Poor People are Gross

They are. We should clean them up.

Instead of handing out the welfare checks, we’ll teach people how to
earn their check. We’ll teach them personal hygiene … the personal
things they don’t get when they come from dysfunctional homes.”

You have to teach them basic things – taking care of themselves,
physical fitness. In their dysfunctional environment, they never
learned these things.

They’re gross, and they smell, and some of them are loud, and some of them are impolite. They’re standing on public street corners. They’re in public parks. They’re hanging around, talking in foul language. They hog the Internet at the library. They hog the library anyway, and they LOOK AT ME. They stand outside stores and they come in movie theaters. They sit on their porches. They sit in their yards. They walk down the sidewalk.

They’re weird, and they’re poor, and they’re probably on welfare, and they’re lazy, and they suck, and this is a nice community, a nice town, a nice city, a nice state, a nice country. They shouldn’t be here. We should put them away. We should lock them down. We should forcibly show them how to get clean because clearly they don’t know how. We should police how they talk and what they say and where they find work and what they do at every turn.

Why? Because we’re not poor, and they are. Clearly we have something to teach them. And clearly we should make them learn it, not for their benefit, really, but for ours. It’s our tax dollars, anyway, that they’re living on, and we would never ever misuse our glorious 50 cents a year that way, by having uncombed hair.

Fuck this nonsense, all of it, forever.

This is the most fundamental misunderstanding of society today, that we should be able to create The Truman Show, basically, and make everybody behave. Other people exist, in the world. You go out and you stand on the public street, you don’t control who’s out there with you. I love my personal space as much as anyone alive and I don’t like being crowded, but … this is the world. Rich, poor, sane, crazy, whatever, everybody’s out there. Everybody belongs.

And yes, we have laws and those laws must be followed, but increasingly we’re looking for ways to nitpick everything until it’s Disneyland and I gotta tell you, Disneyland? Just as full of whackjobs and assholes as every place else, only all of them have enough money to go to Disneyland. Teenagers get to congregate and people get to sit down on a bench and be there, in your line of sight, and if it offends you, tough shit.

But don’t alter fundamental protections in American society that have benefited millions in times of trouble just because you saw a dirty poor person on your nice clean street. Don’t act like the solution is just to put everybody somewhere where they won’t ever encounter another non-poor human being. That isn’t how this works.

We don’t take care of each other because we want to make sure everyone gets a proper crew cut and speaks without any type of slang. We take care of each other because it could be us, tomorrow, needs taking care of, and because it’s the right thing to do, and we do it the best we can figure out how to do it on a government-sized scale. Our fate is your fate.



14 thoughts on “Poor People are Gross

  1. It probably shouldn’t have been, given his war chest and the current climate, but Paladino’s win was a much bigger shocker to me than O’Donnell.
    But he sure knows his base – he’s played right to the worst of the worst of the NYC/upstate (and waaaay waaayy outerborough) divide.

  2. I can’t forget the chapter in Freakonomics of why workers at Wal-Mart are like Drug Dealers (basically, a lot of people at the bottom live in (near) poverty with the hope that they’ll move up the ladder. But only a few people move up. But the expectation of working hard and moving up keeps the rest of the people in their lower jobs).
    But the fact is that there are many, many, many folk who work just as hard and don’t move up the ladder. They didn’t have that lucky break. You’re more likely to be a CEO if mom and pop are a CEO rather than working in the mailroom. With the economics of the last 10 to 30 years (outsourcing, changes in employment needs, etc), a lot of highly trained, hard working folk are out of a job.
    Admittedly, there are folk who are unemployable due to the lack of learning certain skills. But there are many more who just were unlucky.
    What really galls me is the initial release of this idea was to use prisons as the location. Not only at the punishment aspect, but also at the aspect that a prison cell is hardly a place to practice social etiquette.
    And as an experiment, I remember when my employer had a workshop on EEO. They had an exercise where everyone lined up. Then they had a series of statements like: If you had 2 parents move a step forward; else take a step back. If your family had an income of 0 to 25k take a step back; 25k to 100k stay put; over 100k step forward. If you had a college scholarship, step forward. It was amazing how quickly the VPs moved forward as compared to everyone else.

  3. Maple Street, what an fascinating role playing excercise! This reminds me of a very interesting right wing email religious “meme”–the one that compares a specific, historical “atheist” and his descendants to the descendants of Jonathan Edwards. http://rfrick.info/jukes.htm Here’s a link to a thorough debunking of the entire story. But basically it purports to explain, using historical records, that the descendants of a rabid atheist were mostly drunkards, thieves, and prostitutes while the godly descendants of a godly reverend were mostly upper class, college professors, and the like. The whole thing turns out to be a massively twisted misreading of the historical record but even if it were true it would simply prove that *the children of important, wealthy, well educated people* get a leg up in society and do very well, even unto the tenth generation. While if you are the child of someone poor, who works with his hands, and you make one slip up you and your children’s children have a very hard time making it up the ladder of success. In other words; they’ve rediscovered class and privilige but attribute it to an imaginary christian work ethic.
    The other thing that comes to mind is that these people have been watching “The Wire” and misunderstood everything they are seeing about intractable poverty and social class. Of course I might think that because I just watched my way through the fourth season on DVD. I think to a really stupid person the scenes where the kids obviously don’t know how to behave–don’t know how to say “please and thank you” in a restaurant setting might argue to you that they “need” some kind of remeidial training/personal hygiene. That’s the right wing tendency to individualize social problems and place the burden for the culture of poverty on the poor. You can’t get a job in a restaurant, the argument is, because you don’t know how to behave in a restaurant. But a more politically sophisticated view would argue that there need to be more restaurants in their neighborhood, and more disposable income, until going out and being waited on is a natural part of their world. In other words: you don’t know how to get and hold *that* job because that job is not available to you.
    Its the pygmalion view of the economy: if only they could all learn to speak like upper class ladies they could all get jobs in flower shops!

  4. Maple, the other thing that’s really poisonous is the idea of the exceptional story, the guy who DID start in the mailroom and work his way up. He’s who you COULD be, disregarding the fact that unlikely victories in the face of impossible odds means the odds are impossible and the victories unlikely and the law of large numbers means you’re much more likely to be the rule, never mind the exception.
    We celebrate miracles, and the day-to-day living gets lost.

  5. Paladino’s also teeing off of the increasingly common view that if you’re rich, you’re exempt from the rules that everyone else must play by. He’s not bothered to make substantive responses to (or apologized for) the rather blatant examples of racism and intolerance that his remarks about the poor typify.
    That’s one of Paladino’s big attractions for the RWAs in society–being rich means never having to say you’re sorry.
    There’s a lot of aberrant psychology in this guy’s appeal…

  6. Which is to say I agree with montag completely.
    I’m sure those are exactly the traits that appeal to his fans.

  7. Just had a stray thought.
    Could the appeal of Paladino be that one can be, at the core, an SOB and make it big?
    And part of Palin’s appeal be the exceptional story that a poor fisherwoman can make the Prez without any political connections?
    Not that I believe it, but perhaps others do?

  8. love your Wire analogy aimai. I have been preoccupied with thoughts of my rightwing older sister the last couple days and your example speaks to it. It still blows my mind how we could have the same background/lessons/experiences, both be strongly motivated by them, but she took them and interpreted them in the exact opposite way I did. Of course, she thinks I’m just as misguided as I think she is.

  9. virgotex,
    I really sympathize with you on this. I don’t have any close relatives who don’t think like me but I’ve had a ton of interactions with people on the net which mirror this. Its very hard to argue with these things because they are so nuanced and depend so much on unspoken ideas of society, causality, and morality. Its one of the things I really enjoyed about The Wire/4–that its possible to watch characters act horribly and find yourself in a classically right wing mindset saying “these people are animals” and the next minute the acting and the writing undermine that by showing you the flip side, or the background, or the suffering that the previous scene appeared to endorse.

  10. we should reverse the school funding paradiggem. inner cities get what well heeled suburbs get. baby college everywhere. free tutors to the poor. but that is going at the root of poverty and we don’t do that.
    gotta give poor bootstraps so the can pull on them. fuck wife swap. put the rich in the ghetto.

  11. I keep wondering if we would only pass out free deodorant to everyone would we then love the homeless? Ok, maybe with a bottle of shampoo included?

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