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The America We Never Seem to Talk About.
November 4, 2008 11:47 AM   Subscribe

The America We Never Seem to Talk About. Brenda Ann Kenneally captures the female working poor and culture of incarceration in Troy, N.Y., where the presidential race has little resonance.
posted by chunking express (53 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
The problem is that the modern economy is all make-believe. There's not enough work to go around, and it's not palatable to most people to have any sort of stipend so that people can live with dignity.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:57 AM on November 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


Wow, kind of like an episode of The Wire (but with more white people and less swearing).

Nice photos.

I think you could get this same photo set anywhere though.

In small town Iowa there are trailer parks filled with people like these.

I was a bit creeped out by most of them, can't imagine wanting to spend time with any of them.

A good argument for education. Or birth control.

I do feel a bit better about my own life now.

Nice knife.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:11 PM on November 4, 2008


"A good argument for education. Or birth control."

Be careful. That could be interpreted two ways:

1) It would be good if the women pictured here had better education and access to birth control so they could have more options in their lives. We should strive to provide better access to education and birth control.

2) If only these women were better educated and had been smart enough to use birth control, they wouldn't be in such a dire situation.

One of these versions blames the women involved and is borderline eugenicist. I am not sure which one you meant though.
posted by mai at 12:16 PM on November 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


To comment on the photos themselves, I thought they were pretty bleak. On the one hand, it is eye-opening to have such a intimate view of the lives of these women. On the other hand, some of the pictures seemed kind of sensationalistic, and some didn't portray their subjects as having much agency or dignity.
posted by mai at 12:19 PM on November 4, 2008


Which, to me, is very different from an episode of The Wire, because in that show there are always these moments that reveal the characters' intelligence and humor.
posted by mai at 12:20 PM on November 4, 2008


That's what makes it great fiction.

Though I take it you're not suggesting that everyone has agency and dignity in equal proportion so much as that it is unseemly to publish photo sets of those who don't.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:34 PM on November 4, 2008


where big box stores and penitentiaries are the only sources of employment.

You know, except for the famous university in town, and the good junior college in town, and the small-but-vibrant high tech community growing there. And oh yeah, it's commuter-close to Albany, the state capitol.

But other than that, yeah, Troy is just a post-apocalyptic wasteland ruled by Lord Humungous.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:43 PM on November 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


Though I take it you're not suggesting that everyone has agency and dignity in equal proportion so much as that it is unseemly to publish photo sets of those who don't.

Maybe not unseemly? But maybe exploitative or voyeuristic or sensationalistic?

Which shouldn't be interpreted as mai's words... I'm just trying to put my finger on the aspect of the spread that I didn't really care for, from a journalistic perspective.
posted by pineapple at 12:45 PM on November 4, 2008


Keep in mind she's not a journalist, she's a documentary photographer. She is trying to tell a story with her photos. It's hard for us here sitting and looking at these photos to know if the reality of these peoples situations jive with what was photographed. I like the photos a lot. Yes they are bleak, but i'm not sure they are exploitive or over the top.
posted by chunking express at 12:50 PM on November 4, 2008


the photos are terrific. But finally, a massive show of despair of this sort asks of us that we use words to figure out (1) how this came about, (2) if this can be changed in some way, (3)will this sort of poverty and human blight spread still further among our society (and I do not mean geographically). In, say India, we would not get worked up by such photos but would assume that is the way things are in that country for so many. In America we see it and ask questions.

Totally disconnected from the election might seem a normal enough reaction but is nother way of ensuring that not much will be done.

I am reminded of what historically Western NY was known for:

http://www.westernny.com/history4.html
posted by Postroad at 12:52 PM on November 4, 2008


I'm actually a little disappointed that, living there for four years for school, the full realization of just how much of a shithole Troy is never really hit me. Then again, we were really discouraged from going anywhere further than the relatively small downtown area and I did not walk down the hill very often. Even downtown, though, there were signs of a run-down town - day labor offices, bail bondsmen, stuff like that, right next door to violin makers and boutique clothing stores. Kind of weird. And then the "mall" that was its own miniature ghost town.

The (pretty minimal) research I did on the town when I got there told me that two factors really killed the town - the train and shirt collars. Nearby Rensselaer fought with Troy for the train station in the late 1800s, and Rensselaer won out. So no train through the town. The city then built its manufacturing industry off of the shirt collar business, which was wiped out once washing machines rendered separate shirt collars and cuffs obsolete.

It's really trying to come around, though. A lot of RPI alumni have set up shop in Troy and are building businesses there, and the school itself has invested a lot of money in the town. New restaurants and shops are opening downtown. There's a new tech park in South Troy.

If you're ever in Troy, have coffee at the Daily Grind, drink at the Troy Pub (now Brown's Brewing Company) and have dinner at the River Street Cafe.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:53 PM on November 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


It is kind of circular though...

Underclass citizen apathetic to election process because elected government officials neglect and exploit poor community <> Elected government official apathetic to poor community because they do not vote
posted by gagglezoomer at 1:03 PM on November 4, 2008


Btw, my comment is not meant to suggest that these people are not victims of some sort, only that one reason that poor people are so neglected by the government is because they sway no power over it -- and this article conveys that sense of powerlessness despair
posted by gagglezoomer at 1:05 PM on November 4, 2008


What struck me most about the photos was how unhealthy everyone looked - their skin looking almost gray - as if they have been battered so much by life that they could barely breathe, could barely get enough oxygen.
posted by Shebear at 1:05 PM on November 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm confused about her linking Troy and its present condition with the upstate prison system. There are no prisons in the area that I'm aware of, and most of the residents (of the type documented here) have family roots to the area, they are not part of some influx of ex-cons from elsewhere. Troy is just another industrial city that collapsed with deindustrialization and the dead-enders are the casualties.

Troy is also a curious place, as others have pointed out above, in that there is an unusual number of well respected learning institutes in the area. Emma Willard is another. The city is quite grim in places, but beautiful in others. There's a lot of gentrification going on in the downtown area, with people buying up gorgeous old brownstones for shockingly low prices.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 1:09 PM on November 4, 2008


Piece of trivia -- I believe Kurt Vonngegut's city of Ilium, mentioned in Cat's Cradle (and other works?), was based on Troy. The university in the novel was based on RPI.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 1:12 PM on November 4, 2008


I am currently across the river from Troy. Around here it is referred to as "Troylet."
Albany, Schenectady and Troy are all areas in need of serious revitalization (or something along those lines)
Being the state capital doesn't count for much. Albany lacks as does the whole area.
Employers in this area take advantage of the work force in ways that are obscene. I have personally been "advised" that NY is a hire at will- fire at will state numerous times with intonations not so subtly hidden as to imply "we can do whatever we want and there is nothing you can do about it."
The only good news lately has been the announcement of the partnership AMD is in to put The Foundry chip fab plants in Malta. I can only assume CPB means that from his statement "and the small-but-vibrant high tech community growing there."
Around here the high tech community(IT) is treated like crap. That probably is due to the local ITT churning out class after class of "graduates" who will work for $11 an hour and aren't even worth that.
It is kind of sad, because if you go to Albany or Troy (I haven't bothered to venture to Schenectady) there is some very cool old architecture. A lot of very neat old houses and buildings and churches. But the areas are run down and downright dangerous.
Gotta run.
Thanks for the post.
posted by a3matrix at 1:13 PM on November 4, 2008


maybe exploitative or voyeuristic or sensationalistic?

Fair enough. It’s no doubt a fine line to walk, and I may be naive in thinking that the photographer may simply be able to record what they see if they want to, rather than censor an undignified (or dignified) moment to give the piece a certain slant. I’m all for recognizing the truth in a moment, be it dignified or not. What I’ll never be able to get is the ability to stick a camera in someone’s face and capture it. But that’s not my job or my choice, thankfully.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:13 PM on November 4, 2008


Having grown up in towns with a large proportion of working poor folks--this doesn't look any different than the houses of some of my friends in high school. It probably doesn't look any different than some neighborhood within a mile or two of you, wherever you're living.

And yeah, you saw the merry-go-round they were on, and how it was clearly self-perpetuating. Bad jobs, no hope, booze and drugs, mother with skeevy abusive boyfriends, friends and relatives in jail, encouragement to skip school to get a bad job or to take care of the younger kids.

My friend had a baby by the time she was 14 with a profoundly shiftless guy who was soon in jail--just to get out of her household. She's still working a McJob, almost 20 years later.

I hear a lot in this election about the middle class. Who has any plans to create opportunities for folks like this? (Free daycare at a community college might go a long way), or dealing with the massive black hole that much of the rural US is becoming in a post-factory economy?
posted by LucretiusJones at 1:15 PM on November 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that is a small slice of Troy. It's a small slice that should be represented, but definitely not the whole picture as others have alluded to. I actually really love downtown Troy and would happily move (back) to the area if circumstances warranted.

Of course, I currently live in the other supposed hellhole of Syracuse, so maybe I'm a tad biased.
posted by stefnet at 1:19 PM on November 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I knew someone from Troy in college. Her description led me to believe it's a sad, sad place.
posted by zizzle at 1:28 PM on November 4, 2008


Can't they just get jobs and lift themselves up by their bootstraps? That's what I did, and I never needed help from anyone.
posted by John of Michigan at 1:34 PM on November 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Troy, Albany and Schenectady all have there good and bad sides. But I guess that's part of why this is the America we never talk about. As soon as you start talking about it people start saying things like "it's not all that bad."
posted by brevator at 1:38 PM on November 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why can't these people just be Borne of a Royal bloodline? Surely that would Help them purchase finery, and keep them away from the Cruel hands of Gaol.
posted by Damn That Television at 1:44 PM on November 4, 2008 [6 favorites]


The photos are compelling. But no matter who is president, or what kind of economy we have, there will always be a subset of the population that is poor and has to work shitty jobs like Dunkin Donuts in every city and state. Some, such as the photographer, will rise above it and improve their situation. And others will stay poor and desperate and in-and-out of prison or the army, will drink soda out of 2-liter bottles and watch teevee and make lots of hungry babies. And the rest of us will wring our hands about whether to give them a hand up or a hand out. And so it goes.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:46 PM on November 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was born in Troy, and spent the first ten years of my life in a nice rural suburb outside of it. I grew up across the street from a farm. It was far more Andy Griffith than it was these pictures, by a long shot.

I went back there for college at RPI - a huge mistake, as the student population was 75% male - and what I returned to was . . . wretched? I don't know that there's a word for Troy in the late fall when everything's dead but the snow hasn't come yet. It's like overwhelming existential despair cut with scarcity. Weltschmerz, maybe.

These pictures reflect a lot of what I saw in college. What I nearly moved into when I was living on $2000 a semester in grant money and some friends offered a $150/mo cubbyhole. Sometimes I would walk out of campus into the city late at night and occasionally encounter scenes outside of the dives in Troy (there were no non-dives) that looked like they'd been lifted straight out of some overwrought dystopian movie.

The thing is, Troy's an obvious example because it's urban enough to constitute a lot of people. What people don't understand is that this poverty and depression extends to the regions around it. It's not as densely packed, but the bleakness goes onward and outward. Brunswick. Lansingburgh.

There's a lot of America out there in those spaces, and I think if I had to answer the occasional queries I get from people who know about my conservative upbringing, usually to the tune of "how in the FUCK does McCain have 40% or more of the electorate after the last eight years?" then I would probably point to Troy. This, I think, is why. Messages for hope are going to fall on pretty deaf ears here, because what exactly and realistically is there to hope for?
posted by Ryvar at 1:48 PM on November 4, 2008 [7 favorites]


It's not even just the rural US - I know a ton of people living like this on the outskirts of two major urban centers.

Heck, yeah, our politicians need to start taking these folks into account. They need to be de-marginalised, re-assimilated, addressed...something. Anything other than the continual slide and struggle they face now.

Interesting post, chunking express.
posted by batmonkey at 1:50 PM on November 4, 2008


Well, right now it's the America we never talk about because poor people don't vote, whereas the middle and upper classes do.

Keep in mind she's not a journalist, she's a documentary photographer. She is trying to tell a story with her photos. It's hard for us here sitting and looking at these photos to know if the reality of these peoples situations jive with what was photographed.

I think your last sentence is kind of my point. There is no doubt an "observer effect" at work here (wouldn't there have to be?), and we can't know how true or valid the circumstances are.

Regardless, the artist doesn't have to be an actual journalist to have a journalistic responsibility. That she's presenting pictures instead of a written story -- especially if under a banner of documentation -- don't relieve her of an obligation.

I'm not articulating my point all that well, because I can't find a diplomatic way to do so. Because essentially, my point -- not to you, chunking, but to the photographer -- is, "Yeah, there are poor Americans. What's your point?" (Which doesn't sound as indifferent or confrontational in my mind as it appears here... it's more like, "yes...and?")

I realize that the photographer has just put a book out and that she grew up in Troy in one of these same bad situations. Maybe that's her point: "This was my life and I wanted to document it." Which is certainly not exploitative. But neither do I feel a call to action in her work, and I guess that's where it feels like staring at zoo animals.
posted by pineapple at 1:53 PM on November 4, 2008


The two largest employers in NY are Verison and the Bureau of Prisons. Besides prisoners entailing non-exportable jobs, as the article points out, prisoners and their families increase the local population, bringing in more government spending allotments. Follow the money?
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:56 PM on November 4, 2008


I can only assume CPB means that from his statement "and the small-but-vibrant high tech community growing there."

RPI is churning out game developers.

Agora Games
Vicarious Visions
1st Playable
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:11 PM on November 4, 2008


The two largest employers in NY are Verison and the Bureau of Prisons.

Oh, please.

1 LINCOLN HOSPITAL Bronx 35,000
2 HARRIS CORP Saratoga Springs 20,000
3 MERRILL LYNCH & CO INC New York 15,000
4 MT SINAI MEDICAL CTR New York 13,000
5 BETH ISRAEL MED CTR-PSYCHIATRY New York 12,000
6 MT SINAI HOSPITAL OF MT SINAI New York 12,000
7 PUBLIC ASSISTANCE DIV #2 Syracuse 12,000
8 FORTUNOFF White Plains 10,000
9 MORGAN STANLEY CHILDRENS HSPTL New York 8,200
10 COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MED CTR

Moreover...

Industries With Job Gains:
Educational & Health Services + 25,000
Leisure & Hospitality + 9,100
Government + 6,500
Professional & Business Services + 4,600
Other Services + 3,600
Information + 2,100
Natural Resources & Mining + 100
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:22 PM on November 4, 2008


"jive" = "jibe"
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:26 PM on November 4, 2008


Whether Troy is a shithole or an average city with a "normal" amount of poor people, I think it's sad that the political focus has shifted away from trying to help people like this. WTF is government for if not to help out people like this? The middle class will continue regardless of whether their taxes go up or down by $500.
posted by GuyZero at 2:31 PM on November 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


And the rest of us will wring our hands about whether to give them a hand up or a hand out. And so it goes.

If the United States economy continues to worsen or even slides into depression, as happened during the lifetime of many still alive, you may find your job and prospects evaporate and your position in society will no longer include you among what it comforts you to call "the rest of us."

Then, it may be someone else philosophically saying "and so it goes."
posted by longsleeves at 2:31 PM on November 4, 2008


If the United States economy continues to worsen or even slides into depression, as happened during the lifetime of many still alive, you may find your job and prospects evaporate and your position in society will no longer include you among what it comforts you to call "the rest of us."

Then, it may be someone else philosophically saying "and so it goes."


Oh, absolutely! I've been there before, and fully expect to be there again in my lifetime.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:41 PM on November 4, 2008


What struck me most about the photos was how unhealthy everyone looked - their skin looking almost gray - as if they have been battered so much by life that they could barely breathe, could barely get enough oxygen.

Battered by life? Nah, that comes from the 6 months of slate grey skies that starts around now. Everybody upstate gets that color, but especially those that can't get off to Cancun. As for the low oxygen look, I suspect that's cigarettes.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:58 PM on November 4, 2008


maybe exploitative or voyeuristic or sensationalistic?

What kind of photos of this would be acceptable? If we agree that these sorts of stories need to be known, what better way than to do so than with this sort of in-your-face, no-punches-pulled, beautifully-wrought pictures? While there is a possibility that this sort of photography has lost its effectiveness, I think the only way to begin to address the problems that create these situations is to make people aware of them. In order to do so, the pictures need to be gripping and beautiful. Otherwise, the photos risk not being seen, not being remembered, and not grabbing viewers attentions.
posted by msbrauer at 4:52 PM on November 4, 2008


Everybody upstate gets that color

Especially with, you know, bad lighting.

And Photoshop.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:45 PM on November 4, 2008


2 HARRIS CORP Saratoga Springs 20,000

I am not sure where you got that from, but I can tell you as a resident of Saratoga Springs, there are no employers here with 20,000 employees. At least not 20,000 employees working in Saratoga Springs. Probably the owners house is in Saratoga Springs.
And the biggest employer in the capital region is NYS.
posted by a3matrix at 6:13 PM on November 4, 2008


I didn't find the pictures compelling or particularly artistic or documentary. If these pictures are shocking to anyone, then that person has had an incredibly sheltered and fortunate life.

I thought these pictures seemed framed, posed and contrived.


That poverty sucks, is a given. That we have an entire class of citizens for whom basic necessities are sometimes luxuries is something that should absolutely be on the front pages of every media outlet because it is immoral and unforgivable.

But these images seem exploitative rather than documentary to me.
posted by dejah420 at 8:03 PM on November 4, 2008


John McCain just gave a concession speech, I just heard it on NPR. It's over, we won!
posted by dejah420 at 8:31 PM on November 4, 2008


Erm, oops, wrong thread...sorry. flagged.
posted by dejah420 at 8:36 PM on November 4, 2008


WTF is government for if not to help out people like this

what are you for, then?
posted by magic curl at 9:53 PM on November 4, 2008


What struck me most about the photos was how unhealthy everyone looked - their skin looking almost gray - as if they have been battered so much by life that they could barely breathe, could barely get enough oxygen.

Look at photos from 100 years ago. It was even worse.
posted by magic curl at 9:55 PM on November 4, 2008


Depending on who you talk to, Troy, Watervliet, Rensselaer, Lansingburg, and Cohoes are either a permanent dystopian wasteland or a depressed post-industrial area slowly getting back on it's feet. I think it depends on the depth of a person's experience with the place. Put me in the second category.

I lived in Troy for 3 years. First as a student, then as a roofer, then as an carpenter/handyman. All I can say is that during even those 3 years I saw a lot of change for the better. Businesses slowly coming in. Downtown Troy growing more alive. But it was definitely slow.

I was never afraid to walk around Troy at night. I found that my experience never jibed with people's stories of Troy as an urban battleground. I worked with men who's homes looked much like those in the slideshow. Some of them were in the revolving poverty category and some were clawing their way out and building a better life for their children. They were almost all born and raised locally, as were their parents and grandparents.

I don't know exactly what to say about the place except that I would gladly move back again someday, at least for a few years. Some of my favorite memories are of perching high on the roof of some turn of the century house, with century old dirt filling my lungs as I ripped off the roof, surveying the town below as people scurried around on their own business. But maybe that's just because I was young and healthy and I love working outdoors. It makes me wistful though.

Also, I understand that the posing and lighting choices, etc are designed to tell a story, but this is upstate NY. Everyone drinks DD, owns knives and CO2 BB guns (yeah, that was sure dramatic!) and to me a clutter of old soda bottles and fast food wrappers doesn't say much. Color me unimpressed. I think there were both more subtle and more powerful ways to convey a message of poverty and the photographer took the easy way out.
posted by no1hatchling at 12:55 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was struck by how few of them picked up their rooms. I grew up in the same poverty as these people, but my mother insisted that we put away our stuff. And it doesn't take much to spruce up the walls.

They remind me of something a Russian once said to me when I asked why the beautiful buildings of St. Petersburg often had public stairwells that had never been swept or painted or washed.

"It is someone else's job. Someday, the government will do that for us."
posted by ewkpates at 4:22 AM on November 5, 2008


"I was struck by how few of them picked up their rooms. I grew up in the same poverty as these people, but my mother insisted that we put away our stuff. And it doesn't take much to spruce up the walls."

This is the one thing that I am unabashedly unliberal about. You don't have to be perfect and neat and tidy all the time, but fucking maybe consider just picking up the rotting garbage off the fucking floor. I visted some friends of friends in depressing Grand Rapids MI and it was all I could do to not strangle them and scream you are living in filth and it is killing your soul.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:19 AM on November 5, 2008


What dejah said is exactly how I feel but didn't properly say it.

Not that I think this is a bad post; on the contrary, I think this is a good post and I'm glad chunking shared it.
posted by pineapple at 7:33 AM on November 5, 2008


mai:

I was flip with the birth control comment, but I probably mean it somewhere between what you point out as options.

These people are in a sucky situation. Additional burdens can't be helpful.

A kid or community college isn't as easy of a choice when you already have the kid. And I know, it's not an either/or option, but it does become more difficult.

From the photos these people are not shining examples of humanity, but I wasn't advocating eugenics.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:05 AM on November 5, 2008


I think the reason why these pictures seem exploitive is not the subject matter (my experience growing up poor in Canada is that posing like that is called "The Family Album" minus the inevitable terrible generic background department store and school photographs), but that it's visually unpleasant, and it reminds you that one component of poverty is the poor people, themselves.

Poverty is a social condition as much as an absence of cash. Plenty of people rebound from bankruptcy, it's the generations of squalor, bad choices, substance abuse, mental illness, child neglect and getting the shaft as far as employment and education, which causes those filthy homes, strung out looking parents and dubious boyfriends trying hard to look tough.

When you grow up in squalor, you don't learn the life skills to be clean. At 22, I'm still mastering sweeping and keeping up with the dishes. My mother's side of the family breeds brainy, but crazy and sensitive, and as a result we're walking the line between "Too fragile to go to school and work" and "Scholarships". The thing that separates me from any one of those people is a thin line, and I’m unbelievably lucky. Thank goodness I’m capable of education and employment.

A lot of the mess that’s making people angry is because they’re incapable of cleaning. My stepfather, left to his own devices, gets roaches. My mother has limited energy. The house is clean when she’s running it, but with my stepfather actively messing things up, I grew up in “Good lord people, pick up your pizza boxes and trash!”
Watching my siblings drop out of school is painful, but it can’t be helped. Watching my stepfather destroy his health and put the family into constant debt isn’t fun, neither are bad choices and knowing that, if I want my mother to be able to retire, every investment she’s made in me needs to be returned. Otherwise my mother will end up in severe penury when she’s too old to work, because of bad choices, like having too many kids, and bad luck, like a crap husband and disabilities.

But the saddest part of poverty is that the people experiencing it will often be the ones making choices to keep it going. Helping the poor is sometimes trying to protect people from themselves while still being able to respect them.
posted by Phalene at 9:25 AM on November 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


maybe consider just picking up the rotting garbage off the fucking floor.

P.J. O'Rourke liked to quote his grandmother on this one: "No one is so poor that they cannot pick up the trash in their own yard."

Which assumes you have a yard to clean up. But you get the point...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:59 AM on November 5, 2008


P.J. O'Rourke liked to quote his grandmother on this one: "No one is so poor that they cannot pick up the trash in their own yard."

I did a GOTV thing yesterday for the DFL in Minnesota. The second precinct we got was a very poor neighborhood, backed up to I-94 on Saint Paul's East Side, with I'd say 10% of the houses boarded up, predominantly black but with significant numbers of young folks of all races. Many of them were going to vote for the very first time. Most of the houses were rental property and were most were well maintained. There was some trash in some of the yards, but most were picked up and the gardens and lawns well maintained. The least well maintained properties tended to have people home and they were without exception women with many very young children. I think failure to maintain in these instances reflected energy that had to be redirected elsewhere, not an economic condition.

It's really easy to believe that the difference between you and the poor is simply smaller amounts of money, without considering the reasons the poor have less money. Those reasons are varied, but be very careful in discounting those reasons.They can constrain not just their economics, but all of the faculties we humans use to meet our challenges in life. I think right-wing pundits, even funny ones like PJ, fail to even try to understand these challenges. Compassion is a secondary effect of thoughtful understanding.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:28 PM on November 5, 2008


Mental Wimp, I think you've been misguided by your humanism. One of my all time heroes and the man who really laid the ground work for our awesome new president, Booker T. Washington, echoed O'Rourke (or likely the reverse). In the 1800's he required former slaves and native americans that he was educating to brush their teeth and change their linen without exception , even the illiterate.


Poor has nothing to do with it. It isn't a lack of energy. It isn't higher priorities. It is a lack of effort. Period.

It can be argued that the people who were willing to make the effort packed up and moved on, and that this is why things look so bad there - its the concentration of people not willing to make the effort.

Poverty does not make people criminals or animals. It denies opportunity, yes, but it doesn't force us to live in garbage. When we do, it is because we chose to. It does a tremendous disrespect, it is insulting, to the poor who keep clean homes and walk miles to the library to suggest that being poor prevents literacy and cleanliness.
posted by ewkpates at 9:03 AM on November 6, 2008


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