Last night I saw an ad for an upcoming PBS documentary about a young Mexican man who entered the U.S. illegally and is now one of the top brain surgeons in the U.S.
I suspect that such an example underlies the conservative view of poverty - this is the land of opportunity - if you are poor it’s your own fault. You are poor because you are lazy; or a combination of lazy and incompetent. Or worse, you are poor because you are a parasite or hanger-on.
Conservatives that I know are galled by those who live on welfare. Their standard model is an overweight woman living on welfare and breeding so that she can collect a bigger welfare check, more foodstamps, and free healthcare.
Besides eliminating welfare, and even emergency healthcare, some conservatives would like to see public libraries closed. Many tourists from abroad are surprised by the dearth of public toilets here. They find that to relieve themselves they must often go into a place of business and possibly ask for a key. Why encourage vagrancy with public toilets?
We know that Hitler was rounding up gypsies, killing them or sending them to forced labor. Is that the drift with American conservatism? Get rid of the parasites once and for all?
Was it Bertrand Russel who suggested that most people are probably happier working in an office, factory, or other urban occupation than working on a farm? This may be true, but we’re not all created equal. If I developed a brain tumor I’d hope to be treated by someone as skilled as the Mexican surgeon that PBS was referring to. However, I could never bring myself to poke into someone’s skull. Could I work in a coal mine, or in a fluorescently lit office all day. I suspect some miners love their work but to me it would be a living death.
Have you seen any episodes of the TV series, MAD MEN? No doubt those ad executives and office workers feel that they have achieved the American Dream - the pursuit of happiness in what strikes me as a form of hell.
We’ve been evolving for about 3.5 billion years. The last 10,000 years, when our kind began stumbling over fields whistling and shouting at the rear end of an ox, or began splitting marble into blocks for temples and gigantic tombs - these last 10,000 years is a blink in our evolution. I suspect that I, gypsies, bag ladies and assorted parasites haven’t yet made the adjustment. We belong neither here nor there. Bertrand may be right about most people - being a brain surgeon or a Wal-Mart clerk is fine . . . onward and upward with the arts!
I once pointed a camera at an elderly Native American on Skid Road. He raised his hand to shield his face and turned away. I realized I was an irritation, like a fly. Maybe he didn’t want something unknowable being captured, or represented as knowable, if you know what I mean. Maybe he was just embarrased because he was holding a beer can. A parasite? A drain on society? Someone who contributed to the smell of urine in the alley? Someone who used the public library to pass a winter afternoon? Someone who helped clog the hospital emergency room?
What about the murderous fat cat who stole this man’s ancestral land 150 years ago, getting rich on the timber and oil? What about the wealthy heirs who bulldozed that land into a gated suburb with a golf course? Now there’s the salt of the earth!
It’s generally recognized that the rich in the U.S. are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. What’s your take on it? Laissez-faire? What do you think of free higher education for qualified students? High quality courses in prisons - both liberal arts and job training?