Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Plight of the Poor

Josephine Shaw Lowell now agreed that the plight of the poor was 'not due usually to moral or intellectual defects on their own part, but to economic causes over which they could have had no control, and which were as much beyond their power to avert as if they had been natural calamities of fire, flood or storm.'
Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), Kindle Location 28569-71.
Lowell was a Progressive Reform Leader in the late 19th century. Much of her work was based upon the poor inhabitants of New York. At the time, many people considered those who were poor to have gotten their based upon their own poor choices. Many Christians claimed their sins had led them to a place of poverty while those in the business community claimed they lacked the intellectual capabilities to move beyond their state of pauperism. Either way, the poor of society were often left with little pity and meaningless handouts or exit strategies from their condition. Lowell's statement is critical, then, because it points out the potential idea that many suffering people had reached their state not by choice but by the economic choices of the wealthy. Hence the raw issue of captalism - there will be people with great wealth, but it will come at the cost of the class of poverty.

How do we combat the plight of the poor? What strategies must be in place - and how do we deem them successful? Part of the biggest struggle seems to be the mindset of those who are not poor. Ideas, schemes, and plans are laid out by people who have no concept of how people without anything feel. Our bigotry of why people are poor and what causes them to continue in poverty taints our ability to help. It is very difficult to come to grips with the notion that some people do not have the freedom or opportunity to do anything beyond remaining in the squalor and chains of their poor economic condition. It truly is the mindset barrier that remains the obstacle needing to be overcome. The goal then becomes changing how we think before we develop a system for fighting against the cruel grip of impoverishment. A proper way of thinking will eliminate our need to dispense charity and focus on helping our fellow people as equals.