The Crime of Poverty?

‘America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: ‘if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register. […]

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.’

Vonnegut. K. 1969. Slaughterhouse-Five New York, United States: Random House (2007) p. 128-129

20 thoughts on “The Crime of Poverty?

  1. I appreciate your post but disagree whole heartedly. The poor are standing up ever so defiantly. They know a great deal isn’t their fault and they know a large part of the unimaginable contrast in wealth is common greed mixed with corruption. It’s true… there’s no excuse for anyone to be hungry or cold in a country with 400 plus billionaires and 3 plus million millionaires. Greed and government have run amok. Capitalism died 50 years ago. All we have is Crony Capitalism and most everyone knows it.

  2. Thanks for your thought-provoking post. It tends to be the political right that place more emphasis on the individual as the cause of and solution to poverty, while the left focus more on social factors. The US seems more than many European countries to possess what I call ‘the cult of the individual’. Attitudes there towards collective solutions to social problems seem particularly negative and while encouraging individual responsibility may be good, it is not enough in a constantly changing world. While I am all for individual freedom, its arguably greater prevalence in the US than elsewhere has not prevented rising inequality and poverty and an unstable financial system impacting the real economy in a strongly negative fashion. Freedom can be promoted though an ‘enabling state’ which acts to empower the individual in society through education, promoting economic progress, and through carefully designed social programs. But the corruptive influence of the richest and their narrow interests in politics needs addressing.

  3. “The poor are standing up most defiantly” Proof? How? Where? Results? Knowing a thing is and is not acceptable, and doing something real about it, that’s two different things. The cat is a danger to the mice. Someone proposes a great solution: put a bell on the cat. Only problem remaining is, who’s going to do it?

  4. Reblogged this on tweetlessblogmore and commented:
    I echo the thoughts of this post and say “here here.” I also reiterate the 99% of Americans who fall in this category need to quit going around in a stupor and we need to do something about it.
    Let me give you a person you can start with: Bernie Sanders. He is campaigning for income equality, free health care and education. I encourage you to check out his platform if poverty is a concern for you- and if you think it isn’t- wait until the 99% of Americans wake up and realize how topsy turvy things are. Scary thought…

  5. Actually, I agree with you, but I don’t believe he has any chance of being elected, and if the vote is split between Bernie and Hillary, we need to get used to saying, “President Trump” for the next eight years.

  6. If that’s the case- my blog friend Swarn (Cloak Unfurled) has proposed forming a commune in case said event in Tuscany Italy. Though halfway joking I may work super hard to make that happen because him as a president is fucking scary lol

  7. Throughout human history, nothing has provided the masses with more than Capitalism. Since we have seen only Crony Capitalism for the past 50 years, I’d rather try to bring back Constitutional practices that helped make us the envy of the world rather than to usher in the total corruption of Socialism.

  8. I get this image of the White House lit up in neon and a “TRUMP CASTLE” banner arching overhead.

  9. I know right?! Let’s not forget all the miss USA entourage he will have serving tea for his company in the White House lol it will be like hunger games on crack 😂 Sorry I joke and laugh but it’s scary in actuality because trump is not only a character he’s an asshole

  10. Interesting again, although I do not think a system of socialised healthcare, welfare, education and transport could totally corrupt society.

  11. It’s all about money and power. We think the contrast in wealth between the rich and everyone else in the US is staggering (even unimaginable) as it stands. Take a good look at the rest of the world…. and really see the effect Socialistic values have on the masses.

    Since Healthcare is such a big issue – allow me to copy a post from Cinnamon’s Place in England where she talks about the “care” she gets in England. I won’t copy the replies she got (too many for here) but you should look up her blog and read about them.


    Whilst society sneers and looks down upon those in receipt of National insurance claims, do they realise actually how hard it is to get a claim accepted. Then there’s the continuing assssments and checks which are done, not only by DWP.,but, if like me, you’re in need of help from Social Services for Care, the yearly checks which take place.

    I’m due to be ‘ reviewed ‘ again tomorrow, which, although I’m totally bedbound means I have to prove my need. The care manager remit is to reduce my care package. Compromising my health in many ways, even possibly endangering it, by the government continued quest to reduce social care. This is totally against the Community Care Act, but the government doesn’t seem to care about the Laws of the land. Cutting councils budgets to fund home ( and residential ) care along with all other aspects of health related assistance. Without my care I’d lie in bed, soiled with faeces, hardly dignified or pleasant for anyone.

    What at has happened to Compassion? Why has Society again fallen into this Victorian culture. I need full time day and night care, but it’s reduced each time they come, now I have only six hours of day care, which means, yes, I lie in soiled bed at times. They dare not ( thus far anyway 😒) reduce my night care, as I have nocturnal seizures, I could die without such waking night carer.

    The annoying thing is David Cameron, the current Prime Mimster, had a son, Ivan, who had disabilities, yet others ( without access to money ) are being left, vulnerable and uncared for, or facing yearly battles to hang on to what they’ve, in many cases, worked and paid for by National Insurance contributions. Wish me luck for tomorrow. Never the same worker who comes out, no continuity of Care, they’re not qualified social workers and they argue about who’s going to pay for me, ie NHS or Social Services. Whilst I worry and wait….

  12. Neither do I, but America is so terrified of the word, ‘Communism,’ and anything that resembles it, due to the real fear (as well as that manufactured by propaganda) that arose from the Cold War, and socialism is one of those things that does. To many, socialism is a precursor to communism – an irrational conclusion, granted, but one that is often used to squelch social programs.

  13. Clearly, hers is a poorly managed health care system – I don’t see the system at fault, rather the management.

  14. Unfortunately the “system” is but a dumb beast, a machine, that is always dependent upon lower management. This is true of any corporation, any government, any charitable organization, and “power wielding” collective. In today’s world, bureaucrats are the real decision makers and “applicators” because regardless of how many times people change elected representatives, they cannot change the bureaucrats, hence why so little changes from elected administration to elected administration. Embedded bureaucracy is the real power and smart politicians know how to hide behind that much more stable power structure. A new paradigm is required to deal with today’s social issues, period.

    I like, like, like, you quotes by Bertrand Russel.

  15. When I had my website, in His own image, I opened each entry with what I felt was an applicable quotation, hence I have quite a collection. If I ever quit procrastinating, I will open a new one. I intended on joining the Procrastinator’s Club, but I keep putting it off.

  16. Certainly I see no evidence that our leadership is any smarter. No where on the planet has Socialism worked for the people for very long. What makes anyone think it would be any different here?

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