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Home The Price of Progress - The Poor Will Always Be With Us

The Price of Progress - The Poor Will Always Be With Us

"If the poor didn't exist, we would have to invent them," Pogue said, spooning kneaded balls of raw spinach into his mouth.

Pogue was Anson's superior though the term no longer existed in the workplaces of the Community. Pogue was the Coordinator and Anson was the Organizer which amounted to the same thing.

In its drive for income equality, the Community had set the same base pay for everyone with added bonuses determined by a review of workplace peers and countersigned by the Coordinator. Organizers quickly learned to assign their Coordinator a bonus three times his base pay. If they didn't, the Coordinator would refuse to sign off on their far smaller bonuses.

"Fortunately we don't have to invent them," Anson said, glancing around. The Communion was an upscale restaurant serving only raw food, but it was easy to spot the dolees at their tables, taking in one of their mandatory two healthy meals a month.

Pogue chuckled. "Don't we? In the old days, poverty was an accident or a choice. There are no accidents or choices anymore. A rate of income distribution is set for each district. There have to be so many people of every class in each of the districts and all the countries of the Community equally distributed across race and sex."

Anson looked over at a dolee uneasily tasting a skewer of honeyed ants. "It's not as if someone decided that fellow over there should be poor."

"Perhaps, perhaps not. We know how to manipulate the economic situation in each district to achieve the proper distribution. And if everyone goes along, there isn't a problem," Pogue said. "Sometimes though we get these persistent fellows trying to climb out of their lot in life."

Pogue pointed to the dolee. "Suppose he were to go chasing job opportunities outside his assigned district, what would happen."

"It's not technically illegal," Anson said.

"The Community doesn't make things illegal. It makes them unpleasant. Messages get sent. Inspectors show up to look over his children, hassle him for minor tax reporting matters and give him other things to do with his time. If he persists, we turn to sterner measures to maintain equality."

Anson raised his glass of wheatgrain juice. "To the poor."

Coordinator and Organizer clinked glasses while the dolee chewed his ants in disgust.

"Do you know why we need the poor?" Pogue asked.

Anson knew, but he also knew that Pogue needed to enact this ritual monthly to maintain his self-assurance. The Coordinators were becoming uneasy of late. They felt the wind shifting, but did not understand why.

"Empathy," Pogue said, smacking his lips. "We talk about ending poverty, but it is the poor who teach us to be better people."

"And we repay them by keeping them poor," Anson said.

"It seems cruel, but those who suffer, the poor and the oppressed, the sick and the overlooked, inspire us with sensitivity," Pogue said. "Consider this, what made the Socialists and liberals of the past?"

 "Spare time," Anson suggested cynically. "They were associated with a leisure class, disposable income, excess education."

Pogue shook his head. "Sensitivity. A baby cries and his parents comfort him. The cry is suffering. The time comes when the parents no longer comfort him as quickly because he is expected to be on his own. From this he draws conclusions about the cruel nature of the world. He becomes sensitized to his own pain and to the outrage that the pain is being ignored. And he generalizes that outrage to the unfeeling outside world at large."

"So they were a society of crybabies."

"Cynicism must be in fashion this month," Pogue said disapprovingly. "Their sensitivity was not in their tears, but in their resentment. Their pain became self-pity and they thought of themselves as better people for it. Their politics articulated that resentment as sensitivity."

"Not everyone can be a victim," Anson said.

"That is why we need the oppressed," Pogue said. "They serve as a reminder of that which we must be sensitive to. The purpose of the revolutionary politics of equality on which the Community is built are not to end poverty or oppression, but to perpetuate them on equal terms for a higher purpose."

"We must create the poor to pity the poor," Anson said, looking down at his unappetizing plate filled with red seeds of an unknown provenance.

Pogue slammed a meaty hand down on the table. "No! Pity is weak and sentimental. We must create the poor so that we will be outraged by their plight and by those who do not care about their plight as we do. Only in this way will the revolution permanently perpetuate itself. One day the Community will be overthrown by a more revolutionary system and it will be overthrown by an even more revolutionary system. Each cycle of outrage will rise to a peak as expectations go unmet."

"We have no hope but failure," Anson said.

"Exactly. We must fail and go on failing. The agony of the suffering must be there so that we will point a finger at an uncaring world and demand better. It might be in the power of the government to end poverty, but if everyone were truly equal, they would become insensitive."

"Equality can only exist as an ideal," Anson said, repeating Communal dogma.

"We are doomed to a reality of inequality," Pogue said. "We have not come to fix the world, but to shame the world. Equality is our ideal, inequality is how we remind everyone of their moral unfitness to their accomplishments and abilities. It is how we teach them to be sensitive.  Sensitivity defines our politics. The Community does not intend to end suffering, but to make everyone sensitive to suffering."

"Suffering is life," Anson said, as the dolee, hungry and unsatisfied, rose from the table. "But are we truly sensitive to that man's suffering?"

"Obviously not," Pogue said. "No man can know what someone else is going through. And who is to say that beggar deserves our sympathy. We project our pain onto others and become sensitive to it. Each man is an island. Our self-pity can become pity, but it is only an illusion. It is only ourselves that we pity. It is for our own sake that we become sensitive so that we can denounce the insensitive."

"Then the Community is an illusion," Anson said.

"A moral illusion," Pogue answered, finishing the last of the spinach balls. "The most sensitive of us teach others how to trick their self-pity into empathy. And we must have blank vessels on which to project our self-pity and our outrage at a world that is insensate to our pain."

"The poor must always be with us," Anson said, rising from the table.

"Otherwise our sensitivity would be nothing more than selfishness," Pogue agreed, and ordered another bowl.

(A previous except from The Price of Progress appeared as Election Day)


  1. Absolute poverty might be eliminated, but relative poverty will always remain. In a convention of billionaires, there will still be the "poorest" billionaire, but her or she will still be wealthy. John Rawls' program of "Justice" was for society to aim at making the lot of the worst off as good as possible. In a sense his "least advantaged representative man" was to become the focus, the reason for being, of the whole rest of the society. The worst off would be the star, the elite, in a paradoxical way. Should the worst off get it in his head to disdain society's tender ministrations and try to make his own way, on his own, the society would lose its focus. The "lucky" thing is that socialism is so incompetent at lifting up its supposed focus, the poor, that it never runs out of customers for its "concern".

  2. When they run out of victims in the UK (and other socialist western countries) they just import a few million. They'll never run out.

  3. Anonymous2/3/14

    '..We must fail and go on failing..'.
    Minorities are always easy to hate because… well they are less in number and different, besides their loyalty to the main group is easily questionable. Nothing very surprising here, it is the nature of the group. The minority members are therefore bound to failure and resentment which makes them the exclusive fishing ground for leftists. That has happened in Europe to the Jews, and more recently to the Scots, the North Irish and the Basques. But the Jews have committed the worst of crimes. They have disengaged the social revolution and succeeded through work and values. Instead of being on food stamps, they have a country of their own now. That irritating habit of succeeding proves the Marxists´ bible wrong and the American worldview right and that my friends, is utter heresy. How do they dare? Anyway Korean minority is said to be doing very well too. Leftists had better watch out before the elders of Korea join the Jewish kabala in their sinister plan of surviving them.

  4. Anonymous2/3/14

    How long would Liberalism last if there was no one to rescue or feel morally superior about ? You are right on target Daniel.


  5. BeckyC2/3/14

    I've long been interested to observe how lefty Catholics, having lost their belief in eternal life, apply the analytic tools of the salvation economy to this life, and it could inform your essay.

    To wit: An indulgence is "the remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, the guilt of which has been forgiven."

    So on the left, a Catholic who has ceased to believe in Hell because he has ceased to believe in the next life, is primed to interpret Christ as calling for the creation of the Kingdom of God in this life (or bust!).

    But the sense of sin, of guilt, remains and must be lifted. The left sees an opportunity and supplies a sin: the structural oppression of white male privilege.

    Very handily, higher taxes to redistribute income in pursuit of a more perfect welfare state will suffice to remit the temporal punishment due to this sin. The guilt of which doesn't exist anymore because "when you are dead you are dead", but is still felt. The guilt of not being impoverished. A reverse theodicy.

  6. BeckyC2/3/14

    By "theodicy" I mean "why does God let bad things happen to good people".

    By "reverse theodicy" I mean "why does God let good things happen to bad white male people because it sure can't be because they worked hard and earned it because 'you didn't build that'."

  7. Anonymous2/3/14

    knish, any thoughts 'bout them oscars?

    -- spanky

  8. Anonymous4/3/14

    "When Ellen said she wanted to do it, we said we’d hire an actor, but she said, 'No, no, no. You’re not hiring an actor. I want a real pizza delivery
    person,' " Zadan revealed. "We said that the FBI would have to do a background check. She said, 'I don’t care. I want it to be real. I want this guy to walk in and not know he's going to the Academy Awards.' "

    knish, when did the fbi get involved in doing background checks for those appearing on the oscar telecast?

    -- spanky

  9. B"H
    Daniel, you are just brilliant.


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