By Barb Hauge
?"Oh we ain't got a barrel of money; maybe we're ragged and funny but we travel along, singin' this song, side by side" and "Goin' down the road feelin' bad; I ain't gonna be treated that away" were songs of The Great Depression.
Is poverty something we are born to? Something that happens to us? Do we remain in poverty willingly or unwillingly? Does anyone ever seek to be poor? I remember being a child in The Great Depression when city relatives sent us stacks of old newspapers. I would not read Barney Google nor Lil Abner because their obvious poverty was embarrassing. I did not want to confront the specter of poverty even though I lived with it. The greatest pretenders can even pretend we are not poor and children are all pretenders.
We lived on the ranch with no electricity; no indoor bathroom; no running water. It was too dry to plant crops and when Dad sold cattle Great Northern Railroad took all the money to pay the freight. But Mom pumped water to the garden and we had food. Dad surface-mined coal and we had heat. Our city relatives sent boxes and we made over the clothing to fit. We survived and hung on until Roosevelt was elected President. He started many programs to build and to employ people and times got better. But starting in 1980 prosperity was reversed for many who lost their jobs, farms and ranches. A lot of military veterans became street people through mental deterioration caused by alcohol and drugs and through mental depression caused by the horror of war they had been forced to endure.
The last two decades of the 20th Century simultaneously produced affluence at the top along with much poverty. Since there was no room in The Economic Inn of Prosperity, they learned to make do in The Stable of Poverty. When you are stuck in a ghetto or in rural isolation, you soon learn to panhandle your handlers; to hustle for the bucks wherever they are and from whoever has them. A society develops where everyone victimizes everyone. Street crime and illicit drugs thrive and no one is safe "out there." It becomes a dangerous world where all live by their wits and the Christian ethic of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is replaced by "Do it to them before they do it to you."
When the climb up is denied them, people in poverty do what they must to survive. It becomes a way of life and no way do they ever want to pay taxes to a system they despise for it is obvious The System despises them.
A hobo, who came to the ranch looking for work during The Great Depression, said that after the railroad stole his cattle he'd seen the whole country for free by riding the rails. He figured the railroad owed him that. It was far from traveling first class and sometimes the only way they could stay on was to fight and kill the bulls (railroad police).
The level of violence today is much greater where all types of cash-producing victims are targeted; the affluent, tourists, even children to be sold or used in pornography. Youth join gangs for protection and are then used by Mafia's organized crime. Criminals, politicians and businessmen profit hugely from the drug trade.
Yes, crime does thrive wherever poverty exists and those who have been made to "feel poor" are so wounded and enraged they may never wish to turn their lives around.