Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What Is to Be Done?

The new pope likes poor people.  I'm glad.  I just hope he's able to see them as individuals.

I think a lot of people tend to see the poor as a herd.  What happens when that happens?

Let's say we're out in the middle of America, in the middle of the nineteenth century.  There are all these buffalo (bison actually).  Wolf packs always knew what to do with the buffalo -- eat them if you can catch them.  The railroads came along and didn't like the buffalo standing on their tracks.  So they had a chat with the buffalo hunters.

Extermination is no longer considered politically correct when the victim is defenseless.  Exploitation, however, remains a gray area.  And, boy, do we exploit the herd of the poor.

That's not usually what you hear about the poor, of course.  Exploited masses, my goodness, that sounds like Karl Marx (and we know he's bad).  No, we demonize them.  I don't think the language about "the criminal classes" is still current, but we don't need to go beyond Johnny Cash's song "Welfare Cadillac" to get an idea of the way many people see the poor.

It would help if we could see the poor as individuals -- fallible, certainly; grasping, every once in a while; vicious, yes, there are a few; trying to navigate through a difficult life, perhaps to know love and find some happiness, yes, there are many.  I think I could walk into a bank on Wall Street and see the same picture (plus money).

The poor are not The Other.  They're people.  They're individuals.  We need to see them. 

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