A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
It’s time to put on your big boots, folks. As the riots in Britain die down, everybody and his friend is busy telling us what really caused them. An awful lot of equine feces is being tossed about; you don’t want to step in any of it. Even as I write this, journalists and politicos are rounding up the usual suspects and sentencing them — without trial. Apparently, society was the big ring leader… again — and its lieutenants, poverty, unemployment and government cutbacks were also in on it. Young people were the innocent victims … again, pushed to the breaking point of violence by their disadvantages, the police and some guy in Earl’s Court with a steady job. It’s all quite simple. Community organizers and activists have been telling us for years we need to give these people more money or something like this was bound to happen. It’s kinda like paying Tony Soprano so his boys don’t come around after dark and burn down your store. Extortion is such a hard word, so let’s just call it investing in the future.
For the last fifty years or so, society has been investing in the future under the quaint idea that disadvantaged people are somehow different from the rest of us. Contemporary mythology has it that poverty and unemployment are social ills caused by cold-blooded governments and the rank abuses of our money market society. Anybody unfortunate enough to get trapped by this double whammy suddenly becomes helpless and stupid. The popular assumption is that, without a battalion of social workers, organizers, services and institutions to direct their every move, the underprivileged have no hope of changing their circumstances. Faced with our uncaring 21st century, even the most stalwart Horatio Alger character quivers in his shoes, drops out of school and turns to a life of indolence and maybe even drugs. Society (that’s us, folks) is responsible for these unspecified crimes against the underprivileged and must, therefore, fork over great gobs of money — which for the last fifty years at least, has never been enough. So goes the prevailing wisdom of our time, perpetrated by a crowd of social commentators who wouldn’t know poverty if it bit them on the bum.
Here’s the real deal. Poverty is relentless. No visiting newscast or YouTube sound byte can portray this. It never takes a holiday. It sleeps with you like an evil lover. It seeps into your soul. It feeds on your heart and sucks your energy until it consumes you. It’s 25/8 ugly, and the only relief is sex, drugs and rock and rock. I’m not talking about digging-in-a-dumpster poor – although I suppose the shoe fits. I’m talking about people who just don’t have enough money – the Have-nots. These are the people whose children flared out of control in a vomit of violence the other night that sickened even their neighbours. These are poor people (I don’t care what the current euphemism is) and they exploded in London and elsewhere because they’re poor and we’ve been telling them for fifty years they’re getting screwed.
The current crop of social engineers view the poor as if they’re from another planet. They theorize and chatter and then go back to their tidy tree-lined avenues and wonder what went wrong with “those people.” It’s never occurred to them that “those people” want some tree-lined avenues, too. Basically, the Have-nots want to be Haves. Having established that point, let’s quit lying to ourselves and others and face the fact that there’s only one combination in our world that leads to permanent “Have-dom.” It’s pride, education and hard work. There’s no government program, no social get-fixed-quick scheme and no secret formula. It’s that simple. It’s time to quit listening to the caring/sharing class and start applying some bold initiatives to our war on poverty.
There are too many programs to deal with, so let me just use the most notorious one, welfare, as an example. In its current form, welfare is an implement of permanent debilitation. Welfare benefits are usually at subsistence levels with no extra pennies available to even stock up on toilet paper when it goes on sale. For long-term welfare recipients, it’s impossible to get ahead. Then if they do manage to get a job — even a low-paying, part-time one — their benefits are cut.
This is exactly backwards. Those benefits should be increased. There should be a financial reward for pride and hard work, not a punishment. It should work the same way for education; not idiot education like medieval dance, but quality job training. Again, benefits should be increased to those willing to go to school – and graduate. And this should apply across the board; families should receive extra benefits when teenage children do not drop out of school and lose them if they do. There should be a definable series of financial rewards to anyone willing to help themselves. Rewarding enterprising people is the way our society functions, and it functions the same for everybody – even the underclass. Yeah, some people are going to scam the system, but the majority won’t – and, by the way, society is paying the money anyway.
Permanently warehousing people in dilapidated neighbours with nothing to look forward to but more of the same hasn’t worked. Crime, prostitution and drugs offer better financial rewards than poverty line welfare payments. And the sickening by-product is shame and frustration. The riots in London prove this. We need to turn our attention away from forking out money for nothing to offering serious financial benefits to those who want to change their way of life. If you’re not convinced, here’s one more thing to think about. Those minor drug dealers who inhabit every poor neighbourhood on the planet are, in reality, just laissez-faire capitalists. They understand how our world works. In fact, they understand it a lot better than that army of social workers we’ve hired who can’t seem to figure it out — because they’ve never had to go without.