Disenfranchisement             July 2017

When I’m driving over a road I will encounter hills that my car easily flies up. When I am walking that same road it is a completely different story. As a walker I remember how steep it was and how much effort it took me to get up. Thinking about that same road a week later as a driver I won’t even remember that there was a hill, if it curved slightly, or if it was shady.

About five years ago I was so broke that friends had to take me in to have a place to live. During that time I watched TV occasionally and a surprising thing happened. Commercials that I had seen many times in the past had given me the perception that I was in the target audience. Now, in my more modest state of financial affairs, I no longer identified with those commercials. I had become a man without a social class, without a caste

It’s very hard for impoverished people to understand those of us who are so blessed. They hear us whining about one little thing or another and think, “What are these people complaining about ? They have everything.” We, as the blessed ones, have the same problem when we think about those less fortunate, “Why can’t they just get along on what they have? Why do they always need help?”

In an American “Mongolian” restaurant, I watched as three cooks danced around the large circular grill. My pile of collected delectables was in its little zone as these men chopped at it and turned it to assure that all was well cooked. In doing so, some of the food spilled over into a gutter underneath the cooking surface.   Later the lead cook shoved these 10-minutes of “spills” into the hole that gathered them as garbage. It occurred to me that a real Mongolian family would see this loss of seven pounds of food as a true waste.

I am thereby reminded of all the opulent buffets I have indulged in over during my life. Masses of beautiful tasty food with ice sculptures, flowers, caviar, crab legs, and freshly prepared omelets. An impoverished Lost Boy of Sudan would be shocked into silence just looking at it through the fence of his refugee camp in Kenya.

These differing perspectives are like a man trying to understand what a woman goes through in childbirth. He will never know. An eight year old cannot appreciate what grandpa is saying about being shot at during the war. It’s kind of like when you’re reading a book and suddenly the author puts in a sentence in a foreign language which you don’t speak. I don’t know what the author expects you to do with it, but I do know that it makes me feel awkward.

So what do we do with all of these attempts at understanding? First is education. Basic education for all people, not college or post-grad, just the simplest of skills.   Include in that the elements which have caused capitalism to become the most effective economic system. Then add the excellent philosophy which sustains human self worth – earning your own way in the world. Teach everyone about the slavery and poverty of the welfare system and school into them an aversion to wanting it. Use our splendid resources to match available jobs with available workers. Put every able bodied person to work to return their sense of purpose, restore their dignity, and renew their privilege of contributing to the general welfare of the country. More than anything else, these basic solutions will close the gap in the current victim mentality of the impoverished and provide clarification to those who have more.

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