Saturday, July 08, 2006

5 Links -- First, I think squirrels are adorable, and I love watching them. Second, there's a forum for EVERYTHING on the Net. -- Like free Asian-style grindfest massively multiplayer online games? Here's a couple in one place. -- Random generators for just about everything, from names to plot lines. -- MMORPG *IN DEVELOPMENT* about Africa. No orcs. No elves. -- Odd little virtual community thing. I actually pretty much... well... *hated* all 15 minutes I wasted on it, but it must be up SOMEONE'S alley.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Oh, please, don't let me make you think!

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.
Herman Melville (1819 - 1891)

Here's a story for you:
A customer came into the store where my husband works and was talking about kids and asked my husband if he understood, and my husband said, yes, that he has 6 kids. The man in question then asked my husband how he could feed all those kids working there, and my husband admitted to getting some help from food stamps. The guy made a comment about not having kids you can't feed, and my husband explained that he used to make $60,000 a year and lost that job to corporate layoffs and hasn't been able to find steady work in that field since. This fellow he was talking to told my husband he'd have to do something about having so many kids, and my husband replied, "I've already had a vasectomy. What else do you want me to do?" to which this man responded, "I don't know!" and stormed out of the store mad. As the guy pulled out of the parking lot, my husband noted that he had a "If you can't feed them, don't breed them" bumper sticker on his truck.

At first, when my husband told me this story, I was very upset. I feel like we're in a bad situation, working our butts off to find our way out of it, and getting kicked ever step along the way. I felt like this stranger was attacking us, and he didn't know ANYTHING about us. He only had his assumptions. I am ashamed of our situation. I am trying to make it better. My husband is trying to make it better.

I realized, at some point, that this poor fellow probably left mad because he would otherwise have been forced to actually THINK through his ideas a little bit. It's easy to make blanket generalizations and then to propose generalized solutions for them. Dealing with reality is a little harder than figuring out what to do with a simplified, generalized theory of reality.

I realize that many people think "the poor" are stupid, lazy, uneducated people who just want to take advantage of society and not give anything back. Many people who are stuck in poverty are the hardest working people there are-- they are mowing your lawn, they are refilling your coffee, they are sweeping your floor and pressing your suit. Some of them are leaving that first job to go on to a second one. The reality is that poverty is a stage that a lot of people pass through, sometimes when they least expect it. When my husband lost his job, we got by without any assistance on our savings, for about 2 years, until we'd depleted that too. My husband was sure he'd find another job in IT right away. It didn't work out that way. He's going to college to get a degree, and, yes, in the meantime, he's working in a crappy furniture store.

It's easy to talk about "the poor" in generalized terms. It's a lot harder to talk about them as thinking, breathing, working, feeling, loving, struggling human beings. It's easy to simplify the situation, and then come up with slogans for your simple solution. It's hard to take your blinders off and see what's really there.

There is always a well-known solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong.
H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956), Prejudices: Second Series, 1920