Thursday, December 19, 2013

Who Speaks For Poverty?

In the mid-nineteenth century Charles Dickens, who had gone through some hard times as a child due to his father's business reversals, made a good living writing books like "Oliver Twist" and stories like "A Christmas Carol" that endure today as descriptions of the economic injustice of Victorian society.  Other writers have carried on the tradition, Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" wasn't meant to be an exposure of unsanitary conditions in the meat packing industry but was instead an attempt to draw attention to the dangerous and unrewarding life of the immigrant labor force. Sinclair himself was already a successful author and became a candidate for California governor.  B. Traven, the mystery man that penned stories like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, specialized in depicting the life of the underclass. Barbara Ehrenreich, a Phd. in cell biology, worked low-wage jobs to gather material for her 2001 book, Nickel and Dimed, On (Not) Getting Along In America, an expose' of the deplorable life of the working poor.

The point is that the poverty mitigation industry is staffed by fairly affluent people. Those who seem most dedicated to alleviating the purported suffering of the poor could be seen as exploiting their condition. What do the poor themselves have to say?

We're in an age where literally anybody can distribute information to a world-wide audience, just as I'm doing at this moment.  And for free. Almost all public libraries in the US have free computer internet access. Stroll into any library and you'll see computers manned by apparently financially disadvantaged users.  Otherwise they'd be using the fairly reasonably priced home access with what are now cheap PCs. Continue your stroll among these users and glance at their screens.  They're playing games, looking at Facebook, watching movies, etc.  Sign up for a computer yourself and see if you can find a blog written by an actual poor person. I found one, a homeless Arsperger's Syndrome victim in San Diego. On the other hand, there's a mountain of pixelated material authored and refereed by individuals whose occupation is pointing out poverty, its causes and remedies. These individuals are not poor, however. Of course, this phenomenon doesn't just take place in computer world. The mastodon media, too, and the political cesspool, are consumed with passion for the plight of the poor. How about some commentary from the poor themselves.

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