kicking the can down the road: again

There is no doubt that poverty is degrading, and through force, legislation, moral suasion,manipulation, blackmail,  soft euthanasia, and “gaming” democracy and elementary social responsibility we have gloriously succeeded in creating the scenario for economic collapse and social and political insurrection.

( Emile )Durkheim argued that economic affluence, by stimulating human desires, carries with it dangers of anomic conditions because it “deceives us into believing that we depend on ourselves only,” while “poverty protects against suicide because it is a restraint in itself.” Since the realization of human desires depends upon the resources at hand, the poor are restrained, and hence less prone to suffer from anomie by virtue of the fact that they possess but limited resources. “The less one has the less he is tempted to extend the range of his needs indefinitely.”Read More:

William Logsdail. The Bank and the Royal Exchange. 1887.---The racism and poverty faced by black Americans in the 1950s and 1960s is not fundamentally different today. It is true that there is now a far larger and more affluent black middle class than was the case then. A thin layer has even entered the elite of US society – summed up by Condoleezza Rice’s position as secretary of state in the Bush administration. The ruling class in the US responded to the revolt in the 1950s and 1960s with a conscious decision to develop a black middle class to act as a brake on future movements, to create a version of the ‘American Dream’ for black people. However, the American Dream remains a myth for working-class black Americans, to an even greater degree than it is for working-class whites. For large sections of the black population low pay and poverty remain the norm. ---Read More: image:

…Keeping up appearances. John Galsworthy. More important, at age twenty-five, he suddenly began to notice what was under his nose in this world. And what he saw shocked yet fascinated him horribly. It was classic attraction-repulsion at work. He had recently been involved with a girl whom the family thought not at all the thing. After all, Galsworthy’s mother was a woman of exquisite appearance, a good housekeeper, rider and archer; she was also a rigid, die-hard conformist from a family of small squires and third tier industrialists and was prone to a rigid, almost pathological conformism burnished by intense social class consciousness. She was unsupportable, with a knack for irritating her family to the point of frenzy simply by her mere presence in a room. She was spectacularly jealous of her older husband and his essentially, deep love of domination, bad temper and perpetual antagonism.

Sir Samuel Luke Fildes. Casual Ward. 1874. ----"Opinion," he stammered, "of the poor? I haven't any." The person on her feet, whose name was Mrs. Mattock, directing her peculiar sweet-sour smile at the distinguished lady with the Times, said: "Perhaps you 've not had experience of them in London, Lady Bonington?" Lady Bonington, in answer, rustled. "Oh, do tell us about the slums, Mrs. Mattock!" cried Sybil. "Slumming must be splendid! It's so deadly here—nothing but flannel petticoats." "The poor, my dear," began Mrs. Mattock, "are not the least bit what you think them—" "Oh, d' you know, I think they're rather nice!" broke in Aunt Charlotte close to the hydrangea. "You think so?" said Mrs. Mattock sharply. "I find they do nothing but grumble." --- Read More: image:

Quite the household. It was no wonder that Galsworthy was in statis, a stiff-necked Bertie Wooster persona who would slowly peel off layers environmental damage and psychological baggage not in the least aided and abetted by his fathers generous allowances which created a sort of dependence. In any event, the girl was guilty of having no money and she gave singing lessons and who knows what else to round out her end of months. His father sent him off to Canada, but the snow and hospitality of the colony failed to dissolve this association, though Galsworthy himself wrote, “nothing will ever come of this matter between me and Sybil, I am too vague, and she doesn’t care.”

Frederick Walker. The Vagrants. ---"They don't grumble at me: they are delightful persons", and Lady Bonington gave Shelton a grim smile. He could not help thinking that to grumble in the presence of that rich, despotic personality would require a superhuman courage. "They're the most ungrateful people in the world," said Mrs. Mattock. "Why, then," thought Shelton, "do you go amongst them?" She continued, "One must do them good, one, must do one's duty, but as to getting thanks—" Lady Bonington sardonically said, "Poor things! they have a lot to bear." "The little children!" murmured Aunt Charlotte, with a flushing cheek and shining eyes; "it 's rather pathetic." Read More: image:

Galsworthy visited flophouses, prowled the streets at night. He told his friends how appalling things were. They agreed. They asked: why don’t you actually do something then? For one, Galsworthy’s concern with the suffering of others was occasioned more by the pain knowledge of it gave him than by the pain experience of it gave them: This is the sensitive liberal’s position in succinct form and it is, at least, an improvement on total insensibility and the cold shoulder of non-empathy. But how profound is it? Once awakened in Galsworthy, this concern became altogether too powerful and fearful to deal with on a fundamental level.

It made, as it always does, for sentimentality. But not a deep rooted strand of concern for the human condition, but rather one of the most dreary and maudlin sort; a satirizing of the social foibles of the elite who need the poor to create a literary tension of incongruity. Let them eat cake, but we’ll tinker with their heads and manipulate them to buy Betty Crocker and instant mixes. On sale no less. Throw money at a problem but make sure the problem flowers and rises like a muffin, reinforcing existing social chasms.

Erskine Nichol. An Irish Immigrant Landing at Liverpool. 1871. ----"Children indeed!" said Mrs. Mattock. "It puts me out of all patience to see the way that they neglect them. People are so sentimental about the poor." Lady Bonington creaked again. Her splendid shoulders were wedged into her chair; her fine dark hair, gleaming with silver, sprang back upon her brow; a ruby bracelet glowed on the powerful wrist that held the journal; she rocked her copper-slippered foot. She did not appear to be too sentimental. "I know they often have a very easy time," said Mrs. Mattock, as if some one had injured her severely. And Shelton saw, not without pity, that Fate had scored her kind and squashed-up face with wrinkles, whose tiny furrows were eloquent of good intentions frustrated by the unpractical and discontented poor. "Do what you will, they are never satisfied; they only resent one's help, or else they take the help and never thank you for it!" "Oh!" murmured Aunt Charlotte, "that's rather hard." Shelton had been growing, more uneasy. He said abruptly: "I should do the same if I were they." Mrs. Mattock's brown eyes flew at him; Lady Bonington spoke to the Times; her ruby bracelet and a bangle jingled. "We ought to put ourselves in their places." Read More: image:

It acc

s for the perceptive comment Ford Madox Ford made when he saw tears in Galsworthy’s eyes on account of an anecdote about Turgenev and his peasant mistress: “suddenly I had of him a conception of a sort of frailty, as if he needed protection from the hard truths of the world… The disease from which he suffered was pity…”

And pity, a form of self-indulgence, is an artist’s worst enemy. Even at the turn of the century not all the poor were utterly miserable all the time- well documented by Henry Mayhew- , but one would never suppose otherwise on the strength of Galsworthy’s works. Joseph Conrad, later, advised him to get more skepticism into his writing, and even went so far as to suggest that Galsworthy got a sadistic pleasure.

George Elgar Hicks. The Sinews of Old England. ---Because the new poor, the new poor, are the former middle class. Obviously, the polls tell these elected officials, these politicians, that you ought to talk about the middle class, that resonates. Well, if the new poor are the former middle class, then this conversation has got to be expanded. We’ve got to have a broader conversation about what’s happening to the poor. And the bottom line for me is this, Amy, with regard to this legislation and all others that are now demonizing, casting aspersion on the poor. There’s always been a connection between the poor and crime, but now—between poverty and crime, but now it’s become a crime, it would seem, to be poor in this country. And I believe this country, one day, is going to get crushed under the weight of its own poverty, if we think we can continue to live in a country where one percent of the people own and control more wealth than 90 percent. That math, long term, Amy, is unsustainable. We’ve got to talk about poverty.--- Read More: image:


HARRY BELAFONTE: Every opportunity I’ve had to put that before him, he has heard. I have not had a chance to put it to him as forcefully as I would like to, because he has not yet given us the accessibility to those places where this could be said in a more articulate way and not always on the fly.

But he once said something to me during his campaign for the presidency, and he says—he said, you know—I said, “I’ve heard you” —he was talking before businessmen on Wall Street here in—there in New York. And he said to me—I said, “Well, you know, I hope you bring the challenge more forcefully to the table.” And he said, “Well, when are you and Cornel West going to cut me some slack?” And I got caught with that remark. And I said to him, in rebuttal, I said, “What makes you think we haven’t?”

AMY GOODMAN: That was Harry Belafonte. Cornel West, your response, and why you’re on this tour, professor at Princeton University?

Frans Hals. The Drinkers. 1700. ---West:large numbers of black people rightly want to protect President Obama against the vicious right-wing attacks, the Fox News-like attacks, the lies about him being socialist, Muslim and so forth. On the other hand, the suffering intensifies. It’s very clear that President Obama caves in over and over and over again. He punts on first down. If you’re in a foxhole with him, you’re in trouble, because he wants to compromise, you want to fight. He doesn’t have the kind of backbone he ought to have. So black folk find themselves in a dilemma: how do we protect him against the right-wing attacks and at the same time keep him accountable, especially when it comes to poor and working people? Unfortunately, Tim Geithner and his economic team have nothing to do with the legacy of Martin King, have indifference toward poor and working people. He listens to them, hence he’s rightly associated much more with the oligarchs than with poor people. We hope he changes his mind. We hope he gets a progressive economic team, even though, as you know, many of us are exploring other kinds of possibilities in the coming election, given his lukewarmness. Read More: image:

CORNEL WEST: Well, yeah, we know Harry Belafonte’s idea of brotherhood. No, Brother Tavis came up with the idea of this Poverty Tour. We’re on the tour because there has been a top-down, one-sided class war against poor and working people, that’s led by greedy Wall Street oligarchs and avaricious corporate plutocrats in the name of deregulated markets, which is a morally bankrupt policy, especially when it comes to keeping track of the humanity and dignity of poor and working people. …Read More:

…The Heritage Foundation has been spreading lies to justify indifference toward poor people for three decades as part of the right-wing intellectual assault on working and poor people. Tavis and I were at Camp Forest tent city outside of Ann Arbor. They’ve been there a number of years. And in fact, they just got heat, what was it, two years ago. They’ve been there for many years. They just got heat. So, the Heritage Foundation, they ought to be ashamed of themselves, but this is part of the fightback. The Heritage Foundation supports the counter-revolution in the name of oligarchs and plutocrats. We want to be part of the fightback, and there’s millions out there who want to be part of the fightback, as the oligarchs and plutocrats attempt to squeeze all of the democratic juices out of the American social experiment.( West )

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