The Underclass

 Posted by on 9 December 2005 at 10:05 am  Uncategorized
Dec 092005

In response to this post linking to this op-ed from Charles Murray on the underclass revealed by Hurricane Katrina, I received the following e-mail.

I hate labels such as “Underclass” for the simple reason that it allows those people to wallow in their own misery while waiting for government programs to fix things for them. Labeling them so just gives them a ready made excuse to fail. Is it any wonder they do fail so often. It is expected of them. And besides, they supply gainful employment for writers of articles about the poor, designers of programs for the poor and lets not forget about the Reverend Jesse Jackson and his ilk. Who would they berate us about if there were no “Underclass”?

I was born to a single mother, never new who my father was and didn’t and don’t care. I was sexually abused from the age of 5 to 9 yrs by a friend of the family who would have qualified as a father figure by the author of the article. I was raised by my grandmother and aunt. I quit school and went to work at 16 and never missed a day when I could drag my ass out of bed, sick or no, for more than 40 years. I was married with 2 daughters of my own at 18. I discovered Ayn Rand in a logging camp when I was 30 and fell in love all over again. I am self taught having read hundreds of books including everything by AR. I understand what I read and while I am no grammarian, I write passably. My wife and I celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary last April.

My family is my greatest achievement. My wife is a wonder and an almost perfect foil to me, in that what I don’t get or think of, she does. My oldest daughter is a certified chef who spent 15 yrs in training and then decided she wanted a degree in Economics then switched to English. She worked at her full time job and went to school in the evenings to get her high-school diploma then enrolled in a local community college for her courses. She worked part time and went to school full time and now is in university finishing her last year. My younger daughter quit school at 16 and went to work. She now runs a very successful small business out of her house. By successful I mean $1000-$1500 per week working 8-12 hr six days a week. If you do the math that is a lawyers salary for a grade 9 education.

Did I mention that I am a half-breed Indian who married a white girl?

My point here is not to brag, even though I am very proud of what I have done with my life and especially my family. My point is that sooner or later you have to forget the past and live your life. You forget about the abuse and remember only the good times, of which for me there were many more than bad. It makes no difference whether you are poor or not.
My family poached deer and picked greenery for a local florist wholesaler in order to keep food on the table.

My mother did little to discipline or encourage me. It was my grandmother and my aunt who acted the part of father to me and believe me the were as tough as any man. Therefore, I have no patience with or sorrow for the “Underclass”. I was one of them and turned out pretty well. Where is the extended family of these so called unsocialized black males? Are there no aunts, uncles or grandparents to take up the slack? Rent the movie Antwan Fisher and see how it is done. I have walked in his shoes and I know.

Please excuse my venting and bragging but I just get so tired of hearing about the plight of the poor. In the words of the Reverend Ike (who Ayn Rand admired) “The best thing you can do for the poor, is to not be one of them”.

I first read this e-mail as a sort of criticism of my views.

Certainly, I’m not one to lament “the plight of the poor” — certainly not when the poverty, misery, and chaos of a life is the direct result of a person’s own moral failures. In fact, the whole point of the label “underclass” is to differentiate those unworthy people from the respectable and self-responsible poor. The people that constitute the underclass are not the victims of injustice or bad luck, as some impoverished people may be. They have created their own misery — and deserve to wallow in it until they choose to live better. Those who do grow up in such an environment but choose to live better deserve our respect and admiration. Those who do not deserve nothing but contempt.

However, when I wrote the author back, I received this welcome clarification:

I should have been more clear. I am sorry if it seemed that I was ranting at you about the “Underclasses”.

The rant was a silent scream type of thing. I wish writers would pick better subjects for their articles. Just once in a while I would like to read an article about people who don’t play the victim, who decide to make something of themselves no matter what life has dealt them.

There is a classic in economics called the broken window theory. I goes that a vandal throws a rock through a store owners window and there-by supplies work to the glazier who replaces the window, the makers of the glass in the window, the trucking company who delivers the window, all the way down to the miners of the silicone rock that is used to produce the glass in the window.

The problem is that no one hears about all the people who would have been employed if the store owner had spent the money for the broken window on things that he wanted.

The same idea holds for those who write about the “Underclasses”, we never hear about the ordinary people who make successes of themselves in spite of their circumstances.

That’s an excellent point. I’d like to see more writing on the accomplishments of those admirable people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps, rather than on the pathetic misery of those who refuse to act as life requires.

In general, it’s all-too-easy to pound on evils, particularly given the current state of the world. It’s harder to find and admire the good, but the rewards are so much greater. [Note to self: Remember that, dammit!]

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