The poor you will always have with you


When we were kids, we learned that there was an easy touchdown to justify any action. That touchdown was “for the poor.”

If you get caught lying, cheating or stealing, just make a donation to the local soup kitchen. If you wanted funding for your project, claim it helps end poverty. To get elected, declare a war on poverty. To get in the newspaper, donate your allowance to the poor.

It is like a catch-phrase in our society, an equivalent to religion. The poor. Who are “the poor”? No one knows. They are like sacred objects kept in a sanctuary so that we may feed them and by paying, thus purge our sins.

For most of my young adult life, I operated like a marionette under this assumption. If something was for the poor, it was automatically 100% good and thus needed supporting. If I got lost in an idea, all I had to do was bring it back to benefits for the poor. It won debates, essay contests, friends and the interests of “women” (really: girls pretending to be women, at that point).

As I went through the Satan-falling-from-heaven mental apocalypse of realizing the depth of lies on which the social assumptions underlying our failing society are based, I was able to open my eyes and see that poverty, instead of being an exceptional condition which afflicts some, is a perpetual condition which affects those who act a certain way.

A new soup kitchen opened up down the street from the office. At first, a few dozen; later, hundreds. We’d catch them injecting, smoking and drinking intoxicants in the parking lots and alleys. I asked the question of an innocent child: if they’re poor, how do they afford drugs, alcohol and cigarettes?

No one seemed to be able to answer. The hundreds grew even more numerous. Soon other services cropped up, including a government office to help them fill out benefits applications. A job bank appeared, but was less successful. And yet, I was told to believe that these people were afflicted by poverty like a disease or unexpected hurricane.

It was at that point that I realized the value of the poor. They are not valuable to themselves; in fact, they’re barely able to make sensible decisions (tonight on Poverty Choices, “Heroin or Housing?”). What they are is useful to the wealthy and those who want to become wealthy through government.

Suppose I want a half-million per year job. I can set up a non-profit whose aim is simple, say, to educate the poor in condom use. It will get grants in the millions from government and corporations who got caught lying, cheating and stealing. The best part is that by failing, I succeed. If there are more impoverished homeless people with AIDS after the program than before, I haven’t failed… I’ve just showed how great the need is. It’s not that my approach is futile, but that I’m battling poverty!

I learned to be careful with these observations (not opinions). The worst were women, who sensed a faux pas and immediately used it as a chance to climb socially. “Don’t listen to Brett, he’s a Neanderthal,” they’d say. “By the way, I’m volunteering at ‘Condoms for The Mentally Challenged Homeless’ this summer. Know anyone who needs an art history major?”

Equally bad were those of a species of man which I’ve come to recognize but not name. These men are experts in having sex. I’m not sure they even procreate, but they have lots of sex. They do it through flattery and being clean, inoffensive and flattering to women. They play into the narcissism of many women which convinces them that they are the center of the world. Such a man treats a woman like that, until he has what he wanted. Then he makes excuses.

It was only later that I heard the phrase “The poor you will always have with you.” Was that from Faulkner? I asked. No, the Bible, they said. I shrugged: even if you don’t “believe,” the Bible is a compilation of ancient wisdom. And nothing has changed about poverty since the early days of humanity.

Our conceit that poverty is an affliction is an example of rationalistic thinking. We see it as an exception to what we desire personally, thus assume that’s the case for everyone. In fact, poverty is something those who are not impoverished cannot understand. I don’t attempt to. I instead simply observe it, instead of rationalizing and deconstructing like they taught us to in college.

First, the quotation is true. Poverty has always been with us. In every civilization on earth. Regardless of type of government. It does occur in different ratios… some civilizations are mostly poor. In fact, most are. Which leads me to the next point: poverty is not an exception to the rule, it is the rule. It is the default state of humankind. If you do not create something, you have nothing.

Second, poverty is a mindset. “Poor people have poor ways,” they said in Texas back in a time when Hollywood sneered at such things on the big screen. And yet it’s true. Heroin or housing. The poor dish out money on cigarettes, booze, drugs, hookers, lottery tickets and festivals. They don’t spent it on home improvement, self-organization or skills.

Or do they? Some escape; they were meant to, obviously. Most don’t. But there’s aid for them, which encourages them not to escape. It helps the rich to see the poor. It makes the rich feel richer, and the not-quite-rich feel rich. Even more, it’s a great way to distract when you get caught lying, cheating and stealing. Give the poor some donuts. It’s not “let them eat cake,” it’s different, somehow. We’re sure of it.

Third and finally, poverty is its own cause. Capitalism doesn’t cause poverty, nor do the rich. Poverty is caused by the choices of the poor. It existed before capitalism and the rich. Poverty is in fact not caused by anything. It is the state of absence of a plan for having wealth or subsistence.

The “War on Poverty” of liberal democratic government fame is a giant smokescreen. Poverty cannot be ended. We will always have it with us. What we can do is give opportunity to those who are willing to abstain from short-term pleasures (drugs, sex, booze, cigarettes, lottery) and plan/work for the future instead. And that is where the biggest concealment is occurring.

In a saner society, we would realize that poverty can be addressed by offering opportunity. It cannot be cured nor can we lift all or most out of poverty. They are impoverished because their personalities and minds are not ready for anything more.

A better option for everyone would be to have people work less and work in more different capacities. We could hire people, one per stretch out roadway, to keep the road clean. They would still be poor, but less so, and have more pride. But then we couldn’t use them for our own purposes.


  1. crow says:

    Deconstruction is the special province of the left. It is the opposite of construction.
    How easy it is to deconstruct, as opposed to construct.
    Deconstruction is another term for destruction, or demolition. When you demolish a building, all its components are still there, in a pile, but the building, itself, is not.
    So it is with reality. Deconstruct the laughable (to a leftist) idea of reality, and whatever remains is no longer reality, to the one who has deconstructed it. It is just a chaotic mish-mash of madness, that makes absolutely no sense.
    This is the state that leftists inhabit, which is why we see them as being mad, while those leftists see only their own, personal, ‘reality’, which – in every individual case – is superior to anybody else’s ‘reality’.

    It isn’t so much that the leftist has lost touch with reality, or is no longer able to identify it, as much as there simply no longer is a reality, at all, to the one who has so cleverly and comprehensively deconstructed it.

  2. Will says:

    One advantage of being of a poor family at least was that I was able to come to this conclusion much quicker. This and the previous article on the subject have been spot on. My family have been the recipients of -extremely- generous handouts, and yet rather than going toward their debts, the money would get spent on daily booze, candy, cigarettes, multiple televisions, or an additional video game console to be used once every 3 months. And when I began to object to this use of money in my teens, I would always get the response, “Oh, well you have to do something fun for yourself once in a while” but of course, that’s all they ever do.

    Soon to move out, my short term prospects look bleak, and though I could go on about any number of disadvantages, I feel no need to, as I have the calm confidence it is only inevitable I one day rise from it.

  3. samseau says:

    Although there are many poor who are poor due to their own faults, there are still others who are poor through no fault of their own.

    I see you cited the Bible for its wisdom; so let me cite some more wisdom from the Bible:

    - Give your money to the poor
    - Never judge

    You don’t know what the man is poor; for all you know you will be him someday. You assume society is constructed so that everyone can get their fair share, when in fact societies are generally setup to enrich the few at the expense of the many.

    That said, I agree that most charities are a sham, because there is no effort to track whether or not people make intelligent lifestyle decisions.

    1. Do you have specific citations for both of those assertions?

    2. crow says:

      Give money to poor? Never judge?
      That is stereotypical binary leftist ‘logic’.
      See person, judge person poor/not-poor, if poor, give money, if not-poor, harangue person to give money to poor, if person not give money to poor, label person as nazi bigot.

      If Bible say stuff like that, Bible not worth considering.

      1. basto says:

        crow, a happy coincidence with your choice of words there, since your binary logic example sounds a bit like a professor introducing the concept of if statements to a new class of computer programming students, and I just happened to come across the story linked below.

        Even San Francisco’s Frappucino®-sipping tech start-up elites crack under the pressure of reality every now and then for long enough to express their discontent with the urban junkie parasites. Of course, their sudden episodes of cathartic reality-acceptance are quickly recanted when their fellow crowdists notice and proceed to attack them for their momentary break with the gospel of equality.

        Tech CEO calls San Francisco’s homeless “trash”

  4. RingerXs says:

    “As I went through the Satan-falling-from-heaven mental apocalypse of realizing the depth of lies on which the social assumptions underlying our failing society are based,”…

    Proof you SHOULD write a book. :)

    1. Thank you for the kind words. I should, although that particular topic is as scary as any I’ve ever anticipated. “How to live with the feeling that the earth has opened up beneath you, and no one else sees it.” Light reading for weeknights, I’m sure.

  5. […] In other words, let’s look at rich and poor not as conditions imposed upon you, but as the results of your behavior. After all, just about everyone starts off poor, unless you’re Paris Hilton. Those who are able to have something in life do so by behaving in a certain manner. […]

  6. George W says:

    Some of the poor would only want to use drugs under medical supervision in a tiny apartment for the rest of their lives, though most have more energy than that of course.

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