Sunday, February 20, 2011

If the poor didn't exist, we'd have to invent them

The primary use of poverty in America is as a means of social control. That is why the poor here in America must be kept in a situation of abject misery with inadequate housing, education, transportation, and nutrition, and treated like trash, even though our society is clearly wealthy enough to provide enough for the poor that they could live a decent life. But living a decent life would be missing the point of having the poor around. If we didn’t have the poor, we’d have to invent them as a warning to our children, “see, behave in school and study hard or you’ll end up like *them*!” It’s all about social control. The harder we can make it for the poor, the more we can use the threat of being poor as a lever to control our children and our employees. Don’t report corruption to the Feds, ’cause they’ll leak it to us and we’ll black-ball you in this industry and then you’ll be one of them.

The middle class hasn’t forgotten this lesson, that keeping the poor around miserable and downtrodden is both a threat over their own heads (“spout the official ideology, pretend that the bullshit we’re spewing actually means something, or else”) and an opportunity for themselves when it comes to their own children and subordinates. But our oligarchs seem to have forgotten. That’s the only thing I can think, given that they appear intent upon creating far more poor people than are useful or necessary for that object lesson / threat to hang over people’s head. Perhaps they’ve decided that they have sufficient armed thugs in their employ (many wearing badges) that they no longer need more subtle ways of control. Hosni Mubarak thought that too. Just sayin’.

- Badtux the Orwellian Penguin


  1. I don't quite know what to make of your thesis. Just how far up in your beak do you have your tongue tucked?

    In all seriousness, I think the use of poverty is not as social control mechanism, but rather as a benchmark.

    Say you've got a lot of stuff - but how do you know where you're at, unless you have more countable stuff than somebody with a defined social status?

    This deranged competition explains why the richest of the rich are never satisfied, no matter how much stuff they have. The Kochroaches always have more.

    That's not all though. There is a control aspect, but not as you describe. The genuinely poor are without options and without hope. And - until the ultimate and perhaps inevitable revolution - are controlled by the fact that they simply don't have anything beyond what can be eked out at the subsistence level. If it takes all your time and effort to simply survive, and you're uneducated and unskilled, you're not going to have enough energy to cause much trouble.

    Until you get really, really desperate.


  2. Tongue not stuck far up beak, unfortunately.

    You see it in the schools all the time -- "pay attention, study hard, and do your homework, or you could end up a homeless bum." You see it held over the heads of the middle class by their employers all the time -- "you will endure these humiliations of ordinary working life because if you don't, you will be fired and thrown onto the garbage heap of life and be a homeless bum."

    It's not a comparison thing. There are poor people in other 1st world countries too. There will always be poor people, because there will always be people who don't have what it takes to succeed in life (not that this is true for all poor people, but 50% of people are below average, just sayin'). What I'm talking about is the arbitrary cruelness of poverty in America compared with poverty in Western Europe or other 1st world nations. Your explanation for why the poor are kept in such a miserable condition in America as vs. other Western nations is a good one, but does not account for why the average American *supports* arbitrary cruelty against poor people. And that's what it is, arbitrary cruelty, where the poor are treated like animals and criminals every which way they turn -- from government agencies that "process" them like criminals (fingerprints, mug shots, etc.) in order to qualify for assistance and send social workers to their homes who treat them like scum unfit to raise children, to your average red-blooded American who spits on poor people and say it's their own fault for being lazy and stupid, being poor in America is treated by the average American as if it were a contagious disease to be avoided in any way possible.

    And take the prosperity gospel. Please. This is so red-blooded American as to hurt. It says that people are poor because they are sinners against God. So if you see a really poor and desperate person, that really poor and desperate person is a bad person. And the rich are rich because God graced them with wealth for being good people. That's the prosperity gospel, which has millions of adherents and numerous prosperous TV "ministries". How can you explain the "prosperity gospel" as anything other than a means of social control? Nothing like the "prosperity gospel" has ever arisen anywhere else on this planet. Just here, in the United States. Because it serves as part of the larger narrative -- "rich=good, poor=bad" -- that serves to deflect attention away from the fact that the rich by and large are grifters who are rat-fucking us while producing no actual wealth, and redirects attention to a *new* social class that it's okay to hate and despise?

    So I'm going to stand by my thesis here. I don't know if you've ever been poor, so poor that the thought of purchasing even a battered $100 used high school trombone is as out of reach as the Moon, but I have, and I remember those gratuitous cruelties far, far too well...

    -- Badtux the Once-poor Penguin

  3. Your explanation for why the poor are kept in such a miserable condition in America as vs. other Western nations is a good one, but does not account for why the average American *supports* arbitrary cruelty against poor people.

    Point taken, and herring for thought.

    Are we truly different from other countries in that respect, though?

    I guess I'm thinking Dickens here, but the lack of respect and outright contempt for lower social strata strikes me as being a universal part of the dark side of human nature. And all that without even going to India!

    I think the idea of social class = basic worth is a pre-enlightenment concept that was inherent to European culture.

    Where my thinking has gone recently is that the Rethugs want to roll back social progress to before the enlightenment. That means undoing not only the New Deal, but the Constitution, and beyond. That is what is at stake in WI.

    The Prosperity gospel is the tract of the Protestant work ethic - right?

    Great tool for using the drive for a common person's dignity to deprive him of that very thing.



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