take classes on subjects such as making their own bread, using beans, combining incomplete protein foods, general cooking skills, canning, freezing and drying foods, nutrition, etc. They could put their kids in a coop daycare, where they attend school part time and do their share of manning the daycare. If education is where it is at – why aren’t we educating them?

    Why does the government allow a person to choose a doctor that lives in a near-by city and pay for a taxi to take them to their appointments? Why not the bus?

    Frankly, if there are truly poor people, it is only because they do not know how to work this system. The only people more poor that I have met are those who have substance abuse problems or have run away from home. True, this is just my experience. So far I have not met anyone who makes less than me, and I am in the income bracket to meet them. I have only met people that are unwilling to do what needs to be done to make it. Still I will admit that it is possible, but I have not met them. I always wonder about the homeless. Did they not have families or friends or any network at all? I would never let someone I knew end up on the street.

    And lest you think I am being mean, as a single parent I still give more than 10% of my income to charity. I help out those in need around me in any way that I can.

  12. fawn madere

    I know quite a bit about poor people. I know many people in the United States who are poverty stricken work very hard, and of the ones who don’t most are unable to due to physical and/or mental disability. I can only assume the same for poverty stricken individuals in other countries. I know that no one wants to be poor, and no one wants to be hungry. I know this because I grew up poor. I had the free lunches at school. They were not my only meals, thankfully, but they were crucial. Once, I volunteered with the Methodist Church packing boxes of food to be delivered during the holidays. I was in high school. I had barely gotten home when one of the boxes that I’d packed arrived at our door. It was humiliating. I knew the people who delivered it. They didn’t say anything mean but there was pity in their eyes.

    My parents both worked very hard. When I was twelve, they divorced, and I had to help my mom take care of my sisters. I’m grateful that I had that opportunity, because I have a great relationship with them now and I am very close to them both. I started working when I was fourteen and I’ve been working since, sometimes four jobs at once. I got scholarships and other financial aid to go to college, but I worked through college as well. Again, I am grateful for the experience. I think paying for at least part of your education makes you take it seriously and appreciate it a little more.
    Now, I’m comfortable. I’m not wealthy, but I make enough to own a car. Although I am renting an apartment with my husband, we are looking to buy a house in the near future. I spend more than a dollar a day on food, although we’ve had the same conversation about grocery bills and eating out and how much it really costs. I help my parents as much as I can, as my mother has retired and my father is on disability. And I spend my days helping folks with mental illnesses get back on their feet. And budget their limited funds. And eat healthy on very little money. And honestly? Most of them want to work too. They’re frustrated that they can’t, or if they’re working part time they want to work full time. They don’t like being on public assistance. So when I hear people talk about “welfare queens” and how many people are manipulating the system, it makes me angry. I know that abuses happen, sure they do. But the majority of people in this country who live below the poverty are not lazy and they’re not waiting for handouts.

  13. Kandice

    What I know about being poor is heart breaking, yet paradoxically uplifting too. My folks were poor still when I was born. There are days they still openly wonder if the lack of proper nutrition effected my brain and body development. My parents were given the ability to live in some of the first government subsidized apartment housing around when I was about 2-3 years old. I don’t remember ever feeling like I was disadvantaged for all of the poverty that I know was going on, but I think much of that had to do with being a kid in state that had over 40% of the women and children under 10 under the poverty line.

    Eventually, my parents moved into a better situation, and my family became quite well off comparatively. I have siblings who do not remember my parents being so poor, which makes the experiences and realities of how we see the world very different.

    As an adult I have been poor, and lived below the poverty line at times. I have had to figure out ways to live on very little. However, I also know that I was fortunate to have family members who were willing to help me out when I was not able to do much more for myself at the time. I would have a very different life now, if this had not happened.

    My spouse was literally poverty-stricken as a child and young adult. There were many days there wasn’t any food in the house, so any food was set on with great gusto and need. Both of us were poor and living under the poverty line when we met. I was on government food stamps and medical disability care. That first year we were together it was hard. We were fortunate to be able to live with relatives for the first year. Even now two years later, while I don’t make a lot as a teacher, we are ok for now. I know that so many people live on a much more stretched budget and income than we do right now.

    As an adult, I have lived and worked in several other countries around the world. And while I am not poor and poverty stricken, I am a teacher who sees kids daily in their classroom who are poor and unwilling to let on to other kids exactly how poor they are. Even in the depressed area they live in, which has plenty of needy and poor families, some of the poorest kids I have surprise me with the level of cover-up they go through.

    Over 90% of the kids at my school receive some kind of subsidy for their lunch/breakfast program. And over 40% of those are eligible for free lunch subsidies. It is of course a no brainer that kids do not want to be seen as different. Let’s face it—they are kids. Poor or “rich” a good proportion of students still skip lunch often trying to look like everyone else, despite teachers telling them to eat and the stomach pains from hunger. They don’t want people to know they are poor and have no other opportunity for food in the day. Many do not know that they can get a lunch free if they don’t have money. If their parents knew I am sure they would be quite upset because they count on their kids getting the meals at school to stretch their budgets.
    I have some kids who get two meals a day at school, and without that probably would not get fed at all. In fact one of my students gets so little to eat daily, that other kids are used to the begging for food they otherwise would throw away. With the economy not doing well, this is a growing issue for my students. A large number of them are constantly hungry during the school day, which makes it hard for them to focus on school. And the social issues from the lack of money increase exponentially. I have kids who have family members who live in cars, or are homeless youth. There are state laws that would cover and help them if the school knew they were homeless, but fear and shame hide them. Some of my colleagues have invested in breakfast cereal, granola bars, and other quick delivery systems to give students in their classes, but we cannot feed them daily.

    That’s the part that makes this heart wrenching– there is only so much you can do.
    It just breaks your heart when you know people are the walking, employed, poverty stricken public. And so many are on the cusp of joining those ranks daily. But having said that, the uplifting part is how many families actually make it, and how many people actually work and/or give to make it possible for them to make it.

    And what contributes to being poor depends on where you are. Currently, the state I live in is a full 2 months behind in filling requests for unemployment. But, there are some places in CA where there are families of 4 who live in shelters, but the parents earn a salary more than twice what I earn as a teacher, but the prices for food and shelter and clothing are outrageous.
    We are two weeks from Christmas, and I can only imagine how many people are making hard choices between food and shelter, much less presents.

  14. Susan M

    The comments here are very interesting. I live in the western region of New York, but went to college in Athens, Ohio (Appalachia). I did it on student loans and food stamps, graduated with two degrees, and now own a corporation with five other partners. After four years of patience we are finally selling product. Investors don’t like to invest in companies that arent already selling something, so we have had to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees to protect our intellectual property, build our prototypes and inventory and also pay for various other things like UL testing, etc. (which runs in the thousands). The only way to do this is to have good jobs to support our families and our efforts along the way. We have bootstrapped the entire company. Lucky for us, we have money in 401 k and we are homeowners who can borrow from home equity. Few people are in that position, not to mention what a huge risk it is to even do it.

    The difference between the Poor and myself are that starting out in life, like Christopher, I was middle-upper class. I went to college because it was “expected” and I was given incredible learning opportunties as a child. I learned what was possible. I knew how to write and speak well and also how to dress for success, even if I had to fake it sometimes.

    The poverty in Appalachia is mindblowing. In addition to the financial barrier there is also a severe communication barrier. Meaning, while basic, public education is theoretically available for all children, the way in which many children of poverty learn to communicate int he world at large is through their parents, who model the child’s own future behavior.

    My story is that I was cut off by my parents. I was married and got pregnant. I received food stamps, but had to attend certain meetings in the county. During one of these meetings I sat next to a woman who told me that she had trouble disciplining her young son. I asked her why. She’d said that every time she called him in for dinner her husband would undermine her. When the boy would come running at his mother’s request, the father would step in to “correct” him. He told the boy, “You don’t come because she calls you! You tell her, ‘fuck you, bitch’ I’ll come when I’m ready.'”

    I’m wondering how likely it is that people of this nature are able to hold steady employment, follow directions and maintain positive relationships with coworkers and employers, even if only for the sake of a decent work reference.

    Not all poor people behave this way, but when money predominates, humanity takes a back seat.

    Another story….while sitting in a McDonalds watching my kids play on their playground, an older man sitting close by chatted with me. He told me that he delivered cut wood in the winter to the people who lived on his property. He owned several rentals and a tavern. The family e told me about had many children, including children having children in an effort to reap more government benefits. While making a delivery one day the mother and step-father of a teenage girl offered the girl on the couch, telling him, “Go on! She wants to get pregnant, anyway.” She was fourteen years old.

    Enter poverty, exit humanity.

    I could go on and on. More things I know about poverty? When one is poor, one usually can only afford used appliances (if at all–and if they have electric hooked up). When their car, or any appliances break down, which they eventually will due to the condition they are in, the people don’t have money in savings to go out and purchase another one. So the poor can bake bread if they have basic cooking skills, are able to plan ahead, and have the means to do it, i.e. a working oven and freezer and working electricity.

    Credit is offered to those who can get it, but at exorbitant rates. The poor pay more for money. It becomes a vicous cycle.

    Poor people have higher rates of stress and depression due to their situation. It’s tough to hold a job when it’s difficult to get out of bed.

    So, there are a few things I know about poverty. I wish there were better answers to this problem.

  15. allochthon

    From http://whatever.scalzi.com/2005/09/03/being-poor/

    “Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.

    Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours.

    Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching that box of Raisin Bran you just bought and trying to think of a way to make the kids understand that the box has to last.

    Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt.

    Being poor is Goodwill underwear.

    Being poor is not taking the job because you can’t find someone you trust to watch your kids.

    Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.

    Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap.

    Being poor is deciding that it’s all right to base a relationship on shelter.”

  16. allochthon

    K and C – that “being poor” comment wasn’t at all aimed at you. It was aimed at the ‘welfare queen” and “they are all just lazy” responses you’ve gotten.

    I apologize for my response also coming out as a “you rich white kids are just playing at being poor,” like you’ve gotten in the past. I truly admire what you’re doing.

    No need to publish this comment… =)

  17. yolanda

    I’m glad to see comments still being posted this late.
    Being poor. Well it sucks when you pay attention to it, and less so when you don’t. Poor in canada isn’t like poor in the world, but it’s still hard. Deciding which light bulb to do without when your important one burns out but you can’t get another. Living on one bowl of stew a day and a square meal feast on sunday for a couple months. I do eat meat, but just poultry and fish, and I save the poultry bones in the freezer. When the bag is full, I make soup. You’d be amazed how much meat comes off those bones. I came from hard working immigrants with good income, but with an invisible disability. I was in my 30s before I learned why I just couldn’t keep a job no matter how much I wanted to. I read with interest the symptoms of malnutrition you two have experienced. That is daily living when you’re broke and it really interferes with initiative, determination, drive, and the ability to organize or focus yourself. It weakens you to illness too. Throw in a disability, addiction, or psychological condition, and you can see how poverty breeds itself.
    The last two years I haven’t been poor. A man married me who earns income. Real income. Oh we’re not rich in the North American sense, just average income, but to me, it’s a miracle. It’s a sweepstakes win. Worse, I’ve spent us into debt and now I am facing hauling out those lessons spent in poverty to cut corners and pay down the debt. It’s not that we can’t afford it, but that we better get it in control just in case.
    What I have truly learned is that there is no such thing as lazy malingering poor folks over the age of 25. Sure some young folks are sponges, but the shame and deprivation cures it. If they have the means to climb out they will. If they don’t, there’s a problem. It may be a hidden disability. It may be an addiction. It might what you obviously see. It may be a family that sucks them dry when they try. Mostly it’s the poverty reducing their effectiveness so they just can’t go further.
    Maybe we can’t afford better welfare rates, but can’t we afford a little more kindness? Can’t we afford to speak more gently about and to our poor? Can you think of ways to spend time with poor friends that are fun and free so they can be your equal and have fun too?
    Take out the shame component of being poor and you take out a massive handicap. Please realize, nobody chooses poverty. They just get stuck there.

  18. Anjo

    I agree with Yolanda that nobody chooses poverty, but my observation is that many people choose habits of thought or behavior that create or perpetuate their poverty, and no amount of compassion or government programs (short of dictatorial control over their lives) will eliminate the resulting poverty.

    Granted that choosing to change those habits is not easy but still, taxpayer-provided tools for doing so are within the reach of most of the poor, including an average per student of $100,000+ spent on public education through high school, ample libraries, extensive public transportation systems, food support, health care support, etc. No, not perfect, but very extensive.

    I’ve had people in my family who, for lack of a better way of putting it, have INSISTED on remaining poor, rejecting the educations made available to them, drinking themselves into major medical problems and out of numerous job opportunities, flouting the rules necessary to get along in society, like laws against drunk driving, theft, assault, drug-dealing, and abusing the kindness of any family member who tried to help them.

    I can have sympathy for whatever defects of character or brain chemistry they were afflicted with, while despairing that human knowledge yet knows how to remedy them. If their own families don’t know how to deal with such people, how can we expect “society” to do so? Realistically, we can’t.

    Throughout recorded human history, the idea of a society that would allow almost everyone who really tried to live a long life free of desparate material want has been nothing more than a dream. Sometimes I think that, in their desire to overcome remaining obstacles, people forget how many our society already has overcome.

  19. Anne Salter

    some of the coping mechanisms I read above are often choices of the not-so-poor: I freeze my meat bones too, to make soup, because I don’t like to waste. I eat mostly chicken and fish as my meat, and that is a choice.
    Being poor is not having the choices the rich have; it’s HAVING to eat beans because it’s a cheap protein, not because you choose to be vegetarian. It’s HAVING to buy from thrift shops instead of choosing to because you are searching for vintage clothing.

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