The Sociology of Poverty

The faults of institutional religion are many, almost too many to count, but its contribution to the demonization of the global  victims of poverty are among its most egregious and unforgivable. By locating some grand checklist of fault within the victim of poverty, religion puts its handout for the scraps of money from these poor folk, promises them a way out through suffering and death, completely reneges on that promise, and then keeps on extending its hand out for more money, more blind allegiance, more cruelty.

Yet this is not simply a religious trick, since there are allegedly “educated,” allegedly liberal allegedly  atheist” writer/intellctuals who transmute this cynicism and antihumanism into their own twisted, bigoted  expressions. One, in particualr, David Shields, with a terrible practice of writing intimate details about the people in his life, felt free to muse to another, lower-caste writer in I Think You’re Wrong  about how certain “races” lack a work ethic. This kind of jeering at the inhabitants of the ghetto has been the inheritance of humanity, given to perfidious social stratification as part of its biology. Why are people poor? Because of their social conditions, and in the case of America, because of the supersystem’s economic blockade against the various poor – white, black, brown, old, young. An economic blockade is an act of war, and lie the official state economic blockade of America against Cuba, the beneficiaries of this relentless campaign of denial of basic rights to decent social conditions become antagonistic to those whose lives are ruined by the blockade, as Shields is.

An economic blockade denies jobs to communities of people, denies them affordable shelter, restricts adequate medical care, sets up desperate venues for crime-ridden practices of obtaining economic relief. A few members of the historically-targeted ghetto make it out, and are held up as moral paragons of virtue for others in that ghetto to follow, but the supports that others outside the ghetto take for granted are not there, condemning the surrounding society’s refusal to ameliorate these horrific social conditions.

The Nazis set up movie cameras and enacted scenes from the inhabitants of Warsaw ghetto to produce films for their enjoyment. The “ethics” of personal responsibility that seems to dominate the American political clown parade, conservative and liberal alike, are versions of this class-based vicious enmity. Victims of economic blockade react in similar ways throughout history, seeking escape through cheap drugs, robbing and killing each other because of privation and opportunity, exhibiting “laziness” when confronted with overclass demands, such as to be good little studious apprentices.

Poverty in America has reached up into the middle class, and its insidious traditions of intra-personal suffering are ever more present. Social science can tell us what we need to have a decent, manageable life, even in late-stage modernity, but it’s not on its way, unless you are one of the well-positioned few.

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