The shame of First World poverty

Watching the video "Cardboard Stories: Homeless in Orlando" (see below) made me think about those who assume: "The poor have only themselves to blame; they don't deserve help from the State."

I think these people are cloaking their callousness with a kind of "fiscal pragmatism": one that successfully ignores the fact that we are talking about real people - not some numbers on a statistical chart; one that is based on appallingly misconceived, bigoted and ignorant generalisations about the causes of poverty.

In the US you can see exactly what such a simplistic mindset produces: a poverty where even those who have jobs can be homeless; where some people are forced to give up their kids in order to save them.

And it seems that we in Australia are hell-bent on heading in the same direction.  We can see this with our own "work for the dole" expansion, Medicare co-payments, cuts to social services, harsher qualifying criteria etc.

It's the school of "Bugger the rest of you, I'm all right thanks Jack."

Those who defend this trend try to do so with sophist argument: one that depends on an underlying philosophy of punishment - an apportionment of blame and a grim analysis of "just deserts".  This argument also relies heavily on an unspoken - indeed subconscious - thought: "It would never happen to me."

The argument  is eternally justified by pragmatism along the lines of: "We want to help these people - but we don't want to teach them to be dependent on the State."  It ignores the fact that some people in society will always need help. And these people aren't "expendable" in some ideologically-driven "war on bludgers".

And of course, such an argument is never about "helping people".  It is instead about "deterring the poor".  It's as if we can "punish people out of poverty".

Yeah - like that's ever worked.

And paraphrasing the First Dog on the Moon, having the occasional bludger taking advantage of a social welfare system is a small price to pay for a society that protects its poor.

Then there's the hypocritical assistance of corporations and the ultra-rich - through tax breaks, loopholes and handouts...  Not to mention the ludicrous spending on the machinery of war.

Well we in the first world can afford to make First World poverty history.  And, if we are true to our morals, we can't afford the alternative.  A failure to rise to this challenge not only hurts people who are poor; it devalues us all.

It shames us.



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