On Poverty

There are of course many ways to become poor; some people are born into poverty, some people achieve poverty, and some people have poverty thrust upon them. Usually (I suspect) it’s a combination of factors. Suggesting that someone being poor is entirely about their lack of personal responsibility is as ignorant as suggesting someone being poor is entirely the fault of “society.” Speaking from personal experience, one indeed must make the conscious decision not to remain poor and affirmatively work toward the goal of a better life. Speaking also from personal experience, one does not often escape poverty without the help of others, both as individuals and as one’s larger society. Without both, the possibility of leaving poverty becomes dramatically smaller.

What I generally find implied from people who suggest poverty is wholly a personal flaw of character is the following thought: “Since you are entirely reponsible for your poverty, I have no responsibility to help fight poverty in the United States.” This is akin to someone comfortably standing on the deck of a ship looking over to see another person splashing in the ocean, asking for help, and deciding not to throw them the life preserver that’s hanging on the railing on the grounds that clearly that person decided to go for a swim and therefore it’s their responsibility to make it back to the ship before they drown.

Well, possibly that person went for a swim; possibly they fell overboard because they had too much to drink; possibly a sudden swell knocked them overboard; possibly they were shoved into the water. The thing is, a more rational person will wait to examine the root causes of that person being in the ocean until after they’ve thrown the life preserver and helped to haul that person back unto the ship.  — John Scalzi,  Being Poor Additional Comments Thread


As someone who was homeless for two years, and had to listen to judgy well-off people going through whatever verbal or logical contortions they could to avoid having any compassion for people like me, this really resonated.

Quote of the Day: Defining Away Injustice


We’ve internalised the need to SAY some things are wrong – poverty, injustice, misogyny – but can’t bring ourselves to ACTUALLY condemn them.

So to resolve the cognitive dissonance we just define away every instance of injustice or misogyny we can do anything about. It’s tragic.

@marstrina on Twitter

Britons, we need you

Lynn is a mother fighting to protect her son, who is in intensive care, and all other sick, disabled and vulnerable people in the UK.  They should not have to face the degrading process of being evaluated by ATOS – the company that decides dying people are fit to work.

With Lynn’s solution, vulnerable people need only get a note signed by their doctor – they don’t have to face ATOS at all.   It’s a simple, effective solution.

If you live in the UK, please do what you can to help protect the vulnerable. Please sign this petition.   Click over there and sign it now – it’s super easy and only takes a minute.



The arts funding saga continues

Self-Portrait by Welsh artist Gwen Johns.  Source

Self-Portrait by Welsh artist Gwen John. Source

The saga of Maria Miller and her plans to gut funding for the arts in the UK continues.  Today brings us this piece by John Kampfner in the Guardian:  ‘The economics of the government’s approach makes no sense’.

An informal poll of my Twitter followers last night suggests that nobody wants these budget cuts.

When civilizations collapse, who is the first to be sacrificed?  The poor, sick and disabled or the artists?

This comment from commenter Frances Smith resonated with me:

Since the protestant work ethic took hold, just as the uk stopped believing in god, people have got very puritanical. No one is allowed to have fun, unless they have worked very hard to get rich, including being born into the right family, which is harder work than you think.

So this miserablist view of the world, as the new feudalism takes hold, doesn’t believe that people should enjoy themselves through arts, no we should all be miserable, and work all day in poundland, and make sure our blinds are up in the morning so the neighbours won’t think we are scroungers.

Quote of the Day: On Funding for the Arts

"Flying" by Mahtab Firouzabadi.  Source

Flying by Mahtab Firouzabadi.  Source

The Guardian printed an article about UK Culture Minister Maria Miller basically calling art a commodity.  Her comments were typical of those who can’t see past their capitalist indoctrination and are not that interesting in themselves, but the comments contained some spirited discussions, particularly this exchange between users Wilbe1, who claimed that governments are right to expect the arts to turn a profit, and domfloyd, who argued that treating the arts as a business would impoverish the culture in less quantifiable ways:

The benefits to society of public investment are not always (in fact, rarely) measurable in terms of money.

If we as a society decide that it is beneficial for all to have thriving culture and arts (and yes, that is certainly a debate worth having), then it seems wise to invest in it – and that means sometimes investing in things that may well turn out to be duds – a thriving art scene always contains duds, just as a thriving scientific research lab will inevitably spend money and time on research which ultimately turns out to be fruitless.

                                                                                                             — domfloyd

Hat tip to Twitter users @oystersearrings and @NTCRIT for the link.

Quote of the Day: The Trashcan Sinatras on Scottish independence

Like you needed another reason to love the Trashcan Sinatras:

It has always been a source of frustration to me that the generally socially conscious, community based, fair minded voting patterns of Scotland have been relatively futile in impact. In fact, for the majority of my life, Scotland has been governed by non socially conscious governments. It felt awful and frustrating to live through, still does, and now there is a chance, one chance, to take what will always be, to some degree, a leap in the dark and take hold of complete autonomy for ourselves.

John Douglas from the Trashcan Sinatras

Please read the rest of John’s eloquent statement at the Eddi Reader, here.

And here’s one of my favorite songs by the Trashcan Sinatras.  Brilliant, brilliant band.