The topic that’s on my mind right now is potentially volatile and can open a huge, rotten, festering can of political worms, so that’s why I’ve been hesitant to write this. But heck, it’s on my mind, and I promised myself and my readers I would hide NOTHING, and I NEED to rant about it because it hits so close to home, so here goes.
Recently, there’s been an increasing number of conservatives (the loudest and most extreme are in the Republican Party) who have abandoned all pretense of caring about those who have less than they do–in fact, they are openly (even proudly) hostile toward the poor, blame-shifting the lousy economy, lack of jobs, and basically all of America’s problems onto the most vulnerable people in our society. American society in particular has become narcissistic, worshiping and rewarding those who have the most money and the most toys, while punishing those who have nothing more than ever before, rubbing salt into their wounds. Their contempt used to be limited to the poor who didn’t work (and those who were milking the system and might have deserved their wrath), but lately it’s extended even to the working poor–men and women who hold up to 2 or 3 jobs and work full-time (and many supporting young children), but due to the low wages they earn that haven’t kept up with an economy rife with inflation and where good jobs are scarce, still can’t lift themselves out of poverty. Empathy is seen as a liability rather than a virtue, and those who have empathy for others are seen as weak. Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” has become the bible of the greedy and self-centered, and no one bats an eyelash, even though Rand herself was a narcissist whose role model was a serial killer.
The verdict is, if you don’t have money, you don’t deserve to live. There are no extenuating circumstances. If you’re poor, it’s your own fault.
Hatred of the poor isn’t anything new (and has been going on throughout human history, but enjoys spurts of popularity from time to time), but lately there hasn’t even been any effort to mask the hatred–it’s in your face constantly. Just watch FOX News, which I don’t. There’s no civility any more, and even less empathy.
It’s really a form of prejudice, no different really than a person of color ostracized and shamed because of the color of their skin. As a person who is currently under severe financial stress and trying to survive on an income barely above minimum wage (and having no outside help or assistance) as well as being a Highly Sensitive Person, I feel these insults keenly and feel diminished and enraged every time I read another article or watch another news show where some self-righteous cretin blathers on about how “the poor choose to be poor,” or that we are lazy, entitled, “welfare queens” with no morals and even less intelligence–and worse yet, dare to hide their ugly and mean-spirited self-righteousness under a cloak of piousness: many (not all) of these small-minded people call themselves Christians. I actually remember hearing some politician (I can’t remember who) who said Jesus wouldn’t give handouts to the poor, and cutting Food Stamps would be the most Christian thing one could do. What I’d like to know is, what God does he worship and what Bible is he reading? How dare he presume to put words like that into Jesus’ mouth, when Jesus himself was all about acceptance and love of the downtrodden and oppressed of his society.
The reason why this open hostility toward the poor is such a huge trigger for me is because that attitude assumes something about me that isn’t true. People who embrace the “you chose to be poor” mindset haven’t walked in my shoes, and they don’t know me or what led to my circumstances. They are presuming something about me based on an ugly stereotype. How is saying all poor people are lazy, stupid and entitled any different from saying all blacks are criminals, or all Jews are dishonest and greedy, or all Italians are dirty and don’t bathe? Now I’m not saying I didn’t make some bad choices because I have. I’m not saying I bear no responsibility for my own circumstances, because I do. I’m not saying it’s my government’s responsibility to lift me into the middle class, because it is not.
But you don’t know me. You have no idea who I am or why I am poor. You can’t, since you probably either never were poor, or if you had to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” you probably didn’t really–you probably had a grandpa, a mom and dad, or a long-lost uncle who helped you through college and graduate school, or helped you get the job you have today, or a loving mother who gave you a place to stay when you were down on your luck. Don’t tell me this does not apply to you. Hillary Clinton said “it takes a village” to raise a child, and she was right: it’s a fact that kids who were not given the opportunities–either in the form of college tuition or some other type of tangible or even just emotional support, are far less likely to become successful.
As an only child of narcissist parents (mostly my mother, but my father was an enabler and N-apologist), I had no financial, physical, or emotional support once I reached the age of 18. I had to pay for my own college education with student loans, while working full time. When I hit rough spots later in life, I never had the option to return home while I got back on my feet. On top of this I was suffering from depression, PTSD, autism, and avoidant personality disorder–and every one of these disorders causes people to become withdrawn, isolated and introverted. I think it’s a legacy a lot of us children of narcissists have been saddled with–there does seem to be some sort of correlation between narcissistic parents and autism (as well as the obvious PTSD and avoidant personality). Back in the 1960s and 1970s, it was believed autism was caused by “refrigerator mothers” but this theory was later rejected–however I do think there is something to it and should be studied further. Autistic adults (and non-autistics who have nevertheless turned inward due to their abuse) have a real handicap in today’s fast paced, competitive society where aggression, brashness and great social skills are a huge plus. Those of us who are intelligent but who don’t do well in a social setting are likely to become lost in the world because we lack the ability to connect and make friends with successful people who could help us. If an autistic adult (or just a painfully shy adult) doesn’t have family support and also lacks a specialized degree or talent (that may or may not be “discovered”), it’s not likely they’ll get very far in life, regardless of their native intelligence. It has nothing to do with how hard they work: I’ve worked my butt off most of my life, at times holding 2-3 jobs AND attending college, so I don’t think my poverty is due to my being “lazy and entitled.” I do not get any “welfare” or even food stamps. Everything I have, I pay from my own pocket, so shut the hell up.
So that’s why I hate it when people make assumptions about why I’m poor, and tell me what I’m doing wrong when they know diddly squat about what makes me tick or what motivates me. I don’t think poverty is a lifestyle “choice”–no one in their right mind would choose a life of struggle, want and heartache. For most of us, it was foisted upon us. And the more you have to worry about basic things like food and shelter, the less energy and time you have to “improve yourself.” But I don’t expect outside assistance or a “government handout” and haven’t asked for any. I try to take the steps necessary to pull myself out of the mire, but I REALLY resent being blamed for my situation when I lacked the advantages most other kids had, then had to somehow find my place in an unempathic, narcissistic, materialistic society where people who are introverted or highly sensitive or who live inside their heads are considered weak, stupid and incompetent because we don’t “schmooze” well with others.