Saturday, January 20, 2007
Men everywhere are equal in some ways, but decidedly unequal in others.
We are all human beings, have approximately the same number of limbs, eyes, proportions, and brain size. We all have the potential to become everything we desire in life, whether it be adulation, wealth, respect, power, control, a major contributor to mankind, or simply the enjoyment of our way of life. We have inalienable rights as men to liberty, justice, and opportunity, although it is obvious that not all men live in a society where these rights are available to them. This is the first example of inequality among men. Through no fault of theirs, some men are denied their rights.
It is clear that most men are not born with the same opportunities of environment, education, love, attention, and resources to ensure their success in life. Their lives are handicapped from the outset. While ideally they may be able to rise above their origins, it is a rare and newsworthy event. Many men struggle for their entire lives simply to support themselves and their families. These men may be highly intelligent, very talented in music or art, or quite capable of becoming a strong contributor to their society in one of a wide variety of fields, but they do not get that chance. They are not equal in opportunity.
Then there is the undeniable fact that not all men are born with the same abilities of: intellect, powerful physique, health, energy, motor skills, good looks, presence, or drive to succeed. The average person is just that--average in these respects, and unlikely to rise to any great heights, even if opportunities are there. There are exceptions, of course, but they are rare also.
In the United States, we have enshrined equal opportunity as a right for all citizens. What we have not done, or not done well, is to figure out how this right plays against the obvious and deep inequalities that a large number of our citizens possess and live with, thus virtually ensuring that they will not truly have equal opportunity. What is more, they have in many instances, gone past the point where they can recover and go forward. Their status has been burned into their being; hopelessness has taken hold, and a resentment of the way things are has become rife in their minds.
Local, State and National governments have reacted to this situation in many ways, as have a number of private organizations and charities. We can observe that there are programs at many levels of administration addressing:
Training for jobs
Supported pay for hiring indigents
Free lunches at school, and breakfasts too, in some cases.
Free Meal Lines
Free Clothing and Christmas Gifts
Minimum Wage Rules
Preferential treatment for minorities
Yet, with all of these programs in place and operating, and with many billions of dollars available for them yearly, we still have the working poor, the unemployed (and unemployable), the ill, the shiftless, the homeless, and the old who are living marginal lives at best. (Or else, they have turned to crime to support themselves, or drugs and alcohol to swim in a fantasy pool for a while, or to both of these behaviors.) Why is this pool of the needy still with us?
It is my belief that there are at least the following causes:
Ignorance of the needy about the help available
Invisibility of the persons needing help
No fixed address, no paper subscriptions, no phone, no TV, no informed friends, no bulletin board to read, etc.
Lack of education
Drug or alcohol addictions
No skill set to offer prospective employers
Illness or handicaps preventing employment
Addiction to life on the street, begging, use of shelters
Inability to keep a job once employed
An attitude of permanent hopelessness
Illegal immigrants with no income or employment
Battered wives, unmarried or divorced women with children and few skills
Convicted felons who cannot find a job when released
Deadly combinations of the above that make these people the “Hard Core” of poverty and inequality
Many of the poor on the record are in that state for a very short time. They are perhaps graduates from high school that have not found a job as yet, but will do so presently, and within a year they will be out of the poverty range. Others that find themselves in poverty from some crisis event such as death of the husband, do turn to the helping hands around them, and climb out of their situation through hard work and a boost or two from government or private agencies.
It is the Hard Core that simply will not go away, no matter how much money is thrown at the problem. No matter how brilliant and available the helpers are--social workers, doctors, therapists, trainers for vocations, detox facilities, and so on, do not have a recidivist level that shows much success--perhaps 5 to 10% of their cases are resolved happily at best.
It would seem that many of the Hard Core indigent people do not want to be helped out of their straits, and until they do want it badly enough, nothing can be done constructively except to provide food and shelter for them. This is being done in most cities, and done well. But, they are unequal by their own choice.