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Projection and Poverty
Walking into the county jail at two in the morning, because I want to post bail for one of the inmates, there are several things that I notice right away. First, the blinding brightness of the lights. It may be night outside but it is apparently always daytime in the county jail. The second thing I notice is the noise – metal clanging doors and the shouts and moans of the drunken, the addicted, and the mentally ill.
And the smells. The unmistakable stench of urine mingled with the smell of bleach pervades the air.
I’m there on a mission of mercy – to bail a young man out of jail so that he doesn’t miss work in a few hours. His fragile grip on his job won’t survive an absence for having been arrested. There are $2,000 in hundred-dollar bills in my pocket. County jails are notorious for wanting cash on the barrelhead if they’re going to let someone go free. No checks or credit cards accepted here.
The young man who needs my help is in jail because he was arrested by the police after accumulating traffic tickets he could not afford to pay. Since he couldn’t afford them, he didn’t pay them. Of course, he also didn’t show up in court to arrange a payment plan. He just let the tickets slide and a warrant for his arrest was duly issued. Stopped by the police for a minor traffic violation, he was arrested because of the outstanding warrants.
For reasons I won’t go into here, I knew this young man and thought he might have some potential. For entirely unexpected personal reasons, I had been thrown into close association with numerous young people among the urban poor. I felt compassion for this young man and arrived at the jail in the wee hours after I received a call from one of his friends.
On another occasion, my wife and I loaded up the trunk of our car with groceries and took them to the house of a young mother in a poor urban part of town. Her children were going hungry. She resided, along with a couple of other women and their children, with a man known in the neighborhood for dealing drugs. When we arrived to drop off the food, we found the drug dealer was home at the time. He presented a noteworthy appearance, having adorned himself with thousands of dollars worth of gold teeth, gold chains, and tattoos. But the women and children were left to fend for themselves. Priorities.
Over time, I began to notice a change in my own perceptions of the people I was connected to within that community. My actual experience was beginning to unravel my previous sentimental assumptions about the poor and the “unfortunate.” I began to have unorthodox thoughts about the social pathologies I was having my nose rubbed in. Ultimately, I began to suspect (though I didn’t at first feel free to voice my suspicions) that in a free society and economy, sustained poverty may be mostly self-inflicted.
Admittedly, I came to this impression not due to quantitative surveys that measured the prevalence of personal irresponsibility among the urban poor. My conclusions are drawn only from my own close observation of numerous people who all shared common demographic characteristics and similar cultural assumptions. They didn’t all know each other. But what they shared in common was a worldview.
Ultimately, the narrative in my head about the poor was completely rewritten by the experience of dealing with them directly rather than from a distance, where my prior fantasies had been much easier to sustain. I was eventually forced to conclude that my perception of the poor was more an artifact of my own imaginings than of reality. The entire narrative that had been running around in my head, prior to engaging personally with the poor, was a figment and projection of compassionate fantasies.
In my imagination, I conceived of the poor as being involuntarily in difficult straits due to circumstances beyond their control. What I found in actuality was that in almost every case, the difficult circumstances were the result of very bad decisions and misplaced priorities. More than this, it was also the case (this shocked me at the time) that most of the people I dealt with preferred their difficult circumstances to altering their priorities in such a way that would have yielded different outcomes.
I eventually began to realize that my own compassion was largely animated by the way I myself would feel if I was in their circumstances. But, to my surprise, it turned out that my feelings about their circumstances were a product of my own priorities, not theirs. When I intervened to “help” by propping them up (e.g., paying the outstanding tickets of my friend in county jail), they almost always eventually ended up back in the very same circumstances again.
Now, someone from the professional helper class might weigh in at this point to suggest that there is a need for the urban poor to be coached by professional helpers in the niceties of making better decisions for their lives. But decision-making is ultimately downstream from values. Better decisions can never be had in the absence of truer beliefs. Decisions are not simply an artifact of decision-making technique but, rather, they are visible manifestations of specific underlying commitments. The issue with the urban poor in my acquaintance was not that they were stupid or incapable, nor even unskilled in decision-making. The problem was that they believed things about the world that were manifestly untrue.
Most of my urban poor acquaintances believed that a life worth living was characterized by pleasure-seeking and profligacy. (You will learn far more about the real motivations of the urban poor by reading the lyrics to their music than by listening to the popular romanticization of poverty that dominates the popular imagination.) The hedonistic worldview of my acquaintances took various forms, but the results were always the same: dissipation and disaster. The thing that was surprisingly difficult for me to accept was that for the majority of my acquaintances, the ensuing disaster was, for them, actually preferable to the discipline and self-denial which would have forestalled their unhappy circumstance. They found the impositions of responsibility (e.g., renewing their driver’s license, maintaining a job) to be far more nettlesome than spending a few nights in jail or living in squalor. This was mind-boggling to me, but I finally came to grips with the fact that it was only mind-boggling when perceived through my own very different worldview.
The gap between myself and most of the poor who inhabited my circle was not actually money. It was priorities.
I found myself surprisingly resistant to accepting, as real, the obvious preference many of these people had for calamity over safety, a preference that showed itself whenever safety required self-discipline. Such recklessness ran so counter to how I had imagined the urban poor – as unwitting victims of forces beyond their control – that it was hard for me to believe that such people existed.
Another facet of my internal resistance was, I now suspect, grounded in my own unspoken realization that the impressions I had formed by close association with the poor were far outside the socially acceptable bounds of modern paternalistic compassion. Modern pieties are such that social niceties allow for nothing other than sickly sweet empathy toward the poor, combined with a never-ending presumption of their innocence.
Coming to grips with the extent to which one’s prior assumptions have been totally out of step with reality is a sobering experience, not least because you may now find your own beliefs out of step with almost everyone around you. Having wandered the halls of jails, and also spent time actually talking with the poor, I found myself impressed but shocked by their very intentional and philosophical worldview, one which they could articulately express, and which perfectly accounts for their difficult circumstances. Their human agency is real. The urban poor are fully formed human beings with a conscious point of view. They are not stupid. They are not children. They are not sub-human. Understanding the tradeoffs, they simply choose to minimize the benefits of delayed gratification.
The light eventually dawned on me that the popular mythology surrounding poverty in America has almost no correspondence with reality.
Coming to grips with the truth about the mindset of the poor is harder than it might seem. We are social creatures, after all. Harboring views that are out of step with the sympathies of almost everyone around you can be traumatic at first. I expect there may even be people reading this who think I overstate the situation or that I am a callous, unfeeling monster.
Eventually, I found in the writings of Theodore Dalrymple a kindred spirit whose own life working among the urban poor, led him to similar conclusions. It was comforting to read his books as I grappled with the challenge of having come to conclusions that were so socially out of step. Even he found himself feeling the burden of coming to conclusions that were so at odds with the dominant cultural mythology.
“As every political propagandist knows, there is nothing more destructive of the human psyche than to be forced to doubt the veracity of what one’s own elementary observations demonstrate, simply because they conflict with a prevailing and unassailable orthodoxy. In such circumstances, one is forced to choose between considering oneself deluded, or the world as mad: one is either sane in an insane world, or insane in a sane world. Neither alternative is entirely satisfactory.” – Theodore Dalrymple, Romancing Opiates
One of the great benefits of the recent pandemic, from my perspective, was that it awakened so many people to the pervasive disconnect between the official narrative coming at us from all directions, and the observed reality of our lived experience. Not everyone has had my own cause to regularly rub shoulders with the urban poor, but during the pandemic, everyone was able to compare their actual experience and intuition with the propagandistic drumbeat they were subjected to. It is comforting, in some perverse way, to know that millions of people have discovered the extent to which official narratives can diverge from reality. Alas, the propaganda and gaslighting are apparently never-ending, and they aren’t limited to our understanding of poverty.
One of the disconcerting things about my engagement with the urban poor has been the discovery that my sympathetic sensibilities were wholly out of step with my rational understanding of what was true. I found that, though I had a conscious point of view regarding subjects like the causes of poverty, those conscious ideas were wholly in conflict with my initial subjective reaction to the poor themselves. I wouldn’t have said, in so many words, that I believed the urban poor were always victims. But I nevertheless instinctively presupposed the victimhood of the urban poor in my early interactions with them. In short, I found that I had drunk from the narrative I was immersed in, and that narrative had a foothold in my own moral imagination.
In the end, I have come to believe that, in economically free societies, most of the persistent poor are not innocent victims of circumstance. There are exceptions, to be sure. But I believe that those exceptions are a tiny fraction of the broader community. The fraction of real victims is small enough that helping them is impossible using the kind of blunt instrument that the industrial-scale poverty industry represents. Not least is this true because a lack of material resources is only a symptom, not the actual cause. For the vast majority of the urban poor, what traps them in poverty is not material circumstance but rather what they believe about themselves, and about the world around them.
Thomas Sowell has written movingly about his own life in Harlem as a child, and how the poverty of his neighborhood did not manifest itself in criminality and predation. His lived experience belies the popular mythology that social disorder is inevitably caused by poverty. Russell Kirk put similar ideas eloquently in his posthumous memoir, The Sword of Imagination:
A sentimental utilitarianism [has] argued that prosperity would abolish sin. It was a shallow argument, ignorant of history; for had it been true, all rich men’s sons, these many centuries past, would have been perfectly virtuous…At bottom, the remedies for slums are not bigger wages, or bricks and mortar, or huge new schools, but instead those habits of decency and responsibility beyond the grasp of welfare-state measures.
I have learned through hard experience that there is a vast chasm between real help for the poor and simply giving them things. This is largely so because there is a marked difference between the truly unfortunate (e.g., the Bible speaks often of widows and orphans as examples of true neediness) and those whose foolish priorities have been the cause of their own difficulties (e.g., the book of Proverbs speaks unsentimentally about “fools” whose moral choices lead them into disaster.)
Anyone interested in truly helping the poor must first be willing to make socially awkward distinctions between actual misfortune and mere foolishness. Especially is this true if your motivation for helping is genuinely born out of compassion rather than vanity. There is a lot of concern for “the poor,” especially popular among the “woke” (and woke Christians in particular), that is mostly just a desire to publicly celebrate themselves for holding socially approved opinions.
Helping the truly poor is far more expensive in time and treasure than posting bail at two in the morning for a young man whose difficulties are self-inflicted. Helping the poor is also far less glamorous than collecting “Likes” on social media for posting profile pictures that signal your support for the most recent, socially approved, victim group.
Helping the poor is actually something Christians are called on to do, and to do personally. Woke Christians, advocating for the government to confiscate the property of others and redistribute it to the so-called poor, have found a clever but perverse way to bask in their own virtuous feels while avoiding the personal proximity to the poor which might otherwise inform and interfere with their fantasy-fueled compassion. Such virtue fakery avoids the very real personal sacrifices and involvement that Christians in particular have been called to make. Their concern for the poor amounts to a kind of socially distant compassion that avoids the learning that might otherwise make it more knowing, but also more demanding.
Of course, maybe that is entirely the point.
I will finish this post (which has gotten very much longer than I intended) with a snippet from a letter I wrote to a young Christian friend who was flirting, in his online posting, with wokeness and all of its temptations. At the time, I was financially contributing to his support in Christian ministry, so I had an abiding interest in his ministry philosophy, and even an obligation to understand it. This snippet was part of some advice I gave to him and his wife for consideration as a possible substitute for merely virtue-signaling trendy opinions. This letter was written long after I had shed my own illusions about the cultural pathologies that are ravaging the urban poor:
Spend more time in jails and in the ‘hood. It will be more than a little risky, but it will transform your perspective and make you less inclined toward paternalistic responses to the actual problems. Bring a fatherless child into your home, and then you and [REDACTED] set aside your other plans and take responsibility for him or her. Also, don’t ask other people to provide for the child. You will learn more if you and [REDACTED] do this from your own sweat, and the fruit of your own labor. Reorder your lives as necessary to love that child. Put yourself in the position of having a real stake in the outworkings of your ideas about race in the life of someone you’re responsible to teach and to provide for.
Reality can be very different than our sympathetic imaginings.Published in General
Some of “rural poor” fall into this category, also. It almost always comes down to bad choices they continually make.
Outstanding article. Thanks.
I’ve had similar experiences.
My pastor was at the Methodist Regional Conference or something, and had a meeting with his boss. The Bishop? I’m not sure. Anyway.
His boss slides a brown paper bag across his desk to my pastor and tells him, “There’s $10,000 in cash in there. That’s for helping in your community outside the immediate realm of your church. If you’re in WalMart and you find someone struggling to pay for groceries, if a neighbor loses his job and can’t feed his kids, that sort of thing. But that money is not be used on those who destroyed themselves with booze, women, drugs, or whatever. This is not for problems that people created themselves.”
My pastor didn’t touch the bag, looked at his boss and said, “Well, who am I supposed to give the money to, then?”
He’d been a shepherd for a long time. He understood what generally led to hardships among his sheep.
I just started working as a public defender in a rural Missouri county. Amen.
The most important thing to recognize is that most poor people are not middle class temporarily lacking funds. They have paradigms that keep them poor.
One of my ladies was absolutely baffled that she was arrested for driving without a license when she had warrants in other jurisdictions for driving without a license. (Luckily for her, the cop seriously messed up procedures for stops and searches, so she’s going to either get the charges dismissed or enough evidence thrown out that the prosecutor will do the charge down to a misdemeanor and the eight months she’s already served.)
Another lady couldn’t figure out why the judge was mad enough to issue a warrant for her arrest when she arrived 15 minutes late to her hearing, after previously being unable to appear at the last hearing. Little bourgeois things like showing up on time just aren’t part of her culture, and so she can’t cope.
Another superb essay, Keith. I agree with every word.
I was thinking the same thing.
Thanks, Keith for a good post.
The Portland Police Bureau Sunshine Division:
I’ve been on calls to homes that have nothing to eat. We kept non-perishable food boxes in the precincts. We could provide a family a food box on our shifts and then refer them to the Sunshine Division for further assistance.
You’ve touched on so many fascinating points here I hardly know where to begin.
As I was reading, I was thinking of Jordan Peterson, Lionel Shriver (author of the book Big Brother) and my own dear husband.
JP speaks often of a Simpson’s episode where Homer drinks a bottle of vodka and a gallon of yogurt (or some such) and says: that’s a problem for future Homer.
Lionel Shriver writes (and speaks) movingly of her own brother, his morbid obesity and how it eventually killed him.
Both instances are examples of no investment in or caring about your own future self. Having an actually disconnect between you and tomorrow you. (How the hell do you instill or teach that?)
In regards to my husband, JY constantly projects his own standards and emotions onto other people: so and so must be spending sleepless nights because of unpaid tickets; or so and so must be so uncomfortable because of their weight; so and so must feel awful about whatever.
In JY’s case, his projection hasn’t led to any catastrophes, just misplaced sympathy. Of course, he isn’t the government with a bottomless well of other people’s money to indulge those misplaced sympathies.
I did exactly this for a long time. Someone very close to me lived a very self-destructive life that was shortened by her choices. She said to me once, “The thought of being sober for the rest of my life depresses me.” In some ways my entire worldview changed in that moment. I began to see the pathological decisions being made by others as knowingly chosen, and that they simply reflected a very different set of priorities than my own. It took me years to figure out that many people, in what I would consider to be desperate circumstances, don’t at all feel about their situation like I would if I were in their predicament. People just don’t rank order life’s choices in the same way. This phenomenon of presuming the way we would feel must also be the way someone else is feeling is something that routinely leads responsible yet compassionate people into a expending lot of wasted effort toward helping people who are perfectly willing to receive their help, but who would never seriously consider changing the behavior that got them into their current straits.
I think this is a key motivator behind the self-destructive tendencies often seen among the chronically poor. They intentionally choose short term pleasures over sacrificing for long term gains.
Part of this, in my view, is a nihilistic worldview that tends to lead to a breakdown in their ability to connect their actions to the consequences of their actions. Which is why so many of our efforts to insulate poor people from the consequences of their actions ends up being not just unhelpful, but destructive.
I addressed this in a previous post:
Once someone slips into that hole of nihilism and despair, it can be very difficult to get them back out. And giving them food stamps doesn’t help. It generally makes it worse, in fact. I try to explain that connection in the rest of the post.
Thus, much of our well-intentioned charity ends up hurting those we hope to help.
It’s a difficult problem. With no simple solution.
Brilliant post. Thank you.
Among other things it shows that standardized, top down, centrally managed assistance programs to help the poor and unfortunate are doomed to failure. People need to be considered as individuals.
I will say, in fairness to these folks, that many of them have never experienced future rewards for depriving themselves in the present. Even something as basic as parents following up on “if you do X, I’ll do Y” doesn’t happen, whether because the parent can’t deliver Y even if the kid does X or because the parent decides to fulfill Y without X being present. It’s a rare person indeed who can learn what they haven’t been taught.
The famous marshmallow experiment suggests kids who can delay gratification (waiting for a promised second marshmallow if they didn’t eat the first whole waiting) are more successful. But when the experiment was altered to suggest that the adult wasn’t reliable for that second marshmallow, suddenly a lot of the test kids “lost” their ability to delay gratification. Additionally, if the adult with the promised second marshmallow waited long enough to return, eventually all of the subjects stopped waiting. The original experiment wasn’t showing successful kids delay gratification while unsuccessful ones can’t or won’t; it showed that successful kids are the ones who can trust the adults in their lives.
People in poverty form these social groups where none of them can truly be trusted to deliver what they’ve promised. It shouldn’t be surprising then that they have no concept of depriving themselves today for a better tomorrow, because they have no reason to trust tomorrow will be better regardless of what they do.
Dysfunctional behaviors in functional environments are quite often functional behaviors in dysfunctional environments.
This might be the point in the discussion where folks might share their favorite Thomas Sowell quotes.
I entirely agree that, for some subset of the poor, nihilism is a contributing factor to their pathological behavior. But I don’t think this is universally the case. I can’t recommend Dalrymple’s “Life At the Bottom” strongly enough for insight into these questions. I’ll include a short vignette here.
I have had a conversation with some urban poor in which one of them expressed a fully developed concept of himself as intellectually superior, because he chose to pass his days in pursuit of pleasure, while those of us who were trying to help him were useful, mildly comical, but none-too-bright, having been put in the world to serve people like him who were part of an elevated class, free to pursue their appetites.
More and more I appreciate the distinction made in the bible between those who are truly needy and moral fools. Our cultural refusal to make those distinctions, and treat the fools accordingly, is – as you say – doing a lot of harm.
Or Walter Williams.
Whenever we embark on any project, we need to first establish our own goals for the project.
If the goal is to help someone achieve near perfect self-sufficiency permanently, then I would agree that that is a hopeless endeavor in almost all cases of abject poverty for reasons way beyond our control.
If the goal is to help someone be in less pain and also remain alive, then there is much we can do.
Addiction is a very difficult problem for humanity. I wouldn’t put it all on the addict.
One thing that bothers me about the way we view mentally ill people–and acting self-destructively by definition is mental illness, so addicts are mentally ill people–is that we completely overlook the importance of the first three years of life. A child psychologist who was popular in eighties and whose name I have forgotten wrote that babies pick up their emotional reaction to strangers from their mothers because their mothers hold their babies over their heart and if mom’s heart is racing when meeting strangers, the baby will pick up on that. He went on to say that if mom is anxious and rarely smiles at the baby, the baby will pick that up too.
A lot of who we are was determined by our mother’s state of mind. Our moms did a lot to shape our emotional life, our use of language, and our personality–that is, how we engage with the outside world.
When we are looking at mental health issues, we’ve got to start looking at prevention and how well we support moms in their work.
That’s just the beginning. There’s so much more to look at in the formative years. I just wanted to cite one example of one thing that was completely beyond a person’s control that would create anxiety, failure, and addiction.
I really love the idea of second chances. I’m a huge admirer of all of the adult education programs we’ve invested in as a country.
I think we should continue to work and hope for each other until God takes that person home.
I once read an essay from a recovering heroin addict. The part that stuck with me was his description of the toughest part of getting clean. It wasn’t the physical withdrawals, the increased sensitivity, the criminal record and court procedures … no, “the hardest part of getting clean was facing the problems I had been using heroin to avoid.”
Your compassion in helping one individual to get out of jail offsets some really awful news abt a friend’s son being badly hurt in a traffic accident.
Your actions made the world seem a little bit brighter right now, just as the storm clouds seemingly move in.
You say: “What I found in actuality was that in almost every case, the difficult circumstances were the result of very bad decisions and misplaced priorities. More than this, it was also the case (this shocked me at the time) that most of the people I dealt with preferred their difficult circumstances to altering their priorities in such a way that would have yielded different outcomes.”
I am perptually puzzled over people I know who make such bad decisions. Drugs and booze can be the problem.
Then regarding people without physical addictions… Undiagnosed brain injuries – can they be the factor? An acquaintance of a friend needed help due to needing to rent a car each month. That acquaintance basically coughed up 200 bucks each month for car rentals. So the friend helped pay for the car rentals. The friend finally put into motion a plan by which the other individual would be given a car – up and running, everything but $70 a month for insurance being covered. But the carless individual refused, going back to paying 200 each month to a local Rent A Heap. Why?
My friend understandably now refuses to help with the cost of car rentals.
Hey, maybe that’s what stops CBDC!
I remember a segment on an episode of Cops probably, many years ago now, where I think a couple sheriff’s deputies were at a house where a man had his kids – 3 or 4 of them, maybe – and it was a mess and there was little or nothing to eat… After telling him that he needed to at least get started on cleaning things up or they’d have to arrest him, and that they’d be back to check in a few hours, they went to Walmart or something and had a shopping spree. Then they went back, and there had indeed been a lot of progress made. So they brought in all the stuff they’d bought.
I’ve looked for it on youtube before, but never was able to find it.
This is profound. And so, so true.
The same traits are expressed differently in different situations.
For example, “Work smarter, not harder.”
When I was in college, this meant eat nothing after breakfast so I could get hammered on four beers.
Now, that means changing the interface between my charts & my billing software to improve office efficiency & collection times from Medicare.
Dysfunctional environments don’t generally kill innovation. They just misdirect it.
I’m in a state of grief for our society and so many of our young people. Any form of moral, academic, or artistic excellence is sneered at as “white supremacy.” Heck, getting the correct answers on your Math homework is “white supremacy.” That there even are “right” answers is “white supremacy.” I see so many people living attenuated (if not shortened) lives because they have no desire for high achievement. It’s tragic, and it seems to be infectious (with no help at all from pro-regressives and the corrupt media). The false promises of leftism are manifold (you can change your sex, engage in illicit sex, eat yourself into obesity, abort the children you conceive, . . . without consequences).
There’s a program taught in many Catholic parishes to teens based on Saint JPII’s Theology of the Body. One of the best things about it is it encourages teens to show sexual self-restraint not only for their future selves, but for their future (as yet unknown/unmet) spouses. Think of it. Your care extends beyond yourself and even beyond your horizon to a future husband or wife. Beautiful, and completely counter-culture.
I saw something similar, where a recovering addict said that one powerful attraction about heroin addiction is that it reduces all your myriad, worldly problems into just one, single, overriding problem: making sure of your next fix.
When we lived in western New York state some friends ran a ministry for “at risk” teenagers. Among the first things they had to do with many of their “clients” was to hand them an alarm clock and to teach them how to use it. The teenagers had no experience with anyone who had to be up and at some function (like a job) at a particular time in the morning, and no one had ever enforced on them being on time to school. The concept of showing up at a particular time was a completely foreign concept.
When our friends told me this I was completely dumbfounded, as showing up on time was so thoroughly entrenched in my expectations.
Don’t ask me why, but I remember a mini-series (movie TV?) from about 40+ years ago called “Wheels” starring Lee Remick and Rock Hudson. At some point Rock Hudson was doing a push to hire more inner-city youths and the representative from that community explained the “get up on time” problem. If memory serves, an alarm clock was handed out at the time people applied.
My only point: known problem for multiple decades and things have probably gotten worse.
PS I just checked my memory against IMDB. Mini series in 1978.
I few years ago I was having a similar conversation with a woman who said that an occasional employee of hers asked her for $10 and she said No. She told me that if it’s not going to go to a good use, she won’t give. She said, “I’d give you $10,000 not even knowing what you want it for, because I know you’ll do something good with it.”
On the other hand I remember a haunting statement from a young woman. She had been through rehab a few times, she’d been there, done that (heroin was her choice) and she said something like, “I like it. I’m not afraid of dying. I’ve been clean for months at a time. When I’m sober life is so boring I’d rather die.” She looked me straight in the eyes, challenging me with her choice and her resignation to it.
Giving money to someone who only wants to do drugs is far different in a lot of ways from giving to someone who’s already trying and going to do something good with it. There’s a big difference between giving to those who’re just going to drink it and an hour later relieve himself of it into the sewer drain or a guy who just wants it to feed his bent lifestyle for another month or two, and giving it to a woman with five children who already has a part-time job and who along with her husband’s wages is having trouble feeding her children, or giving it to a woman to get a lawyer to fight for custody of her two young girls from a husband who wants to take her car, her livelihood, and everything she has, and ruin her.
Unless you’re independently wealthy. That’s my take on it.
If I remember correctly, Tudor England made the distinction between sturdy beggars and the deserving poor.
We got to bring that back.