What do we mean by poverty? In America, poverty has been redefined as to refer to anyone at the lower end of a given income distribution — poor by virtue of having less than those in higher income brackets.  Using this definition, the only way of eliminating poverty is by an egalitarian redistributing of wealth. The very idea of redistribution implies, however, a sort of happenstance of initial unfair distribution of income that somehow must be corrected through the action of government as the primary agent of compassion. 

 

Such has been the goal of the welfare state. Despite vast sums expended, today we have more poverty, not less. But of course, what we are often told is that we are not spending enough! Although local government can (and must) help in some situations, the reality is that we have lost sight of the role of the individual human person as the primary agent of change. A personalist approach has been supplanted by a collectivist one where the action of an army of “government bureaucrats of compassion” catalyzes social change. This has been accompanied by an emphasis on group entitlement. This system of welfarism and race consciousness creates a sort of subsidized apathy, which sustains the body but kills the soul. This debilitating sloth is explained by some as an act of racial rebellion against a grossly oppressive society, as the expected reaction of the oppressed.  Calls for personal responsibility are seen as blaming the victim.

Victimhood has become an identity. The wretched existence of the underclass is intimately connected to this identity.  This underclass, for the most part, is not economically poor by the economic standards that have prevailed throughout most of human history. A deep cultural and spiritual poverty is the primary source of such poverty and the gamut of human folly that accompanies it; a poverty that produces lives dominated by violence, crime, neglect, despair, illegitimacy, and degradation.  Thus, economic poverty is not the cause but a result of deeper spiritual and social factors.

The idea that we are simply victims of certain forces or economic systems and our  negative reactions are justifiable is the greatest enemy of our advancement.  Sadly, these ideas of victimhood originate in the minds of the intelligentsia not in the actual lives of common people. The politics of despair that are practiced by those affirming victimhood as identity and utilizing despair as a fashionable plaything have had devastating effects as they “trickle down” to common folk. This denial of human agency deeply hurts individuals and communities; reminding me of King Lear’s words:

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeits of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars; as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance, drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whore-master man, to lay his goatish disposition on the charge of a star!

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