[lit-ideas] Re: Didn't I tell you so?

  • From: Carol Kirschenbaum <carolkir@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 29 Jun 2006 05:45:04 -0700

>Mike: I've never known the rich to give a damn, the poor understand.

>Eric: My personal experience is the opposite.

ck: Poor neighborhoods are usually "bad" neighborhoods--high crime 
neighborhoods. That's no mere coincidence. It's rotten being poor. Tough, 
rotten life that grinds people down and turns them mean. Hell, who wouldn't 
be mean if they saw a family member suffering and even dying because they 
had no access to antibiotics? And use booze to calm the pain of whatever 
tumor or other condition costs too much to treat. And who's the victim when 
a poor someone decides to resort to violent crime? Usually someone in that 
same neighborhood. (Dumb but true.)

But Mike's point comes from his own big heartedness, and from a number of 
other poor folks I've known, of all races. Mostly African-Americans, 
frankly, because they've been my neighbors for the past  15 years or so. 
(Actually, I'd date my awareness of classicism in America to the Reagan 
era--and housing relative unaffordability, in particular.) Sure, poor people 
understand each other's desperation, but desperation makes for anxious, edgy 
living. Desperation doesn't have an upside, to my knowledge, and the longer 
it continues, the more total are its effects.

Eric spoke about his short-term experience with poverty. Deep poverty, yes. 
The huge difference between his experience and Mike's (and the people Mike 
calls "poor") is that Eric and his wealthy friends considered his plight 
temporary. His identity, to these well-off folks and to himself, was 
probably "one of them"--and although he saw homeless people, and technically 
fit more into that category, he had an identity that could not capitulate to 
this as an indefinite way of life.

From that experience, Eric knows deprivation and the fear of destitution, 
probably, but I doubt that he knows the mentality of Mike's folks--people 
who've been poor from one generation to the next, for most of their lives.

My personal experience with poverty is closer to Mike's. I keep hearing that 
I don't "look" poor, or "sound" poor--I've heard that most of my life from 
wealthy people--people who hold a stereotypical view that someone who lacks 
money also lacks education, taste, and even intelligence. Somehow, though, 
poor folks NEVER act surprised when they learn I'm as broke as they. But 
it's not as simple as either of you fellas  claim (and you know it, I'd 

I agree with Mike--a poor person is much, much, much more likely to get fed, 
housed, and simply treated with dignity by a poor person than by a rich 
person. But if you're talking about a well-off person who's fallen from 
grace, the rich will step in with their extremely helpful resources 
(including useful job contacts) that can lift you out of the depths. I've 
also known  "good" wealthy people who give away things they don't need (and 
services), and who treat all people with dignity. But honestly, this is all 
too rare. Just take a look at American cities if you have any doubts.

There's the poor and then the others who live in an entirely different type 
of city, behind walls, and whose children go to entirely different 
schools--utterly different lives. It's not getting better. Housing vouchers 
have stopped. Half of the country's welfare recipients will be off the rolls 
at the end of the year--budget cuts, you know. Community health clinics 
would close if there were any (none here, btw). As the government closes 
down services aimed to alleviate miserable indignities of poor people, 
philanthropic corporations do not seem to be picking up the slack. But it 
looks like California will soon have even more prisons full of young 
African-American males...and an increasing number of young women. And the 
rent keeps going up.

There's this huge gap between people who live from paycheck to paycheck and 
those who have stock portfolios (whatever they are).

Note to Mike: Being poor in Manhattan is like everywhere else, these days 
(from personalized reports), except that NYC now has more well-run housing 
programs and clinics than other large cities. Bit innovation: to cut down on 
homelessness, the city gave people apartments. Woo-hoo! It worked.

Carol K.

To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: