Monday, November 07, 2011


I was going to write an article about the new numbers that came out that show that 16% of Americans live in abject poverty, the sort of poverty that is utter misery as vs. the paradise depicted by the right wing, but it's too goddamned depressing. You just know that the right wing is gonna start whining that our poor aren't *really* poor 'cause they're not starving to death because they get food stamps, so there. Doesn't change the fact that being poor in America sucks. I've been poor, and believe me, I much prefer being *not* poor. Asswipes making fun of the poor are just assholes and bastards who ought to immediately have their trust funds revoked, their bank accounts seized, their homes and Mercedes Benzes repo'ed, then thrown on the street in some far away city to make their way. I can guarantee you that after a few months of living on the street they won't think the same about being poor.

- Badtux the Disgusted Penguin


  1. There's lots of room in Detroit for such folks. Then they can see what it is like to be poor in the winter in a city that can't help them and in a state that won't. Maybe even in a city that can't even afford to keep the street lights on.

  2. There's a sick human instinct that if we scorn the unfortunate, then it won't happen to us. Somewhere in our dark psychology (at least some of us; perhaps there are angelic people who don't have the same twisted feelings) it's like mocking a misfortune gives us power over it. Same vibe that causes people -- including nurses -- to jest about the sick and dying. (In our defence, we don't do it often.) Because I believe in sociobiology, I reckon there must be a survival-promoting aspect to something so deep and seemingly illogical. Perhaps a violent mindset like that helped our ancestors smash others and climb to the top of a pyramid of their corpses in order to pass along their vicious genetics.

    Added to that, there are many people whose personas -- especially their Internet Tough Guy pose -- seem to be divorced from normal human reality. I look at what some shitheads write and think "Do you ever interact with any actual people? Do you know what it's like to be a human?" Same feeling I'd get when watching TV sitcoms, back in the 1990s when I still did that. The characters and plot set-ups were so far removed from anything I experienced that, even conceding they came out of Hollywood, they were too unrealistic to be amusing.

    Again, I guess it all goes back to a psychological need to appear tough in a world that's dangerous enough to consume many folks.

  3. OTC kicked this around a bit as well. I just say this war front is going quite nicely for the 1%.

  4. @Bukko - I also believe that much human behavior has roots in how we evolved. One thing relevant here is that humans tend not to be good at abstract thought or at least not naturally. It can be taught of course.

    There is some evidence that people can only concretely conceptualize a certain number of people and that number is around 200-300 people. We see that many people as distinct individuals with individual thoughts and needs. Beyond that, we think of people in much more abstract ways. i.e. we think of "the poor" as a group and not of specific individual poor people. This is especially true of people who don't know any actual poor people. In a way, I got lucky because my upper middle class family chose to live in Detroit rather than in the 'burbs so my peers in school were often poor and I am sure that is a big reason why I don't see the poor as a big faceless group.

    Humans also seem to have an innate tendency to be somewhat tribal and to have an "us vs them" mentality. And when it comes to how we view individuals, those who are most like us become the "us" and those who are very different become the "them".

    Add to that a cognitive blind spot that also seems pretty innate where people assume that what is true for themselves is true for others. I have a decent middle class job that I fell into in a large part because of who I knew and my social network. It would be very easy for me to assume that everyone else has the same kind of social network and to conclude that if they can't get a job that pays as well as the one I have, it is because of some fault of their own. I am sure this is behind the whole "get a job" attitude many people have. They assume that because they are employable, everyone else is. But as someone who once had to hire unskilled workers, I can tell you that there are a lot of people who simply lack the skills to get a job. Just telling them to get a job or kicking them off any sort of welfare in order to give them an incentive to get a job is NOT going to give them the skills they need to get a job. And I am talking about basic skills too. Like figuring out that you need to use an alarm clock if you are prone to sleeping in so you will show up to work.

    I am sure there are many other natural instinctual tendencies that influence how poor people are viewed in our society. It is such a complex thing. I can also point to a bunch of cultural reasons why poverty is seen the way it is. If there is one truth there, it is that people are very complex.

  5. Both my mother's and mother-in-law's families experienced severe poverty while they were growing up, and my in-laws were very poor when they first married. While none of them were ever homeless, there was real food insecurity, inadequate heating and clothing, and an absolute unavailability of medical support.

    So while I've never been poor, I've all my life heard true stories about what it was like, and it sounded terrible. This has very much reinforced in me the need for charitable giving and is a strong influence on how I direct my giving.

    Not that I haven't worked hard, but there have been so many opportunities in my life that came by luck, and I'd be a fool not to admit it.

  6. After over thirty years of hyper-propagandizing of Americans by the organized radical Right and what do we expect?

  7. You know what?

    Snark is boring. More analysis, less attitude please.

  8. Yeah yeah, I'll give you a fucking refund if you're not happy. Oh wait, you didn't pay fuck-all for the snark? Alrighty, then!

    - Badtux the Rude Penguin

  9. Karen, I suspect the ability to see your last sentence is what keeps one from becoming a lizard person. None of my right-wing friends has ever gotten anything through luck or connections. They all got everything through merit.

    Me, I can point to half a dozen critical points where I cashed in a "white male" chip. Never happens to Republicans, though.

  10. Your messing up the enforced cheer, which is an American virtue.

    God simply doesn't favor those people, dontcha know?

  11. “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”
    -Barry Switzer

  12. I just have to say to Shtove - read the fucking OMB report, ass hole. The data and the analysis are all over the god-damned web.

    You can start here.

    JzB the even ruder trombonist


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