5 Reasons Why The Middle Class Doesn’t Understand Poverty

Poverty is a well-worn subject here at Cracked. John Cheese has talked about it a lot, C. Coville discussed legal loopholes that they are able bolt the poor, and we’ve also encompassed myths the media perpetrates . And now it’s my turn to moderately wealthsplain the subject.

Unlike John and others, I grew up one year’s worth of acoustic guitar lessons away from being the most stereotypical middle-class white kid ever. I didn’t take yearly vacations to private islands to hunt humen for sport, but I also never wanted for clothes and video games. And while us suburban kids were taught that it’s good to help the poor, we were also accidentally taught to treat them with dislike. Here’s how.


We’re Constantly Told That “Money Can’t Buy Happiness”

If you’re friends with the right various kinds of insufferable people on social media, you’ve probably find images like this 😛 TAGEND


Or these 😛 TAGEND

Simple Reminders

How profound, guy with countless fans and a net worth of 150 million .

Or, God help us, this 😛 TAGEND

It’s all differences on the same topic: Money can’t buy happiness, true wealth comes from relationship and experiences, you don’t need the solid gold butt plug when the polymer one feels identical inside of you, etc. Movies teach it, music teaches it, our parents teach it — money is useless if you aren’t living . It’s not an inherently bad message, but try telling people at the homeless shelter to count the bless that fund can’t buy, and see how long it takes before you’ll feel blessed that you can afford health insurance.

Outside of images that the Care Bears would find insipid, “Money can’t buy happiness” is what middle-class people tell each other when someone is trying to decide between two different jobs. “I induce 70 k right now and the new gig merely plays 60 k, so I wouldn’t be able to travel as much. But I’d have more free time to play Ultimate, the benefits are better, and there’s no way my new director could be any worse than my current one.” That’s an important decision to the person inducing it, but they’re debating between two different kinds of consolation. It’s safely assumed that the money they will need to exist will always be there. It would be nice to have more — to be able to go to more eateries or to justify buying a second Roomba because deep down you know that the first one is lonely — but there’s always enough to keep the suns on and the kitchen stocked.

You may have ensure the study that claimed $70,000 a year is the ideal salary — after that, more money generally doesn’t stimulate you happier. Well, that’s great news for people hovering around that benchmark, but if you’re poor, more money will abso-fucking-lutely stimulate you happier. More fund means healthier food, or a chance to get out of the house and have some fun. It can mean knowing the rent is paid for next month, or being able to afford medication.

The middle class isn’t immune to money problems, especially if there are children in the mixture. Getting laid off at the wrong hour sucks , no matter what your income is. But the middle-class people with fund problems I’ve known can often suffering from self-inflicted wounds. They had no savings since they are wanted the new vehicle or the luxury vacation. They wanted one of those experiences they were constantly told was more important than money, because the money for day-to-day necessities was always there, right up until it wasn’t.

That’s part of the reason, I think, so many middle-class people laugh at campaigns to create the minimum wages. “You want 15 bucks an hour to flip burgers? How about you merely hold off on the new Tv until you get a real job? ” The middle class generally fluctuates between being able to afford a nice vacation one year and having to settle for a few journeys to the movies the next. The poor can fluctuate between paying bills and being out on the street. But the idea that such essentials could just go unpaid is unfathomable, right up until you experience it.


We’re Taught To Associate Low-Paying Jobs With Failure

When I was growing up, there was never a question of whether or not I was going to college. That’s partly because the idea of my spindly moronic ass learning a technical trade or doing manual labor is the first step in creating an “Epic Fail !!! ” YouTube video, but mostly because my mothers had a money put in for me.( It helped that I live in a country where a post-secondary education doesn’t cost approximately eight quadrillion dollars a semester .)

So undertakings that didn’t require a degree were presented to us as warning signs. “You better survey hard, or else you’re going to end up just like that bull masturbator for the rest of their own lives! And I didn’t aim that pun, so don’t laughter! ” Becoming a janitor or a gas station attendant or an internet slapstick writer would have been considered a disappointment, an inability to take advantage of the gifts that were offered to us. Poverty was considered a moral failing.

No one ever just came out and said that, but the implication was always there. We tend to assume that other people are basically like us until they prove otherwise, which is why I’m constantly shocked to discover that most people don’t like my favorite homoerotic golf academy anime, Wood Strokes . So we were never taught that working as a dishwasher or a grocery store clerk or a sperm bank fluffer could be an important stepping stone for someone with a different background than us. We were also never taught that, you know, it’s still a goddamn chore when individuals shows up and sets work in and gets paid for their period. They were always just associated with expended potential.

And man, when you hear that message constantly, it’s hard to shake. It’s easy to glance at a middle-aged dude working the checkout counter and automatically suppose “Well, I bet he’s not the brightest guy around” or “Oh shit, is that what happened to Matthew Lawrence? ” It’s not malicious — not initially. Being told to take advantage of your opportunities is not a bad message. But when that message is driven into you for decades, it creates a stigma around certain jobs. And from some people, it produces plenty of snide remarks about how the people running those jobs should get better ones, as if the person who’s been a server for seven years has never considered simply popping down to the job store and picking up a career in architecture.

Janitors and baristas keep society operating as much as anyone else. If all of America’s coffee shop shut down for a day, the country would experience a nationwide narcolepsy epidemic intersected with The Purge . But when you grow up in the middle class, the only thing you’re taught about such chores is that you should get one as a adolescent to build character, and then thank God that you’ll never have to work one again as long as you don’t fuck up in life. And as long as we consider that a sign of our superior run ethic instead of birth luck, we’re going to keep dismissing as pathetic the jobs we’d all get angry about if they faded tomorrow.


There Are Always Certain Things We Take For Granted

An education isn’t the only thing that most middle-class kids can presume they’ll get. A auto to borrow, a phone, 20 bucks for when you really want to take a girl to what you assumed was a bad movie so you could make out in the back row but then it turns out that she’s actually super into the plot of Gigli and wants to focus on it even though you were all set to reach second base and so you end up getting a confused erection to Al Pacino and it unknowingly shapes your formative years … you know, all the interesting thing that are part of grown up in Middle America.

That’s the end result of assuming that a good job awaits you, and that money is for hurling at both problems and buying pizza instead of something to stress out about. Water heater transgressed? No worries, we’ll only have to eat in the rest of the month to make up for it. Shoes all worn out? Well, you can’t go to school like that, so run get some new ones. Go on a lose streak at the Pokemon Card League and the groupies have started drifting off to the other players? Better pick up a few booster packs to get back in video games. You know you can’t get greedy and start buying Armani, but as long as your needs are modest, the money will always be there.

So the idea of 20 bucks making or breaking someone is impossible to appreciate. It’s merely not a notion that clicks in our heads. It constructs sense on a logical level, sure — you need money, and you don’t have it, and that sucks. But when you’re raised in comfort, you can’t put yourself in that head space emotionally. You can’t understand the stress, or the fear that you might not be able to feed your children. The closest we can get is watching Gwyneth Paltrow try and hilariously fail to live on a tiny food budget before going back to her $4,000 kale cleanses. That’s kind of like empathy, right?

And because it’s tough to relate to, it’s tough to talk about. If person tells me that they never get Christmas presents growing up, all I can respond with is “Uh, yeah, that sounds like it sucked. Well … one time my grandmother accidentally got me Super Murpio 67 , so … I hear you.” Starting a conversation with a bunch of middle-class people about poverty is like bringing up Trayvon Martin at a country club. Everyone trips over everyone else’s terms to talk about how tragic it is, but then they distance themselves from their own problems and the “buts” start coming out. And to further compound the issue …


We Don’t Witness Poverty, So We Don’t Understand It

When I was growing up, my exposure to poverty was largely limited to sitcom households who would talking here how poor they were, but were still able to go on a wacky adventure each week. The Simpsons kept running into money troubles in their early years, but their house looked the same as mine. Even the family from Roseanne , the classic working-class sitcom, owned a house that’s a palace compared to what a lot of people live in. The problem with portraying poverty in sitcoms is that it’s hard to get laughs out of eviction and early deaths caused by crippling medical indebtednes, so the lesson always objective up being “Poor people struggle with money sometimes, but in the end they always get by, and they have lots of chuckles while doing it! ” Sitcoms construct being poor look fun .

Beyond that, once or twice a year, I’d go to some kid’s birthday party and notice that his house was a lot smallest and more run down than mine. One of the kids who always got talked about in a somewhat different tone of voice by the adults. I never dedicated it much believed because we went to the same school and both liked Nintendo — how different could our lives perhaps be? Perhaps I’d find a tale on the news that would set a positive spin on the issue.( “Look at how many volunteers with beautiful households demonstrated up to the soup kitchen to help feed these filthy hobos! “) Beyond that, the middle class simply doesn’t think about poverty.

We’re always seeming up, always wanting to go to the Christmas party at the rich friend’s home so we can get a taste of what we’re aspiring to. There’s rarely a reason to go to the poor part of township. Tell jokes about it, sure, but run ? We never have to leave the bubble, so we never learn what real poverty looks like. Poor people become invisible, this mysterious Other, a group that serves you food, and in return, you hurl a couple of non-perishables and toys into gift bins for them over the holidays.

Oh yeah, the middle class loves to donate food and toy and clothes and gently employed ball gags and all sorts of other crap that we weren’t use anyway. Food banks actually require fund far more than they need your creamed corn that’s going to expire in 2 week, because money just goes further. But people who will gladly part with 12 boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese and some Funyuns they found under the sofa get leery when it comes to handing over money, even though we’re supposedly under the impression that we don’t need it ourselves to be happy.

That’s partly merely because it’s more satisfying to give stuff instead of fund — you can imagine some happy child playing with your old Lego, and you get to clean out your closet. But recollect, we’re taught that the poor are stupid and lazy. We sit around telling each other tales about how our friend’s cousin’s boyfriend knows a guy who expended his welfare check on beer and weed. These are campfire horror narratives for the most tedious suburbanites, and they’re told in the hot tubs that they probably shouldn’t have bought until the next mortgage payment cleared. We can’t trust those people with fund, because if they were smart enough to manage it properly, they’d be smart enough to have a better job. Also, they probably all have hooks for hands and slaying teenagers while they’re making out in their automobiles. Hey, we learn so little about poor people that it’s just as believable.


We’re Taught To Assure Ourselves As The Victims

I’ve known people with movie theaters in their homes and four cars in their garage who are convinced that society is against them, that life is a gloomy parade of suffering because their property taxes ran up a little bit. That’s stereotypical rich person behaviour, but it’s there in the middle class too, in subtler ways. I live in a city where the economy revolves around a boom and bust industry, so people tend to make good fund while complaints about taxes for a few years, then get laid off and go on government benefits for a while, and then get a new job and go back to complaining about the government. And if you watch the cycle, you watch the same “us against the world” mentality, only with fewer BMWs in the mix.

When middle-class people get laid off and go on welfare, they blame the economy, or their former employer, or the government. They never blame themselves. And they shouldn’t! Much like a whale’s erecting, economies are big, confusing things that can’t be controlled by the average person. It’s not like they left photocopies of their asshole on the boss’ desk. They paid into the welfare system with their taxes when times were good, and now they’re using the organizations of the system for exactly what it’s aimed: helping you out when you’re unlucky. It’s bridging the gap until you, a hard-working person who merely caught a tough break, gets another job.

Except when poor people use the system, it’s none of those things. Suddenly they’re not getting help; they’re just dumb, lazy leeches. Plenty of middle-class people are more empathetic and generous than I’ll ever be, but the worst instinct of the middle class is to blame the organizations of the system when the system fails us, then lecture poor person when the organizations of the system fails them. I’ve heard the deign explains about how the world truly works( which usually come out after a few brews when no actual poor people are around because the speaker would never be brave enough to say it to their faces) more times than I can count.

The middle class has a weird relationship with the rich — we alternate between complaining about them and wishing we were them. Money can’t buy happiness, but a yacht surely wouldn’t hurt matters. Even if we don’t like the rich, there’s always the pipe dream that we could be them. But no one dreamings about being poor, unless you’re into an unbelievably specific various kinds of role-playing.

Being poor is a problem( practically , not morally ), and a problem is either the flaw of the person or the flaw of circumstances beyond their control. The latter means we in the middle class might have to do anything about it — or, God forbid, reflect upon our lifestyles, which is just the worst . It’s much, much easier to assume that we’re fine, that ultra-rich political leaders and celebrities and investment bankers are the ones being condescending and nasty to the poor, but also that poor people could probably stand to work a little harder. So, uh … really sorry about all of that. I’ll donate some food at Christmas, though!

Mark is on Twitter and has a volume that’s made him rich in experience . For more, check out 5 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Poor and 4 Common Morals Designed to Keep You Poor . Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out Disney Thinks You Dislike Poor People, and watch other videos you won’t find on the site !

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