Friday, February 09, 2018

Culture and Health: Part 2

In my previous post, I discussed how many Americans believe that a wealth is earned through hard work and poverty is a consequence of laziness. This cultural view implies that if the poor worked more diligently they could become wealthy. It doesn't matter if a person grew up in a disadvantaged community where a good education, healthcare, nutrition and housing were tough to come by, or if s/he was born into wealth privilege where those opportunities were abundant and easily accessible. All that really matters is one's effort. And since poor people's laziness is a personal failing, they do not deserve social and economic programs such as welfare; after all, it's their own fault they are poor. All they have to do is stop being lazy and they would get a good paying jobs that would bring them out of poverty. This includes the working poor...they just have to work harder.

So, as I understand this way of thinking, the assumption is that poor people don't mind being poor because it's easier than hard work. Sure, they'll probably die younger from disease, violence, poor nutrition, pollution and the like. Sure, they can't afford to travel for pleasure, go to fine restaurants, see Broadway shows, buy nice clothes, purchase a home in a good neighborhood, make investments and watch their money grow, etc. Sure, they might have to live in fear of lives, confront gang violence, grow up in broken families, have a history of being ridiculed, experience prejudice, become disheartened and hopeless, etc. But these things don't really matter to people in poor communities since they can take comfort and rejoice in being lazy. The joys of doing nothing productive--not earning a degree, not going to work and earning a good living--are so wonderful that the pain of poverty means nothing to them...they actually welcome it!

Is my understanding of poverty accurate? Am I missing something? If a few people come out of poverty, does it mean everyone in their community can if they just try hard enough? Is thie a logical view of reality?
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