I think you misunderstood, however. Nothing is cut and dry. Did I say it was? When I say that you own your choices, I am not promising some kind of magic future if you just get Positive Mental Attitude. This is not a Tony Robbins seminar, and I am not trying to just throw out slogans. I believe most of your reply was based on this premise, and that was not the intent of my comment at all. I am also not trying to get into a "who's the poorest" contest. There are lots of ways these conversations can go off the rails.
As an example, and to specifically counter this idea of quick-fixes, I used the scenario of the person dying from cancer in the ditch. Will proper choices make them any less dead in a day's time? I seriously doubt it, and that's completely not the point.
Any life in any situation can be celebrated and you can use your mind to make choices about your attitudes. People in concentration camps awaiting death can be cheerful. Perhaps you would stop by the ditch an lecture the dying person on the futility of it all, how you knew many people who also died this way, and how painful it was. Perhaps you would go on about the pointlessness of action, and how tens of millions are in the same place and we must do something to begin " pulling an entire base of people out of a mindset" About how few ever make it out.
I would not do this. In fact, I would go so far as to say that those who do this to someone are not their friend.
"Perhaps you would stop by the ditch an lecture the dying person on the futility of it all, how you knew many people who also died this way, and how painful it was"
I happily pay my taxes, try to vote with my conscience for those engaged in healthcare reform, and contribute freely to causes to help prevent people dying of cancer in a ditch. It's not self-righteousness or soliciting thanks from poor, sick people or anything else that drives me to do that; it's my belief that we're more than just the successes we've made in this life -- the actions we've managed to perform to get a positive result. There is community outside of the self.
Sometimes people are frozen into a rut because they've never seen what it's like at the top (except for watching those that succeed in nearly impossible scenarios, like sports athletes or heiresses-turned-celebrities), and they likely never will. So, platitudes that "there is a there there" is cold comfort for them. Working hard and still not being able to pass the "first-month rent + last-month rent + security deposit + credit/background check" gauntlet put forth for anyone wanting to break that cycle is oppressive to the psyche.
And, before anyone in this thread ever decides to veer off into blaming "degenerate cultures", I'll cut it off at the pass and say there is about a nickel's worth of difference between being poor in W. Virginia and being poor in Harlem, NYC. It's the same down, with very little upside (aside from working for the mines or for the state, respectively). Makes the sentiment "been down so long, it looks like up to me" even more resonant.
I'm not trying to argue, but I believe you don't understand.
My point was that you seem very happy with explaining the systemic reasons for problems, even being very proud of your progressive social attitudes and willingness to pay taxes, but none of that money, explanation, or enlightenment does the actual poor one bit of lasting good. They deal with despair as a primary obstacle. Explaining sociology to them and the systemic nature of poverty does not help them despair less. In fact, and this is critical, for many it may have the effect of making their lives substantially worse. There's a very fine line between explaining a complex problem that you don't currently have the solution to and telling people their life is pointless. In fact they can look and sound like the same thing to an outside observer.
I have no qualm with you -- the things you have said are most likely true -- but there is a difference in talking about a thing from an external clinical standpoint and living the thing, as you know so well.
As a sidebar, why would you even mention that you weren't angry with your parents? It seemed such an odd thing to say. Why would anyone think of being angry with their parents for something like wealth?
I'm done here. Sorry to take the thread so far down. Just sounded like we were talking past each other. Thanks again for the conversation.
"none of that money, explanation, or enlightenment does the actual poor one bit of lasting good."
Tell that to Joe the Plumber, who went from growing up on welfare to being the everyman who just wants to run his own plumbing business if it weren't for a then-Presidential candidate taking his money. Ditto Sarah Palin and Craig T. Nelson (who once famously said on the Glenn Beck show, "I've been on food stamps and welfare, did anyone help me out? No!")
I figured you were a "supply-side" kinda guy, so we'll truly never see things eye-to-eye. Fair enough.
Just know that poor people actually _do_ want to know why they're poor, as that kind of sets expectations, pacing, and gives them some wiggle room to strategize solutions to their problem. State support helps them with essentials, education helps ameliorate their thinking, and charitable causes and people give them the helping hand to see through the hardship.
"There's a very fine line between explaining a complex problem that you don't currently have the solution to and telling people their life is pointless."
That's why you give them cold facts and then real solutions based on what you and others have experienced. If you don't want to talk publicly about success, you're essentially telling them, "I'm a millionaire and so can you!" and then leaving. In other words, show don't tell.
"Why would anyone think of being angry with their parents for something like wealth?"
I would be positively _ecstatic_ if I were born into a wealthy family. It would bring no end of awesome, warm feelings. I will never know what that feeling is like, unfortunately, as they were the poorest of immigrants. I was just implying that I didn't begrudge them being poor, as I still had a decent childhood, even in the ghetto.
Yeah I think there is a deep infection here, but it has nothing to do with poverty. It begins with the idea that if you take social assistance then social assistance must be a good thing. Or that somehow you must support it. As you are demonstrating by your words, this isn't any good at all. For Joe, Sarah, you, or anybody else. This same logic holds that if you don't send your kids into the military, you can't support a war. One supposes that everybody must volunteer at the local fire station or go without emergency support, or that those who took a pencil in second grade must somehow support armed robbery as a way of life. Give a man a fish, and he must support government sanctioned fish distribution for his entire life. It's the one-size-fits-all, if-you-were-touched-by-it-you-must-endorse-it thinking. Not good. Not good for anybody. Let's move past such rhetorical nonsense.
Here's the thing: it's one thing to explain something that you understand and know how to fix. It's quite another to simply cite statistics and general correlations. There are a lot of folks who think that positive mental attitude can lift you out of poverty -- I am one of them. And there are folks that think it is mostly luck. (I also think luck has quite a bit to do with it as well) But I can guarantee you that anybody who thinks that life is pointless will never make it. I also observe that after trillions spent on LBJ's War on Poverty (one hopes it did not involve shooting poor people) we are no further along than when we started. So for all the bluster, we do not have the answer. We have a lot of complex ideas and theories, but we have no answer.
We do not know how to lift people out of poverty. We DO know that hopelessness and despair will prevent folks from succeeding. You can either sit around and dress up correlation as "giving them cold facts" or you can help with attitudes. That's just what every poor person with a poor education needs -- some rich college guy with a $50 vocabulary going on and on about how the system is against them and how they'll never make it.
When I was poor, I knew people like this. Oddly enough, many of them were college educated. It was always pointless, the system was always corrupt, the rich guys always got richer and the poor guys always got the shaft. It's mental disease masquerading as wisdom. Guys who felt that way are either still there, dead, or in prison. You can be in a hopeless situation and still have joy and hope. Unless you listen to some people.
Like I said, you sound more part of the problem than the solution.