Downtrodden: The new look for this season

He knows we are the scum of the earth. Every last one of us is committing benefit fraud, taking drugs and leeching off hard working tax payers like himself. Therefore, he is morally justified in doing whatever it takes to get rid of us. He knows that anything we say will be a lie. If we break down and weep, it is just an attempt to manipulate him. If we wind up homeless, that’s no more than we deserve. We should get proper jobs.

There are so many situations I could be describing here. The underlying theme is how we perceive people who appear to be living in poverty. It’s very easy to assume that people are only poor because they aren’t trying hard enough. Too lazy to work, selfish, sponging off the state. These are the people who wouldn’t work at school and have no qualifications, and are a waste of space. It doesn’t take much to get from here to the idea that maybe we should just line them all up and shoot them.

Oppression begins with dehumanisation. Once the intended victim is established, in the perpetrators mind, as being subhuman, it is much easier to proceed. Propaganda in war has often existed to explicitly demonise the enemy. Political rivals may do the same in poster campaigns. Nothing brings people together like having an opponent to fight. We’re standing up for the hard working people here, the good people, the people like you, and over there are the bad guys…. Go get em! It’s cynical, and manipulative, it keeps us fighting amongst ourselves and encourages us not to challenge the people who set the agenda.

Poor people are the easiest target. The odds are, they can’t afford to fight back. Threaten to make them homeless, to take away the money that buys food, or to undermine their human rights, and they can’t even afford to get the law involved. The harder it is to get legal funding for the poorest people, the more vulnerable they become.

I do not doubt that there are some people who are just not inclined to work, and who cheat the system. However, there are a lot of physically and mentally disabled people living in poverty. Victims of crime, people forced to run and leave everything they owned, single mums abandoned by feckless men, people shattered by bereavement, people who have been too sick to work and couldn’t pay the mortgage. There are so many people who come out of the armed forces and get into difficulty in civilian life. There are kids who grew up addicted to drugs, tobacco, alcohol, maybe from the womb – how much choice have they had, exactly? Poverty exists in cycles. It is still the case that your best guarantee of material success in life, is to start out with rich parents.

And what of the others? The people who work part time and care for someone else, unpaid and unsupported. The people who have such a strong calling that they work voluntarily and live in poverty because there is an injustice, a wrong in the world that they cannot ignore. How about the key workers who are not paid enough to be able to afford proper housing in our cities? Almost everyone making the leap to self employment, or seeking further qualification, will have to spend some time with very little income. It’s a gamble that may not pay off. And finally, there are people who chose to live in relative poverty because they reject the modern world and its priorities. But from the outside, to the prejudiced eye, we all look the same.

A bank balance is not the measure of someone’s humanity. There are many reasons why a person can find themselves in abject poverty, against their will. There are also a number of highly honourable choices that would require a person to accept living in poverty. While the wealthy elite have everyone else convinced that if poor isn’t criminal, it’s probably evidence of being criminal, we continue to equate material possessions with human worth.

I wonder what would happen if more people deliberately chose to live in relative poverty? The move towards greener living often means downsizing, owning less, re-using rather than replacing. You might stop buying all the new fashions and following every wasteful trend. Once people give up ostentatious consumption, the appearance of poverty isn’t far behind. Currently, our economy depends on reckless and unnecessary use of resources. If conspicuous rejection of affluence became the height of fashion, everything would change. It really is that ridiculous.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

10 responses to “Downtrodden: The new look for this season

  • picklewalsh

    bravo!!! I compleatly agree.

  • Robin

    Malthusian economics in action ~ the poor deserve it. Given the number of politicians of all shades and their corporate owners spouting this line, one increasingly wonders what hope there is for the future.

  • Katherine

    Your last comment is thought-provoking. I wonder if demonising poverty also works as a way to keep us consuming to keep the money rollng in. After all, we don’t want to look poor!

  • Alex Jones

    I would welcome a rethink on how people view money. Most people who appear rich are in fact enslaved through “debt”, their material possessions was built on credit.

    I despise the current society we live in. I like those of a spiritual outlook because they are able to mix the spirit with the material, to achieve balance. Having money is no wrong, it is how it is used. Poverty of material possessions is no wrong, for that is equal to freedom from the chains of objects. People in debt, and unable to pay for the basics in life is wrong.

    People should be viewed on an individual basis. Are they poor because they are lazy? Are they poor because they are ill? …

  • sheblyth

    Certainly much room for thought here. It makes me want to look again at some of my possessions – I offloaded a lot to charity shops – but I could do more. They clutter my mind and spirit.

  • autumnbarlow

    The poor have been taught to believe there is something wrong with them unless they own lots of things. In my prison work, I was constantly challenged for not having a tv. I had many offers (“When I’m out, Miss…”) They (Ok I generalise, the vast majority) couldn’t understand CHOOSING to earn less, own less, buy less. Labels are massively important. I have lost count of the amount of times a prisoner has listed to me the brands he will wear and the brands he will not. People have wildly different priorities on what they NEED to own. There are a lot of excuses made (“I had to rob…to get money…for my kids…they have to have the best…”)

    A typical example. I was teaching a young school refuser in her own house on an estate. I decided to teach her maths through cookery so I turned up with loads of ingredients. I was informed there was no gas on the meter (no wonder it was bloody cold) so we couldn’t cook. I was embarrassed I hadn’t thought about that. The girl was upset. Eventually the mother relented and used the five pounds reserved on the mantlepiece for the lottery draw…

  • Heather Awen

    This is a great understanding of Social Darwinism, something I am sure Darwin would be horrified to hear. The poor are poor because they deserve it. The best and brightest do well. If you are not rich then you are the worst and least worthy. The more the poor are blamed for being poor as if it is a moral character flaw (like illness), the less others have to care. No one has to think of the greater picture, be systemic in their analysis and most of all, worry it will happen to them. Denial. New Agers love this stuff too: the poor created this reality. Not capitalism. If we all just watched Oprah enough we’d get our shit together and be wealthy usingthe Law of Attraction. Americans are very afraid to say classism exists, due to the American Ruse that anyone can make it, so if you don’t, you didn’t try. Examples of persons who through their moral strength “made it” and overcame the odds are used as “proof” there is something wrong with us who cannot beat cancer, get a Porche by praying, or just get over having had parents who were abusive. “it won’t happen to me” protection spells they cast on themselves, an incantation of denial, means that if something bad happens to someone, itis their fault and so avoid, do not help, them. Ye Olde Pagans and modern day Christians and New Agers and Republicans and the rest all did this. It’s human nature to figure out why someone had something bad happen to them so you can figure out how to not have it happen to you. Then you can blame them and write those who suffer a misfortune off as lost causes. I even have read Heathen writing saying to avoid anyone with bad luck because it might be catching to your hamanja (spelled wrong because I don’t haved thetime to grab a Heathen book). Avoid the sick and the poor and the harmed. Shun them. Blame them.

    and then when you become one, watch your reality crumble.

  • celticchick

    It’s the same in this country. It’s sad really, how some people just hate the poor. What’s really sad is these haters claim to be Christian.

  • Those whom the gods most love « Druid Life

    […] left a powerful comment on my Downtrodden blog, about spiritual attitudes to poverty. I’ve been reflecting on that, and wanted to follow on […]

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