I was reading a post from friend and fellow blogger Mustang at Social Sense yesterday that got me thinking about the sense of entitlement in the US today, how we got here, and if this is the new norm.
After starting to write this I realized it quickly became too long for one post. This is a mix of Mustang’s post striking a nerve and me being long-winded. With full deference to Mustang and his ability to strike a nerve in me, a fair amount of it is my long-windedness. This is something my wife has accused me of more than once while reviewing my writing for me. I will therefore post this in a three part series. Please return tomorrow and the next day for the rest of it.
As most regular readers know, I am a Registered Nurse in an inner city Emergency Room. I deal with poverty a lot.
There are misconceptions about poverty. Misconception number one is that it is strictly due to laziness.
This is not entirely true. It is certainly not entirely untrue, many people are poor because they are lazy and unambitious. Some though really have had a crappy life that most of us could never fully understand.
First off is parenting. Most of us have had at least a decent life. We have had good parents (two of them, opposite sex). We were given the chance to succeed. While we have likely all had hard times, my wife and I had a helluva time while I was putting myself through college, by and large we had chances and we took them.
Even for those of you who had a rough upbringing, divorced parents, a parent with substance abuse problems, low income, most of you have not faced real poverty or truly bad parents.
I am talking about parents so bad that they actually damage their children.
Imagine spending your entire childhood being told you were a mistake, a burden, the product of a rape, your mother hates your father and so therefore hates you.
Imagine not knowing who your father is or having a new "father" every six months. Some are actually sort of likable, some beat you and your mother.
Imagine being molested and forced to perform sex acts for a drunken boyfriend or boyfriends of your mother.
Imagine raising yourself since you were five or six years old because your mother is out hooking or home and drunk.
I see all of this on a regular basis in the ER. These kids are so F'ed up by the time they get to their late teens it's no wonder they cannot be productive members of society.
Finally, it happens a lot more than what most people think.
So, these kids become adults. They no longer have even the meager support their parents provided them. Were do they go from there?
Most of us also don't understand true poverty. Few us haven't had some time in our life where we were completely broke. Maybe a time when you did not know how you were going to pay the mortgage. Or a time when you had trouble feeding your kids for a week or two. You did it but it wasn't easy.
My wife and I have some rough stretches, I know what it is like.
With that said, most of us don't know true poverty. Most of us have not had to decide between having a place to live and feeding our kids. Then our house is broken into and the money we had set aside for groceries this week was stolen.
The staff of the ER I work in had to go to a poverty simulation a while back. There was a lot of it I did not agree with and it was clearly designed to produce sympathy for poverty but I actually did learn some things from it.
Basically the outline of it was a month in poverty with four fifteen minute "weeks" in which we had a fixed income, bills to pay with this income, and unexpected events. It was clearly rigged so that you could not win. It was designed quite well though.
The unexpected events were tough and did give an idea of how simple things like your car breaking down can have a profound effect on your life if you have no money.
In summation, there is real poverty in the US and it is not always self inflicted.
So, what do we do about it? This is the question that goes to the heart of the divide between the conservative and liberal ideologies.
Conservatives take the tack that the poor should be empowered to help themselves out of poverty. This is America, the land of equal opportunity.
To conservatives, poverty is not a disease but a symptom of an ailment that needs to be cured.
We are not mean-spirited and want to let people starve. I, for one, am not against public assistance. I think there are times when people need a helping hand. I just feel like it should not be a career option.
We are, proportionally, more generous in giving to charity than our liberal counterparts. We feel that charitable organizations are a good means for temporary help to the poor.
We have expectations. We expect people to take advantage of the assistance given them to not only survive but strive to better themselves so they can eventually become a productive member of society. They can then give back to society what they have been given.
Liberals believe that poverty is not a symptom but a disease. They do not want to cure it but instead treat it, for a lifetime.
They are not interested in a hand-up but a hand-out.
Proportionally they are less giving to charity, believing instead that any extra wealth a person has should be given to the government for the government to then dole out to the poor.
There are no expectations that one rise above poverty. To them, public assistance is a legitimate career choice. They will not say this but support it instead through tolerance of it.
This is all simple review and I certainly do not mean to insult the reader’s intelligence with it. I use it only a means to explain how we got to the sense of entitlement society we find ourselves in now.
Tomorrow, the road to entitlement