Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Deciding to be Poor

Beginning with the bodily ascension of Ronald Reagan into the halls of the White House, the new mantra that spread across the land like the Black Death was “personal responsibility.” Individuals were now atomized agents of their fate. It was Social Darwinism on steroids. It was quite a transformation for Darwin, as if Jack the Ripper had mutated into a born-again Christian, the only difference being that he prayed over his whores as he gutted them.

According to the doctrine of personal responsibility , a person was the product of the “decisions” he or she made.

If you were poor, it was because you made a “bad decision” to be born into an impoverished ghetto and attend substandard schools where greater emphasis was placed on behavior management than on learning. If you were a latchkey kid because your single mom had to work three jobs just to feed you, and your homework consisted of watching reruns of The Jerry Springer Show, it was because you made the bad decision to be born into the wrong family.

“Personal responsibility” was a product of corporate greed and served corporatism in two ways. First, community is anathema to corporatism because the lifeblood of corporatism is rampant consumerism. The mass production of products requires their mass consumption. Fractured communities make for fractured families. Isolated individuals are more likely to buy unnecessary junk, because consumerism is grounded on impulse buying and the last thing corporatism needs is family members telling an individual that the $250 he or she is about to spend on an anti-wrinkle cream is really stupid. Another problem with community is that there’s entirely too much face-to-face communication between its members and this might lead to questions, which might led to thinking, which might lead to political activism.

The second plus of the doctrine is that it removes the blame for poverty away from an unjust system and places it on the poor. The poor are poor because they chose to be and not because the system is gamed against them. This means the social safety net is unnecessary because welfare and food stamps only encourage people to continue making bad decisions.

No wonder Ronald is canonized. He was the salvation of the nation who returned the traditional American values of greed and exploitation to Main Street and made America whole by completing the destruction of its community.

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