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Judging Others

Recently in a conversation I had, I was trying to remember where I saw the conversation below. It came to my attention on Pinterest again and so I thought I’d share it. It makes through anecdotes a general point that I think ought to be obvious: when you judge people for being poor and yet having some things that you take for granted, instead of judging the system that you participate in for leaving people poor, and instead of judging yourself for not having been the one to share with those in need such things that might be of use to them, the problem is you, and not them.

  • James Walker

    I die a little inside every time I read one of these. how anyone in our society can justify the meanness I see in their comments (those who yell, scream and jump up and down because someone on public assistance has something nice)… it just sickens me.

  • Michael Wilson

    I suppose I’m now the poster child for this. I have lots of nice things and I’m on Medicaid and I think I’ll work on some food stamps soon. Pride is a sin, I take what people are giving. Now, I have had sympathies with the statement this blog is discussing. It is disheartening to go to work, not qualify for assistance because of your income or lack of children and see people enjoying the same standard of living as you but with the freedom to be a loutish as they like because they don’t have to show up for work anywhere. At the end of the day government’s bread and circuses is relatively cheap, and really you don’t want to switch places with the yo-yo’s that make a living off public assistance, their day in the sun is brief, it always ends poorly. I can’t say its my dream to live on this till I die, I’m ambitious enough to want to pay taxes again. On the other hand beggars can’t be choosers and if the government decides that benefits should only go to those that truly need them I don’t think I would have a right to complain.

  • Caleb G

    I question whether those who make such comments really understand how difficult it is to receive Welfare/public benefits. I work with refugees in Kentucky, and welfare practically doesn’t exist here. The only cash assistance available for a family with minor children requires completing 35hrs/wk of community service. A family of 3 would only receive $262/month in cash assistance. That is not even enough to rent a 1-bedroom apartment. I would like all those who make such comments to imagine trying to get by on that amount of money every month. Also, do such people not realize that finding a job requires you to have a phone?

    • Michael Wilson

      I just moved to ky so I havent had a chance to look to far into the welfare situation here. In Tn however, if you qualified for cash assistance you would also qualify for subdidised housing. If your dishonest that can be good deal. I knew a friend who’s girlfriend lived in subsidised housing with her kids, so her bills were like $20. The food was provided by foodstamps and he lived there off the record. So all his income, meagre as it was, was all cream. He could put it to a car note or as was the case, recreational drugs. Now his life wasn’t fabulous but I can understand how someone might resent paying money each month to subsidize someones drug habit.

      BTW, their are phones cheaper than iphones.

      • Caleb G

        Sure if you have someone who can help you out. But about those that have no family or friends to help them out. Or what if your family or friends helping you out means 2 families living in a 2 bedroom apartment? It happens more than you might realize.
        Yes some of my clients obtain iPhones, but there are ways of getting them for a reasonable price (used/older models, with a contract). One also really needs access to the internet to look for work these days.

        • Michael Wilson

          I don’t agree that anyone with a iphone or Ipad shouldn’t get welfare, I’m just saying their are phones other than iphones.

          Caleb, I’m sure lots of people have legitimate problems. Lots of others don’t. Some people are upset that they are working and have the same standard of living as someone that doesn’t. That happens a lot at the margin, where I have been for a while. There are a lot if people barely surviving in the world, I’m not sure it’s fair to instead send more wealth to America’s overweight “poor” who have access to a lifestyle people in Latin America and Africa can only dream of.

          • Michael Wilson

            The writer of the phrase may not think that everyone with an iphone or ipad should be cut off either, since they only say afford one. Im not sure if people that can afford these thing qualify for welfare anyhow. I don’t think their is a lot of thought behind it. But some people do manage to better on assistance than intended, and that bugs some people.

          • 1captainhooker1

            For what it’s worth, generally it’s only the new iPhone that’s expensive. You can get a used older model off craigslist or close to free if you sign a service plan.

            • Michael Wilson

              And you can get houses for a penny in Detroit. We may be getting bogged down in semantics here.

              More to the heart of the issue is what makes a person poor? Is it accurate to say someone with plasma screen tv, refrigirator, microwave, and so forth is really poor when people around the world don’t have running water and electricity? Is it the right of every American to have these appliances while the people who make them in China must be content with dreams? I don’t mind welfare recipients having having these luxuries, we are a rich nation. I’m glad our poor suffer more from eating to much than to little.

              But I don’t like the attitude that we don’t take care of our poor because we don’t give away midfle class life styes, or that some nefarious secret system locks them in poverty. Its myopic and ignores our poor in relation to the rest of the world. It also ignores the root causes of poverty. Their is no plot on the part of the rich to keep people unemployed and poor. The systems that keep people poor, apart from illness, which is hardly a system, are a rejection of middle class values. Thats why so many immigrants do well in America over the poor that were raised here. Their socities don’t gave a safety net for those thst fall, so they have to work hard to survive, not that immigrants are somehow underhanded. Our poor are hooked on instant gratification. They don’t have sufficient structures of community and trust among each other because so many think that its ok to stael and cheat for a brief advantage.

              To lift Americans in generational poverty up, they are going to have to teach their children it is important to be educated, and lead by example by respecting education rather than dismissing it as unmanly or irrelevant. They have to respect work more than money so the heros wont be the criminals but the people working the jobs the demean. They have to treat others with respect and so on. Its hard to be diciplined in poor neighbourhoods when the loud and aggressive rule, and the help we have to offer is much more than an extra $50 a month in food stamps. Their is a limit to what throwing money at a problem can do. It takes personal commitment to engage those who dont know how to get where we are, not fantasys of revenge on the rich.

              • James Walker

                I’m glad our poor suffer more from eating to much than to little.

                they don’t, actually. our poor who are overweight typically are due to inadequate diet and improper nutrition. we have the unusual (and government subsidized) circumstance where processed, packaged foods are cheaper and more readily available than raw, unprocessed foods. not to mention, the means of converting raw, unprocessed foods into meals is often beyond what a family in poverty can manage.

                The systems that keep people poor, apart from illness, which is hardly a system, are a rejection of middle class values.

                I’m hard pressed to see how you draw this relationship. if jobs that pay above the federal poverty level are being sent offshore, how are middle class values supposed to help lift people out of poverty?

                so many think that its ok to stael and cheat for a brief advantage.

                recent studies suggest the opposite is true, that the poor are less likely and the wealthy are more likely to use dishonest, unethical tactics.

                regarding your final paragraph, I’m just shaking my head. this reads like a “Fox News” version of what’s wrong with those who live in urban ghettos. I don’t believe anyone who has actually worked with inner city poor would support the assertion they make “heroes” of criminals or that the “loud and aggressive” somehow rule. there are, indeed, cultural differences between folks who live in the cities vs. rural areas. we should not focus on those cultural differences as somehow being the source of poverty.

                • Michael Wilson

                  Inadequate diet? I’ll admit their diet is unhealthy, but do you expect people to believe they aren’t getting enough calories? seriously, when they were showing pictures of people starving in Africa were they all obese? back when poor people lived off of beans and rice, did we say that their was an epidemic of obesity and diabetes among the poor during the depression? When you see images of slums in Africa and India, do you see a lot of obese people? The absurdity of this argument that every so-called advocate for the poor trots out shows just what lengths they are willing to go to sacrifice the wellbeing of the poor for their own ego.

                  middle class people get middle class jobs because of their values, they don’t get the values from their jobs. All full time jobs pay above the federal poverty level, and even holding a part time to makes one less likely to be poor. Only 2% of full time workers and 15%of part time workers are poor compared with 25% of people with no job. Also helpful is staying in school and not having children before your married. middle class values that the poor often reject because it isn’t fun. Panderers only make this problem worse by telling dropouts, “hey what could you do, its the systems fault.”

                  regarding honesty, its odd how most of the petty theft and muggings happen around poor neighborhoods. Must be all the wealthy people, which by your reasoning must be everyone that isn’t poor coming from the suburbs and gated communities to commit their crimes among the honest non-criminal poor. A ludicrous idea. The criminality that the poor visit disproportionately on other poor people perpetuates the poverty and despair. It isn’t the Romney’s of the world that are throwing garbage in the streets or stealing someone’s meager possessions. Its other poor people. Really, people are going to have to be more imaginative and get over their silly robin hood fantasies if we are going to help people escape poverty and simply make them dependent on the crumbs society sees fit to toss out.

                  And what is with this “Fox News” version? is that an argument? I think you have a silly MSNBC view of what’s wrong. I don’t work in the inner city, my money isn’t dependent on their be a supply of poor people. I live their. I have lived next crack dealers and I have known poor people of every stripe. My mother and aunts and cousins have been/are dependent on government assistance. I live in neighbor hood that is under the process of an urban renewal that has brought in middle class families and business but is still predominantly poor. My neighbors are poor, I shop at a store the locals call, “Kroghetto.” I have used my fair share of assitance programs my self. I’m not a rich do-gooder tourist to poverty, I live there and I know my neighbors, not just when their begging you for assistance but as they live their daily lives.

                  • James Walker

                    inadequate diet. yes. a diet that provides calories nearly devoid of any other nutritional factors is inadequate.

                    what, exactly, is a middle-class job? and how is one to obtain such a job in the current economy when there are many more unemployed than there are positions to fill? the US economy is (supposedly) recovering from 2008 but we still hear of highly skilled people who’ve been unable to obtain employment in their area of expertise for multiple years and there is a bias in our hiring practices against people who have any gaps at all in their work history. so, what happened to the “middle class values” of those people? did they just evaporate because they became poor? this is hardly a problem of poor people in general having some perceived lack of cultural values. it’s a problem of there not being enough jobs available for everyone who would like to work and what jobs ARE available simply not paying enough to help lift the working poor out of poverty.

                    I never suggested that crime in poverty-stricken areas of cities was due to wealthy people going there on a lark to behave badly. I’m suggesting, based on scholarly research on the matter, that crime in poverty-stricken areas is not the result of some sort of class-wide motive toward criminality among the poor. criminal behavior has more devastating impact in the slums and ghettos, and there is less police protection, but there is not “something in the water” that makes poor people more likely to commit crimes.

                    ETA: oh, and I never suggested the answer was to throw money at the problem, either. I’m just trying to poke some holes in what appear to be some preconceived notions you have about the poor.

                  • James Walker

                    I made the Fox News remark because there is very little difference between what you’ve generalized about poor people and what Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity (both prominent Fox News program hosts) have to say on the subject. I’m not going to pretend that you’ve formed your opinion based on their broadcasts because I simply don’t know your personal history (aside from what you’ve claimed here, which is unverifiable but I’m willing to take at face value).

                  • James Walker

                    Detroit used to be the epicenter of American industrialism. There used to be lots of decent paying manufacturing jobs there and other places in what’s known now as the “Rust Belt” that contributed to the automobile industry. Those jobs are no longer there and unless something happens to shift the economic policies of our country, they’re not coming back. And I’m not talking about stimulus plans or other government give-aways. I’m talking about smart tax policies that encourage businesses to locate jobs in the US instead of overseas.

                    Detroit isn’t full of poor people because the people don’t want jobs. Detroit is full of poor people because the kinds of jobs that provided the linchpin of the local economy evaporated.

                    • Michael Wilson

                      My ideas aren’t preconceived, they’re based on my life experience. If you don’t want to believe me, fine I don’t have the time to prove my life story to you. I’m just saying, as someone from a poor family who lives in poor communities, your characterizations of poverty strikes me as absurd.

                      I know that poor people have shitty diets, but more money wont fix that. Their in that situation because they have the money to buy the shitty food. everyone thinks that the poor need more food stamps, they don’t. they need to find something to give their life meaning beyond the immediate pleasure sweet fatty foods provide. When poor people received virtually no assistance their diet was better because they ate low fat low sugar food. when your poor, and you don’t have self respect, you can get escape from junk food. Immigrants don’t have the same feeling of self hate from being poor, so they don’t need the escape of junk food. they eat their native, healthy diet.

                      On crime, so do you think that living in a poor neighborhood, your more likely to be victimized by crime and that the perpetrator is more likely to be poor, vs middle class or above? Do you think that the middle class are less ethical than the poor? When you see poor Asian immigrants succeeding in America, do you think it is because they are less honest than native poor families

                      Detroit is in this trouble because of unions and a robin hood mentality among its leaders. Those good jobs have moved to Tennessee where they benefit the poor there. And to escape poverty, you don’t need to get a $20 an hour job, you just need to get any minimum wage job and treat it with respect. To many of the poor think that it is beneath their dignity to work for minimum wage and do their best and so called advocates for the poor encourage this self destructive attitude.

                    • James Walker

                      my family lost everything when I was 18 and but for the timely help of someone who had a vacation cabin on the lake he wasn’t using that winter, would have been homeless in Southwest Missouri. my brother and I were lucky enough to have good teachers and get opportunities for college that other people in our economic circumstances didn’t get. even that wasn’t enough, though, to keep me from being “working poor” for a long time. it took years and years for me to overcome some bad behaviors with regard to money and worse behaviors in the work place that kept me from having any “permanent” employment.

                      so, you know, don’t imagine that I’m uninformed or that my viewpoint is coming from some “ivory tower” place.

                      ETA: “cabin” is a kind description. it was one step above a shanty. we only had a wood burning fireplace for heat and would have done without any meat the entire winter if another friend from church hadn’t accidentally shot a doe out of season and given it to us.

                    • Michael Wilson

                      Thanks for the background. There isn’t a need to compare poverty resumes, but I think you should disabuse your self of the idea that everyone who is critical of the poor must be some wealthy elite who watches Fox news. A lot of people who grew up poor or know poor people think the same , and there not all racist or uncle Toms or to selfish to want to give someone else the breaks they must have gotten to get ahead. If your raised by poor parents, or a poor parent as is so often the case, it will not be easy to escape, because whatever hope your parent/s have for you will be counterbalanced by their example and the crooks who seem to have access to the sort of things you would have to work at a chump change job for. the temptation to take the easy route beats a lot, if not most.

                    • James Walker

                      there are structural things that are wrong with our economy, that make it much easier for people who are wealthy to stay that way and make it that much harder for people who are poor but want to improve their lot to make it happen.

                      I’m not big on welfare programs as a solution. They’re temporary at best and have the in-built danger of creating dependency. I am big on fixing those “big picture” things like how money costs a lot more for poor people than it does the wealthy and how jobs that used to be viewed as middle class work have been moved offshore because businesses exist to make a profit (duh) and it simply cost less to move the jobs than to try and cope with rising employment costs here. (I do get that)

                      I believe poverty can best be addressed by increasing opportunity, by doing concrete things to bring manufacturing jobs back here, by doing things to restore a sense of order in our cities, by doing things to repair and improve our public roads and other infrastructure. If there are good paying jobs out there, and real opportunities for folks to advance themselves and their families and then we STILL see the kinds of problems we see now with generational poverty, then we can talk about what’s going on in the culture.

                    • Michael Wilson

                      The solution to dependency is to be miserly. We are a rich society and we can afford to allow even fuck up to eat for free. But I don’t see the urgency to increase more funds toward relieving poverty. When Clinton made his big reforms of assitance program, we weren’t hit with a wave of starvation and crime, so I dont see a point in returning to the way programs were before Clinton gutted them. We should try new ways to reach the poor, and your right, the best way to fight poverty is a good economy that creates jobs. Ultimately it falls on each person to go the extra mile and treat poor strangers asthough they were are own kin and not a faceless mass of Ayn Rand’s moochers and looters. If a socities citizens arent willing to personally be involved to help the poor around them, I doubt they will be able to pay people to do it for them.

        • http://abipwu.blogspot.com Melissia

          Exactly… as if that “go back to your family for money” really helps the gay and lesbian children who are kicked out of their homes and left homeless at a vastly disproportionate rate compared to heteronormative people of all ages…

          For many people I’ve known, family has outright rejected them, and would sooner drive the child/young adult to suicide than to accept them again.

    • http://www.holdingontothemagic.com Niki

      I’m not eligible for unemployment because I technically have a job teaching. Never mind that it’s an adjunct position, and I get no classes this summer, and I’m only teaching one class in the fall (and not until October). Because it’s in education and I have “reasonable assurance,” I don’t qualify. And quitting is not an option–that also would disqualify me. I get that there are people who’ve figured out how to work the system, but most people do not, and many who do need help cannot get it. I’m filling out dozens of applications per week, taking on any freelance work I can get. I’ve been hoping to make a career change into publishing or library work, since teaching wasn’t ever something I wanted to do but did somewhat enjoy while doing it, but so far, no bites, and I’m planning to start applying for server jobs beginning next week if none of the interviews I had two weeks ago pan out.

      It’s so easy for people to judge, thinking that they know what someone is experiencing (and that they therefore must be lazy), but life is so much more complicated that what we see on the surface of each others’ lives. Yes, there are days I don’t fill out applications–I throw in the towel for a day or two because I’m emotionally exhausted and feel completely useless–not a hard thing to feel, considering I’ve had a headache every day for the past three years, and at least one migraine per week. My towel-throwing doesn’t last, and I start applying. But if you (general you, not specifically you) saw me on one of my off days, you could think that I must be too lazy to work. Yeah, I have a good computer. I have to–my classes I do teach are largely computer-based, and I get all my freelance work via the internet.

      Sorry for the rant–I’m just in a “place” right now, so this topic hits too close to home.

      Thank you for your perspective, Caleb. :)

      • barrieabalard1

        Someone very close to my heart is adjuncting even though she has an Ivy League Ph.D. It was her bad luck to graduate when she did. Five years earlier, she’d probably have landed a tenure track position. Niki, it’s a cliche, but I do feel your pain. I pray it will get better for you (and for the many other people unemployed because of the folks who ruined the economy).

        • http://www.holdingontothemagic.com Niki

          Thank you. I just found out that yet another job I thought would be “the one” has gone to someone else, so the low feeling is particularly strong right now. I appreciate your kind words and prayer. I’m scared to death I might have to foreclose on my house, especially since I’ve always had excellent credit. It’s really beginning to drive me crazy.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    granted, instead of judging the system that you participate in for leaving people poor, and instead

    -Can you remove the commas in this quote? I had to read the sentence three times to understand it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      If I remove the commas, I have trouble understanding it…

  • Proudscalawag

    What a filthy, selfish, MEAN lot most of us Americans are!! So many of us deserve what Sodom and Gomorrah got (and it’s worth remembering that their sin, named only in Ezekiel, was being ‘arrogant, overfed and unconcerned for the poor and needy’!).We’re luckier than we deserve inasmuch as we still have a few million (as opposed to the ten which would’ve spared Sodom) people who know what’s right and try to live it out!

  • Worthless Beast

    One thing that a-holes seem to forget, too, is that something like a new computer, an IPad / phone, whatever might be an INVESTMENT. As in, “Maybe the poor neighbor got a new job that requires him to have the best equipment” or “Maybe this family has gotten this as a start to a possible home-business /work at home situation.”

    I am on Disability. My partner works retail but has had some long periods of unemployment. We have a lot of computer resources because *he knows how to take apart and rebuild things* and he gets stuff on the cheap from eBay (and the occasional dumpster). He also got me a Kindle a couple of years ago as a Christmas present as a start to “figuring out how these things work” before self-publishing novels we’ve each done. (I have my first experiment up, to no real fanfare yet, he’s been too busy of late to get his properly edited). I mean… regardless of success or failure, *we do things* and for that, some of what people may consider “things too nice for us” because we know how to scavenge and when something is going to be an investment-bidding-for-a-better life.

    Rich farts who talk about they got where they were via their own enterprising nature ought to allow us poors to enterprise, so as not to make themselves hypocrites.

    I actually have some experience in this: Our ex-landlady (when she was evicting us from a rental home) was upset that we had “steak” in our freezer instead of “eating hot dogs.” I bitterly laugh over it to this day because, obviously, Mrs. Ninnybottoms doesn’t know how to friggin’ SHOP. The “steak” we had at the time? Tough crap we got from the local grocery store that frequently had cheap meat on sale for “buy five things at a fraction of individual cost” deals. We’d take advantage of those deals and freezer-horde so we could have food over the next month. We still do that. Some “steak” winds up being as cheap as hot dogs, if you shop right, while being more nutritional (and more tasty, if you know how to slow cook).

  • TheBrett

    The people who get after the poor for having smartphones probably don’t realize or care that you pretty much have to have a phone to be a full participant in society these days, and said poor people might not have reliable internet access or a PC at home. If I didn’t have a PC or home internet access worth a damn, my smartphone would be a godsend.

    But more generally, no to them. Just because your poor doesn’t mean you deserve to live in non-stop misery, or to never any nice things.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Can you please edit your comment to remove the unnecessary profanity? You make a really important point, and it doesn’t require that language. I am trying hard to keep the level of discourse here high, and open to people of all ages. Thank you in advance.

      • TheBrett

        I fixed that for you. Thank you for asking politely.

  • http://abipwu.blogspot.com Melissia

    Many poor people use their smartphones to keep track of work times. With scheduling often being updated, at most, three days in advance, they kind of NEED one in order to function at their job!

  • Tim

    Ouch. What the hell is wrong with us?


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