Apologizing for Poverty
Central to the free market, democratic ideology of the Western world, is this often touted, yet generally unchallenged concept of “fairness”; the belief that everybody has a chance to succeed and everybody gets what they deserve.
This message, that is openly disseminated and widely embraced, implies that everyone in society is given an equal chance via education, social services and the general apparatus of the welfare state. Even in nations, like the United States, where welfare support has been whittled down to a toothpick, it still represents an apparent respect for the value of each individual life, regardless of status or circumstance, and conveys the notion that everyone is encouraged to demonstrate their merit: gaining wealth through intelligence, hard work and a can-do attitude.
This is, at first glance, a truly admirable philosophy, as it places every member of society on the same rung of the ladder at birth and implies that if you possess valuable qualities, such as ingenuity and determination, you can live a life of dignity, be respected and acquire the wealth which will reflect that ability to succeed against all odds.
In a society where one is judged by what they possess, wealth has come to represent being charismatic, innovative and smart, while poverty, on the other hand, potentially indicates laziness, idleness and stupidity. If you were born into a rich family, however, and have no notions whatsoever of hard work or are endowed with no special talents, you will still be viewed by others as a successful and innovative person; an important, indispensable figure who contributes to society.
Herein lies the somewhat obvious paradox, for what is generally accepted as a universal truth is known by many to be distorted, warped and even essentially malicious. If, according to this logic, the rich deserve to be rich due to their inherently brilliant qualities, does that not suggest that the poor deserve the wretchedness of poverty due to their lack of the same?
The ideology that the Western world has come to live by unquestioningly therefore assumes that if you do not find success, it is your fault and you have nobody but yourself to blame, yet if you manage to secure riches (by whatever means) you are a natural asset to society and should be cherished and praised.
This kind of ethos enables the rich to amass heinous sums of wealth guilt-free, even being rewarded for their greed, while the poor, who may struggle endlessly, yet contribute more to their community, are looked down upon and considered as failures. Not only do the poor have to lead difficult and troubled lives, beset by all kinds of problems, but then they are punished doubly by a society which has learned to disdain and ridicule them.
It is this notion of “fairness” (of capitalism as a meritocracy rather than a plutocracy) that legitimizes the kind of laissez-faire capitalism we see today; the casino-circus of Wall Street, the dominion of the oligarchs and the breath-taking inequality that has characterized the world in the twenty-first century.
Corporate giants like the Goldman Sachs Gang, Exxon Mobile and Apple can therefore continue committing financial terrorism, destroying the eco-system of the planet and utilizing slave-labour because wealth, no matter how it is acquired, retains a mythical air of respectability that is envied by the general population who are, in reality, little more than victims in this ongoing heist.
Orwellian “doublethink” has become for many people the only method by which to accept such an intellectual fallacy. While the mass of people are left to scramble for the scraps off of the table, it boggles the mind to attempt to accept the notion that the greed of certain groups and individuals is the real driving force behind an otherwise completely altruistic, egalitarian economic paradigm.
After the 2008 financial crash, however, many people awoke to the fact that it is not “fairness” that lies at the heart of our economic system, but unfairnessand that the neoliberal doctrines spouted for the past three decades have been little more than propaganda aimed at placating those who would try to expose it for what it really is– a rentier economy where wealth is created not through production, but by inflation, zero-interest rates and financial products that would have once been considered criminal.
Although much of the world’s population now recognize the inherent inequality of the system, this concept of “fairness” still lingers like a foul odour and no matter what happens to expose the crony capitalist system, it seems impossible remove it from mass consciousness. In spite of the fact that we know the system is rigged, we still alienate the poor and impoverished and obsequiously clamor and fuss over the rich as if they naturally deserve our respect and adoration.
In a moral society, those who steal mass amounts of money and scam people, rip others off and trick people, would be shunned and disenfranchised as opposed to applauded for their misdeeds.
It is time to question our attitude toward the rich; question where or how they secured their wealth and judge them according to whether they are destroying the financial well-being, economic stability or the environment of those with whom they share the planet.
It is time to call out the innate unfairness of this system and realize that the majority of the human population are merely the losers in this giant game of monopoly.
And it is time for the victims of this system to stop asking for forgiveness, for it is only when the poor cease being forced to apologize for their poverty that the real roots of their misfortune will be revealed.