November 8 2013
Because this blog site is dedicated to “the love of all things books,” you might be wondering why we choose to dedicate this week’s post to the topic of poverty? (“Oh bummer” you might be thinking right about now, but please… read on.) Since we are all fed news about economic downturns, unemployment rates, companies that are going bust and poor people struggles all over the world every day of the week, it’s not too hard to understand why we have become somewhat indifferent to the subject of poverty and poor people. Indifference in a world that we are all working to survive in is understandable, but mean spiritedness? That is a whole other ball of wax…. Or is it?
Poverty as a blog topic is really not such a stretch for an Owl Canyon Hoots. Novelists after all, have been producing great works of fiction on the subject for centuries. We all know that well-written stories and great works of literature help us flesh out our own individual ideas about life, and in many cases, well written stories help to shape the way we look at a particular subject. Great books have undoubtedly influenced how we look at the world. (Just look at the undeniable influence of Charles Dickens’ works on child labor reform during the industrial revolution, for example.) There are however, lots of romantic notions and misnomers about poverty floating around, and a lot of misconceptions about how people end of being poor… often, we are led to believe that people choose their lot in life….We are not going to get into all of that. Instead, we are staying where we feel comfortable… in the realm of books.
Interestingly, American aphorist Mason Cooley once pointed out on the subject of being poor that “literary tradition is full of lies about poverty—the jolly beggar, the poor but happy milkmaid, the wholesome diet of porridge, etc.” So perhaps this is where we have fashioned at least some of our false ideas and indifferences towards poverty? Maybe… but back to the current trend of mean spiritedness towards the poor.
Many of us spend at least a few minutes of our daily lives using social media in some form or another. Facebook and other social media sites are in essence, quirky little environments where instantaneous outbursts on any given subject are the norm. (We’ve all seen the hot-button political squabbles and may have even taken a mean-spirited jab or two when we ourselves have posted opposing opinions). Perhaps then, some of you have also noticed as of late, that the topic of poverty is no exception when it comes to mean-spirited jabs. What is troublesome in the world of social media is the way we are all quietly seduced into thinking that poor people are fair game for poking fun at. Since when did it become a sport to make fun of those we may perceive as less fortunate? And so, in response to Facebook pages like “You Must Say Something Nice,” a tongue-in-cheek- site ( boasting 69, 522 likes and counting), in which viewers are encouraged to post a comment under photographs of obviously unwitting participants who are often poorly clad street folk, or just ill-dressed “poor” looking shoppers at discount stores like Walmart -all depicted in a truly unflattering light for which we are invited to put our two-cents in…. we instead turn our attention back to literature and some beautiful quotes from some of history’s finest authors to meditate if you will, on the subject of poverty…
“A man thinks that by mouthing hard words he understands hard things. ”
― Herman Melville
“Do not presume, well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed, to criticize the poor”
― Herman Melville
“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”
“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves…. It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
“How would your life be different if…You stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day…You look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.”
― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
“You say you care about the poor? Tell me their names.”
― Craig Greenfield
“I don’t want to live in the kind of world where we don’t look out for each other. Not just the people that are close to us, but anybody who needs a helping hand. I cant change the way anybody else thinks, or what they choose to do, but I can do my bit.”
― Charles de Lint
Poverty is a veil that obscures the face of greatness. An appeal is a mask covering the face of tribulation.
What will you be reading this weekend?