Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Wealthy Consider the Poor, or, the trials of Noblesse Oblige

Couple of (slightly dated) articles in the Globe from Globe, Friday May 6 I'd like to comment on. The links are:
And an article from Christine Blatchford whom I use primarily to get my blood flowing when caffeine fails. Outrage is a great stimulant:

Both of these talk about the horrors of poverty and how it impacts society at large. The first article is useful reading in and of itself, though probably not that surprising. Poor, homeless people are a drag for everyone. They rely on emergency services more, they buy less (which is not ideal in a consumer economy), they have more trouble getting jobs because they have no resources.

If you're on the left this is no surprise. We know all this stuff. Even on the right people are willing to acknowledge this. But what really gets to me, is the framing of the article. That the wealthiest suffer because of the poor. And that because of this, horrid loss of income for the wealthiest, that they should consider things like a guaranteed income for the poorest. Apparently the program initiated in a few communities in the 70s has yielded great results (though no reference is given).

So, if you're rich, you should care about the poor because it means you'll get richer.


As for the Blatchford article. She laments how this woman dies, in an underfunded community housing site, due to the fact that only one or two social workers went 'above and beyond' the call of duty. As though this poor woman was the only person in need. Indeed she paints a picture of an unfeeling bureaucracy in a field where the burnout rate is exceptionally high, and is generally considered underfunded and frankly, where the renumeration for workers is not particularly great.
But that's Blatchford all over. Only looking at the individuals in a narrowly defined crisis. Not considering the systemic inequalities that drive these situations. Not in any real sense. She blames the ground level workers for not caring enough. For not being truly exceptional.

Well, that's because they're human. And there's no saying that they're not exceptional in other circumstances. Just not this one.

The common thread, in my mind, between the two articles is the manner in which they paint anyone not in the professional upper middle class framework either as incompetent (Blatchford) or as an investment opportunity (Paperny and Grant). Not as people.

And in the Paperny and Grant article, I'm willing to play ball with that, if it works.

I just don't like it.

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