06 September 2006

Poverty...The Real AND The Perceived

When you see starving people in Africa, living in a civil war-torn environment, you can't help but feel bad for these folks. They didn't ask to be caught up in this. They don't want to be a part of it, and yet...there they are.
You drive through a part of a major city that has been labeled "blighted", and you see run down neighborhoods, barefoot children running all over, the homeless, the indigent, and the forgotten urban dwellers. And many times you don't feel anything approaching the sorrow you felt for those people overseas.

So...why exactly IS that the case?

America is supposed to be the "Land of Opportunity", or so it was claimed. But here these people are...not living in our inner cities, but barely surviving. What has gone so drastically WRONG that we have all these people in much the same "boat" as those in third world nations?
There ARE those that have truly fallen on what we used to call "hard times", due to illness, layoffs, or whatever the case. That is the minority of this inner city sub-class. They are the ones that have to look UP to see the bottom of the glass...forget about the "half-full, half-empty" analogy. Then there are those that CHOOSE to live in this manner. Squalor is OK with them, and they do well living in such environs.
Urban areas called ghettos (or slums) are replete with not only the down-trodden folks, but also those making their living OFF of those people. The drug dealers, prostitutes, thieves, burglars, and the like thrive in this type of setting. Many times, these people are brought up with a hatred of authority, a disdain for education, and a distrust of ANYONE not like themselves.
They are indoctrinated from a very young age that "whoever" is out to get you, be it the police, the white man, or even educators. The failure rate for inner city kids is much higher than that of those living in suburbia, or even rural areas. Crime rates are ALWAYS higher in urban areas than rural settings. Many claim that the density of the population is a contributing factor. And it is...but NOT to the degree we're led to believe. Crime will not always rise where there are large numbers of people (take Japan and China for example)...BUT...crime WILL ALWAYS rise where there is the impetus for it's growth. Crime will THRIVE where it is not only allowed, but encouraged...that's just common sense.
The highest crime rates in America occur in places where even the police are afraid to go. SO what does that make these inner urban areas then? Are they not unlike those third world nations mentioned above? Are we to conclude that poverty AND crime ALWAYS go hand-in-hand then? I would have to say NO.

Any person of conscience would say that when you're too busy worrying about your next meal, you don't have time to think about robbing someone. Notice I said CONSCIENCE. Many of my contemporaries grew up with little in the way of "things" such as the plethora of amenities we enjoy today. We read BOOKS, because maybe we DIDN'T have a TV (or it was on the fritz). And we didn't STEAL those books either...we got them from the LIBRARY. We ate a lot of home-made SOUPS, because our parents couldn't afford to feed us REAL MEALS 3 times a day, seven days a week. Our Moms MADE a lot of our clothes, because we couldn't AFFORD to go to a nice store and BUY whatever was "hot" this season.
And the ironic part of this is that our NEEDS were met. Forget about what we "wanted"....it wasn't going to happen. Today, it's ALL about what you HAVE...screw WHO you are. Poverty is defined (today) as being somewhere in the $14,000 a year income bracket (or lower). Yet I recall working for a downtown Philly publishing firm making $8,000 a year, working my tail off. And I wasn't considered "poverty level".
When a nice new "low-income" housing project is completed, and they start moving people into them, I start to cringe, for I know for certain that it will fall into disrepair in almost as short a time as it took to develop and build. Many noble ideas were implemented during the 70s, attempting to allow these people a CHANCE at better living, and after a brief time, every single one of these developments (or "projects" if you prefer) was TORN DOWN. That left these "poverty-level" people that "chance" to move into OUR neighborhoods...and to what end?

We see once nice neighborhoods become financially-burdensome "distressed" parts of our cities, and in some cases giving the appearance of a battlefield, spurring the flight to the suburbs. We see the few decent people (still in those areas) trying to live among these so-called "poor" people (who are living off the state, getting free food for ALL the kids they produce at will, while driving a new car with a killer sound system) and having a hard go of it. It's a known fact that people who have never "had" anything cherish what they DO have, and what they get...what they EARN. Conversely speaking, those that don't care about anyone or anything will take ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that comes their way, chew it up, and spit out the "rind". They simply have no concept of ownership, and don't wish to.
What we KNOW to be poverty and what we actually witness in our cities is as diverse as the people that make up this nation. If you want to see REAL poverty...go visit the Appalachian mountains...see what THEY call living. We wouldn't even call it that. When you see the ghetto dwellers with their gold toothed "grilles', their latest "thug-designer" clothing and footwear, their pneumatically-controlled "slum-sleds" with enough audio to drown out a police siren, ask yourself if THIS is what "poverty" means to YOU. Think about all those that CLAIM poverty, while bilking the taxpayers. Ponder the fact that people such as this are laughing up their FUBU'ed sleeves at you.

The answers and conclusions you come to might just surprise you.

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