Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Sluggards, Politicians and the Poor

Nothing a Special Grant from WINZ Won't Fix

We are about to have another talk-fest on child poverty and income inequality in New Zealand.  This will be a politically inspired confabulation. 
Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia are setting up a ministerial committee on poverty under the Maori Party's post-election agreement with the National Party.  (NZ Herald)
Some social researchers have discovered that children born to parents living in "poverty" are likely to be significantly poorer than others in their demographic cohort for the rest of their lives.  In other words, if they are born into poverty, it, more often than not becomes a trap, a deep slippery pit from which they never climb out.

A long-term study of 1265 children born in Christchurch in 1977 has found that those whose families were poor in their first 10 years of life earned about $20,000 a year less by the age of 30 than those who grew up in rich families.  Those from poor families were more likely to leave school without qualifications, have babies before they were 20, commit crimes, go on welfare and have addiction and other mental health problems in adulthood.
This is the sort of thing that politicians don't like to hear because it means that intergenerational poverty is not something which can be fixed with a few more taxpayer dollars being showered down upon unworthy recipients.

Professor Fergusson said the study showed that income inequality and behavioural issues, such as parents' addictions, both had to be tackled to fix social problems.  "For example, increasing the income of substance-using parents may be counter-productive since it will give them more access to purchasing alcohol or drugs," he said.
The academics are not sure what the critical factors or switches are which consign the children of poor families into lifestyles of poverty.  No doubt there are many.  Far too many for bureaucrats and state programmes to fix.  So, the politically inspired confabulation will contribute to global warming, but little more.

We will state the matter plainly.  Poverty is not the problem.  Humanity, or the human soul is.  The perpetual, intergenerational poor are that way because they have a malady of soul.  Yes, the children caught this from their parents, but having caught it, they are enslaved and conditioned to such an extent their escape is virtually impossible, without a radical conversion.

What are some of the characteristics of this spiritual affliction?

Firstly, self-indulgence.  You can be poor without being self-indulgent, but once self-indulgence has overtaken the soul, poverty is a perpetual occupant of the household.

Secondly, an epicurean "living for the moment"--that life is a matter of eating, drinking, and being merry, for tomorrow we all die.

Thirdly, a deep sense of envy and entitlement--that things are bad because someone or something owes us something, and we are doing it tough only because they haven't been made to pay it over yet.

Fourthly, a view of time and the future that counts the future in hours or days.

Fifthly, a lust for possession and consumption goods to satiate and  provide temporary pleasure.

Sixthly, wealth is something which comes by chance, good luck, or winning Lotto.  This is an outworking of the belief that there is no, or little, sense denying oneself in the present for the sake of the future.  Everything is existential.  Everything is now.  Or, it is not real.

Seventh: hard work is an affliction that society from which society ought to protect me.

Eight: there is no sense of duty, obligation, or responsibility.  There is no sense or belief that one has come into this world to serve, to honour, and to obey.

These are the eight deadly sins of poverty.  In our view, a person can be living in threads and yet not be poor in heart or attitude.  They can be far richer than their economic circumstances.  By the same token, some people can be living in the lap of luxury and be poverty-stricken in heart.  But once the richer person had squandered his or her wealth and are at the bottom of the heap, neither they nor their progeny are likely to escape, without a change of heart--a conversion, if you will.

The real issue, then, is whence and how will such a conversion come?  Call us cynical, but state programmes are just never going to cut it.  In fact, the underlying premises of statist amelioration actually locks the spiritual malady in place, reinforcing it, making it stronger.  State programmes implicitly reinforce the maladies of envy, covetousness, demand rights, instant gratification, and instant satiation.  (Why else would the State own and run lottery companies?)

In complete contrast, consider, for example, the testimony of the Proverbs (chapter 6)
6 Go to the ant, O sluggard;
   consider her ways, and be wise.
7 Without having any chief,
   officer, or ruler,
8 she prepares her bread in summer
   and gathers her food in harvest.
9 How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
   When will you arise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
   a little folding of the hands to rest,
11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
   and want like an armed man.
Proverbs 26:
13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road!
   There is a lion in the streets!”
14 As a door turns on its hinges,
   so does a sluggard on his bed.
15 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
   it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth.

Proverbs 20:4
  The sluggard does not plough in the autumn;
   he will seek at harvest and have nothing.
But, no worries, mate.  We'll all take care of you through a multitude of state programmes taking other peoples' money and giving it on to you.

Proverbs 24:
30 I passed by the field of a sluggard,
   by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
31 and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
   the ground was covered with nettles,
   and its stone wall was broken down. 
You poor thing.  Here's a special grant from WINZ to tide you over.

Nope.  Our expectations from the government talk fest on poverty and inequality are exceedingly low.  Somehow, we don't think we will be disappointed.

One thing is clear: these texts from Proverbs are entirely offensive and unacceptable in a religious culture which believes in demand rights or state-funded entitlements.

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