When it come to determining who we are and what we do it is not the stories that ARE true that are important, it is the stories we BELIEVE to be true.
Like the part from the movie "Secondhand Lions"; I can't quote it exactly, but the boy asks if the stories he been hearing about his uncles adventures are true. The uncle says it doesn't matter, what matters is whether the kid believe them or not. Because "honor matters, good always triumphs over evil, and true love never dies" are things worth believing in whether they are true or not.
Posts: 704 | Registered: Sep 2003
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I'm sorry I don't have more time to do this. I've been extremely busy these past couple of weeks and I'm working on something else besides, but I thought I'd jump in and say that this is not a myth.
quote: The myth that any given American can't climb out of poverty due to EXTERNAL STRUCTURAL CAUSES that prevent him/her from doing so is a hurtful myth isn't it?
The real myth is the 'helpful, fuzzy' kind that says that anybody can make it in America because there is a level playing ground. That is the myth. What you are confronting above is reality. This is where I stand on this issue. I've seen it, and I believe it. That's all the time I have right now, so if I don't get back to any rebuttals right away, I'm sorry.
I think both of those are myths when taken as face value truth.
There are external barriers to climbing out of poverty. Lack of access to the best schools, food, environment, etc. And for some people these may be insurmountable. So maybe ANY given American can't climb out of poverty. Some may not have the talents and abilities needed. And we need to make sure that they are taken care of, not left to fail where they cannot succeed due to lack of ability.
But I think MOST people are able to climb out of poverty. And I think the playing field is mostly level. A smart, hard-working person should be able to find a decent job if they try. Maybe not a great job, but one that will meet their needs. This does not hold true for those that are not smart, physically incapable, lazy, or do not look. The first two groups need to be helped. I think Ken's comment was mostly about the capable people that buy into the myth that if things aren't given to them then they are denied them. Just becuase someone doesn't give you money for nothing doesn't mean they are against you earning money.
But that's my view, maybe Ken meant something else.
There's relatively very little fluctuation in the number of people impoverished. Where any myth comes in is that its necessarily the same people impoverished right now that it was X number of years ago.
College students are normally impoverished. They are spending their time getting education rather than working a cushy job. We aren't likely to ever run out of students. Today's college students aren't impoverished forever. They are continually replaced by newly impoverished students.
Elderly people who didn't plan adequately for retirement. I know how to abolish this but no one is likely to adopt my plan to privatize social security. Their ranks are continually replenished by newly retired people.
People who are unemployed for significant amount of time are impoverished but relatively few of them are permanently unemployed. Their ranks are replaced by newly unemployed people.
Are there some perpetually poverty-striken people? Yes
Are there some perpetually poverty-striken classes? Yes
Can the government help? Some.
Trying to help unwed mothers has been a nightmare in some situations. Former senator Pat Moynihan (sp?) who was widely considered an expert on welfare related stories of high school girls deliberately getting pregnant because the government would provide them with a free apartment.
Giving money or free stuff to drug addicts isn't going to work since they'll use it to buy their next fix.
Posts: 575 | Registered: Apr 2004
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At Snopes, the Urban myth debunking site, there are many "myths" accepted as real out of political idealogy. If you go to the Politics category and check John Kerry and Bush, the partisan nature of the Mikkelsons becomes apparent. In "veterans offer opinions about John Kerry." The "myth" as awarded both a true and false designation. Even though there are tremendous doubts about his medals and he admitted atrocities, they are somehow balanced out by pro-Kerry supporters.
Yet a Bush "myth" called "Photo shows Yale undergraduate George W. Bush delivering a punch to the face of a rugby opponent" is attributed as truth. To my professional view as an animation and kinetics expert the photograph only shows a "punch" if you want there to be one. Bush is easily seen falling away from a ball carrier pulling away from a tackle and his hands have just come off the ball carrier moving away from his face. Although the write-up specifies they cannot be sure about what is seen, they give it a "true" button.
There are dozens of debunking examples that are compromised along distinct partisan lines - yet the balance of non-political myths examined are generally well-done.
In other words, "myths" are often in the eye of the beholder, and even those who take pride in their objectivity.
The two myths given are good examples of the problems of myths.
Myths provide guidance by providing a model for behavior and expectations. But, like any model, they are a simplification of reality, and so can also be harmful if applied incorrectly.
The myth "any given American can't climb out of poverty due to EXTERNAL STRUCTURAL CAUSES that prevent him/her from doing so" can be hurtful if used as an excuse for not working hard and doing one's best. It is also hurtful if used as an excuse for ignoring one's own problems.
But it is helpful when applied to examining what barriers there are to those who try to climb out of poverty.
The opposite myth--that any American can "make it" if they are smart and work hard enough--can be helpful if it inspires people to work hard and take responsibility for their actions and lives. But it is harmful if it is used to blame people for their own poverty, because it ignores the fact that poverty can be caused by external problems and barriers--which brings us back to the first myth.
What we need to do realize that myths are not universal laws. They do not apply to all cases. We need to look closely at specific situations and see where our myths apply, and where they do not. And then act accordingly.
Unfortunately, many people do not do this. And many politicians speak as if myths are universal laws, in that if we only applied a certain myth, everything would work great.
These people need to be regulated as obsolete as the Greek gods.
Posts: 8681 | Registered: Dec 2000
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I do want to say that "STRUCTURAL" was the intended operative term in my original post here.
The biggest problem preventing deprived kids from climbing out might just be in their little hearts and minds. Many of them are abused with too little care, too little guidance, and the wrong role models. Above all things, maybe kids need "attaboygurls" more than any other single thing. If they are getting those...then food and shelter... and care, are already in place. Bean
Posts: 1539 | Registered: Dec 2001
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I wish people would say "myth", rather than "mythology". Just a pet peeve of mine.
"The real myth is the 'helpful, fuzzy' kind that says that anybody can make it in America because there is a level playing ground. That is the myth."
Well, I'm pretty sure the "myth", as you call it, is the assertion that anyone can make it. The level playing field isn't really a part of it. Of course it isn't a level playing field; obviously rich people have an advantage over poor people. That's the point. That's why people want to be rich, because wealth confers advantage.
Posts: 7629 | Registered: Mar 2003
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quote:But I think MOST people are able to climb out of poverty. And I think the playing field is mostly level. A smart, hard-working person should be able to find a decent job if they try. Maybe not a great job, but one that will meet their needs. This does not hold true for those that are not smart, physically incapable, lazy, or do not look.
i'm sorry but this makes several assumptions that simply aren't true, namely that anyone in the country has only their own initiative to make themselves "smart" and "hard-working". my girlfriend teaches school in a poor area of town and by the time kids are in high school their future potential has already been set, it's referred to in education as "tracking". the bright kids get put into honors classes while the duller ones get tracked into vocational classes, and when they go looking for jobs it is the skills they have at graduation (or the non-existance of a diploma) which determines where they'll end up. but even this ignores the obvious: children are malleable things, if they are loved and encouraged and given opportunities they will usually blossom and become hard working intelligent members of society. if, on the other hand, they are neglected, abused, and forced to live in poverty among gang warfare, they will end up unable to climb the social ladder in the US.
i understand what you these sentiments are referring to - that there is no established caste system, and that it is only one's qualifications and determination which determine how far someone will go in life - and i have no argument with that. i am glad to live in a country where this is the case, and believe we should be proud of that - that we deserve to have myths which celebrate this fact. but to extrapolate from this fact that anyone who is poor is in that position out of lack of motivation or intelligence fails to consider how members of our society gain qualifications and determination. poverty is self-perpetuating because it handicaps its children and fails to give them the life skills they need to get out of poverty, that is why poverty rates (as mentioned) are fairly stable.
true, there will always be the unusual individual who triumphs despite having the odds stacked against them, but the existence of such individuals does not legitimize a system which claims to have a level playing field yet ignores the handicaps it gives to its lower classes.
perhaps this is inevitable, i at least don't have any quick fix for it, but i do find it hypocritical (or perhaps just naive) to believe that we live in a country with a level playing field. the best i would say is that we live in a country with fair rules of play.
Posts: 31 | Registered: Sep 2004
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"Many of them are abused with too little care, too little guidance, and the wrong role models."
Maybe this isn't structural in the macro sense of the word, but there is certainly a problem with A structure when this is the case. I think ambition, intelligence and hard work can often be good enough to rise out of some bad situations. However, I don't think it can be definitively said that those will always work for everyone. Some people get shot in their neighborhood before they get the opportunity to rise above. That "playing" field isn't level with the one I've had. Furthermore, even if all poor people do have opportunity to rise above, that doesn't make the field level. It just means that they aren't in an impossible situation. This is much different than being even with all other people. I like the idea of this thread, but I don't think this issue belongs in a debate about myth or fact. The extent of the problem can be debated, but whether the field is level or not??? Please.
Posts: 1445 | Registered: May 2004
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