Jean Barker

Bad, naughty poor people!

2012-10-19 10:40

Jean Barker

My personal nickname for Facebook is "Fightbook", because every time I dare voice a political opinion there I find myself being accused of whatever character flaw offended Israelist, Islamist, Romneyist, or anti-feminist, xenophobic right-wingers of various persuasions feel they have discovered in me.

I'm tired of the fight. Too tired to bother most of the time. Yet I very nearly snapped and waded back in for another useless round recently, when a sorority girl whose parents own a double storey house in a wealthy suburb near LA and who has access to her mom's credit card for emergency dress shopping posted one of those "Goodbye Obama" graphics. At the top, it featured a picture of Obama styled to look like the monkey kid from MAD magazine circa 1980s. And then the text: "If you can afford beer, drugs, cigarettes, manicures and tattoos, you don't need food stamps or welfare."

Voters love dumbasses

You see, politicians here in USA say the dumb shit they say for the same reasons Mr JuJu says the dumb shit he says in South Africa: There are a lot of people who secretly or openly want to hear stupid things said. There are people who agree with the right-wingers' take on rape, women's health (whether in binders or out), homosexuality and Israel/Palestine.

Americans, although kind and sweet, are deeply right-wing when it comes to financial matters.

Romney said this about poor people, yet is still neck and neck with Obama in the polls: "...there are 47% who are [...] dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. ... My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

And there's plenty more high and mighty nonsense where that came from.

These comments about lower income Americans were made at a private fundraising event where Romney was asking richer people than himself for money (spot the irony!) to fund his presidential campaign. He has somehow - with the help of media such as Fox News and the culture of fear that makes it impossible to have a peaceful political discussion at a party here - managed to persuade Americans still vulnerable to McCarthyist tactics, that Obama is the rooi gevaar (that's Afrikaans for "communist threat").

Richer Americans, like many wealthy South Africans, tend to take the stance that poverty is a result of some kind of wrong-doing on the part of poor people, and that what they need is tough love.

Safety net

They believe that it's just fine for rich people to spend a fortune on fine wine, jewels, country clubs and other luxuries (because that's "their money to spend as they wish") but it's wrong for a poor person to drown their much more real sorrows, or pay for tattoos, or a cheap manicure. Presumably, poor people don't have the right to anything but the bare necessities. Even their little share of money is not their money to spend how they choose. The poor's moral weakness for drugs, moonshine and other “luxuries" is somehow much less pure than the elite's need for jewels, sorority ballgowns, private educations, fine wines, foreign travel, presidential campaigns and other enriching experiences!

Give me a bloody break, Mittins on uR-Money.

Here's what I think: rich conservatives stand in judgement because they need to condemn others to feel better about their good fortune. They want to believe that poverty could never have happened to them because they're somehow nobler and better, and not because their families and educations are their inherited safety net. They're implying that the poor brought their suffering on themselves by being lazy, while rich people got rich off the sweat of their brows, and not through the use of cheap labour.

I'm not saying some wealthy people didn't work hard not to squander the opportunities they were given. That doesn't make them any less lucky to have had those opportunities in the first place. It doesn't give them the right to treat the less fortunate like children in need of a lesson.

On a lighter note, you can check out my pick of the "Binders full of Women" meme pictures at

- Jean is a screenwriting/directing dual MFA student in California, USA. She tweets as @jeanbarker and blogs pictures of signs and more, here. She will be back.

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