The cruelest lie: That the poor do not try

JANUARY 2 — It is funny how the rich always seem to have advice for the poor.

“Work harder.”

“Change your mindset.”

“Don't be poor.”

I'm not even making the last one up.

The bootstrapping myth is something even our politicians believe; that anyone can just dig themselves out of the pit that is poverty with willpower and a can-do attitude.

Thing is, when you're stuck in a pit, sometimes you need someone to come throw you a rope.

What everyone does, what the rich, even the poor do, is blame the poor for their poverty when poverty is a systemic problem.

It is not something that can be simply addressed by working hard. Those foreign labourers risking their necks to build our amenities should be millionaires by now if that was the case.

Yet I see middle-class people convincing themselves of their own virtuousness; congratulating themselves for reaching a modicum of financial stability.

“The poor don't want handouts,” I saw someone say. “They want the chance to be rich.”

Here's the thing people keep forgetting. If it was that easy to be rich, wouldn't we all be rich by now?

I've said it maybe too many times; Malaysia is a nation obsessed with the question of who to blame whenever shit hits the fan.

Not “why did it happen.” Not “how do we fix this.”

Because pointing fingers is easy, actually using our big beautiful brains? Not so much.

The poor are not to blame for the world being broken.

Because the world is broken, and kept broken, by the people who benefit from the status quo.

Look at how our politicians bleat: give us projects, give us contracts, so we can sustain ourselves, so we can hold onto power.

Yet when the poor ask, please sir, give us money so we can eat, we call that the handout mentality.

I have no simple fixes to poverty. After all I am no economist though I suspect some economists are better at making models than understanding human needs.

What I would like to see in 2019 are fewer of the monied telling that huge lie that the simple reason poor people are the way they are is because they choose to be.

At the very least, I hope people stop listening and perpetuating that lie. Even if that lie is the one keeping the capitalist hamster wheel of hope running.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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