On one of my podcasts I once shared about a time that I interrupted a room full of college students arguing about welfare and poverty with the following statement:
“All of you are arguing about people that are not present in this room, whether you’re for welfare or against it, you are all speaking for people you know nothing about”
My flaw as a Social Scientist and Researcher
As a researcher I was taught to remove myself from the data and be an observer not a participant. This was done in order to remove researcher bias. After all if I have a biased opinion, it could alter my findings when analyzing my research. My problem in the above situation is that I have personally experienced poverty.
My flaw as a researcher is that my mother had to be on welfare after she separated from my father to make ends meet. This stigma is something I never admitted to anyone until I wrote this article.
From riches to rags
It happened so fast, the move from middle class to poverty. My mother left my father and in an instant was living out of her car. There were several factors to this and my mother being mentally ill did not help (Anakwenze, & Zuberi, 2013;Harris, 1993). But the fact was clear. I had to help my mother and through this, experienced what it was like to be homeless for two weeks. The experience changed my perception about society and how people treat you when belong to the underclass.
We were lucky
My mother was lucky enough to get government assistance within two months. She was also lucky that my father gave her money to survive while the government aid was being processed.
But the experience made me think about those single mothers that were not so lucky. In the two months that it took my mom to get a job and receive government assistance, another family would have gone into debt. This is why, when in college I wasn’t surprised to hear that 80% of government aid recipients were single mothers (Broussard, Joseph & Thompson, 2012).
The fall from grace
Even though we were lucky, my mother never could work her way back into the middle class. My father paid child support and eventually she remarried. But all the while, she stayed below the poverty line while working several jobs, to make ends meet.
My father was a business owner and entrepreneur but this didn’t save him either. Cancer struck when he was in his mid 50’s. In just 2 years of chemotherapy treatment, he went from upper middle class to below the poverty line. 75% percent of the money he saved running a mechanic shop was gone.
He hated the idea of government aid. He strongly opposed my mom for taking a “hand out” after they divorced. But he had nothing left. With the doctors giving him 1 year to live he filed for social security. It was tough on him, but what was even tougher was that he felt his work philosophy betrayed him. He told me he wished he would have taken more time off to spend with us. He also told me that seeing his end drawing near, made him realize that the things he valued the most, weren’t the possessions he had, but the relationship he had with us. He died 2 weeks before Christmas on December 8th, 2009.
I was lucky and did some smart real estate investments, took a high-risk loan, that worked out and kept a roof over our heads. But while I was going through this, most people in similar situations across the U.S. lost their homes.
The 1% and other rants
While all of this was happening I was also studying to get my degree in psychology and sociology. It probably is not surprising to you as the reader, why I gravitated to theories written by Webber and Marx. Even though I also read books written by Adam Smith and the other founding fathers of the Unites States of America. They just didn't resonate with what I was observing from the society I lived in.
Now I know some of you are already calling me names like “socialist” and “communist”. But after many years I realize that both of these systems failed when implemented because Marx, Webber and Smith underestimated how powerful greed can really be.
Even if you take the money from the rich it somehow never ends up going back to the poor, yet find its way to other people who don’t deserve it that later become rich. This is the why communism didn't work for Czechoslovakia or any of the other countries that tried to implement it to supposedly fix social inequality (Hirst, 2014;Korbel, 2015).
But you can see why during the “occupy wall street movement” I was really excited to see some of the sheep open their eyes. I also caught a glimmer of hope, for those not as lucky as me, when Senator Bernie Sanders started talking about the same concepts during his campaign.
Now I am not writing this to convince you of anything. You can save your angry rants. I know I can’t convince you that the top 1% are controlling 48% of the wealth in the U.S. and that this pattern is repeating itself across the globe. But do know that it is being well documented, and maybe 100 years in the future people will look back and laugh at the way we are running things now.
My Advice to Trolls
Although I admit I’m biased, my perception has been shaped by my experiences and my education. I went to school and I studied these subjects from several perspectives. After looking at both sides of the argument and analyzing data published by Professors that were peer reviewed, I came to the above mentioned conclusions.
So my advice to those of you who troll me on Twitter and Facebook:
· Don’t waste your time sending me a YouTube Video or Blog to argue with me
· Read a book for a change, that was peer reviewed and contains real data
· Draw your own conclusions from the data, not opinion, not even mine
Perhaps the disturbing thing is how the common people will defend greed without doing any real research (beyond Internet blogs and Podcasts). This is why I decided to make my blog and podcast. Not so you can reference it, but for you to look into the books and published papers I report about.
Speaking of which, here are some books about Capitalism, Communism and Socialism that I recommend. Feel free to click on the links and buy them from Amazon:
I recommend you read them because many people refer to concepts that were formulated by these people, but they have never read any of their work. The last book is a modern interpretation of how these concepts have shaped the current state of the economy in the U.S. and the factors that lead to the last recession (Stiglitz, 2012).
Keep in mind I have read these books on this subject and many more in my studies, over the last 15 years. So please spare me your “Devils Advocate” thoughts.
"Don’t trust me read about it"
Social Gelo with Angelo
Angelo Ferrer (M.S. Psychology)
Anakwenze, U., & Zuberi, D. (2013). Mental health and poverty in the inner city. Health & social work, hlt013.
Broussard, C. A., Joseph, A. L., & Thompson, M. (2012). Stressors and coping strategies used by single mothers living in poverty. Affilia, 27(2), 190-204.
Harris, K. M. (1993). Work and welfare among single mothers in poverty. American Journal of Sociology, 317-352.
Hirst, P. (2014). 6 Problems and Advances in the Theory of Ideology. Ideology.
Korbel, J. (2015). The Communist Subversion of Czechoslovakia, 1938-1948: The Failure of Co-existence. Princeton University Press.
Stiglitz, J. E. (2012). The price of inequality: How today's divided society endangers our future. WW Norton & Company.