Monday, I posted about the seeming (destructive) human need to distinguish between “us and them.” It bears noting that those categories aren’t confined to nationality, ethnicity and religion; back in October, I commented on the tendency of the “haves” to dehumanize the “have-nots”–
If there is a staple of human politics, it is the tendency to demonize the “other.” Gays, Jews, African-Americans, Muslims, non-Ayrans– the identity of the marginalized may change, but the political and psychological need to draw a distinction between those who are righteous and “deserving” and those who are not seemingly remains constant.
These days, demonizing racial or religious minority groups is publicly frowned upon (although privately indulged), but blaming the poor for their poverty is seen as analysis rather than bigotry.
A recent Pew poll confirms that observation.
Fifty-four percent of the survey respondents categorized as ‘most financially secure’ said “poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.”
If anything confirms the ability of the well-to-do to live in a reality of their own construction, the belief that poor people “have it easy” should do it. These respondents have never met Alice or encountered my students who are working two jobs and going into debt in order to get an education that they hope will help them earn their way out of poverty.
To make matters worse,
Financial security is strongly correlated with nearly every measure of political engagement. For example, in 2014, almost all of the most financially secure Americans (94%) said they were registered to vote, while only about half (54%) of the least financially secure were registered. And although 2014 voting records are not yet available, pre-election estimates suggest that 63% of the most financially secure were “likely voters” last year, compared with just 20% of the least financially secure.
The people who are least acquainted with reality are choosing our lawmakers. Explains a lot.