The class struggle
Jacob had a great understanding of the class struggle that exists here and all over the world. He said that when people give out money to the poor, the person giving the money feels like he or she is in a position of greater authority. This then allows the wealthier person to dictate how the money ought to be spent.
Another portion of our discussion was that in our society we have associated impoverishment with being evil or bad. The idea is that the rich are rewarded for being born into a better life through the ownership of more material objects. The richer you are, the smarter you are, and the better you are. For the poor, the bad decisions made in one’s lifetime are considered as a way of punishment. Based on Jacob’s analysis of the Eastside, the points made above is how most people interpret the poor. He completely rejected this common viewpoint and labeled it as heresy because the rich often believe they are being rewarded by God through their wealth.
When someone donates money, he or she demands an entitlement to how it should be spent. “Don’t spend that money on drugs, and go buy yourself some food instead” is a common phrase used by these so-called philanthropists. But are we really in a position to decide their lives for them? I’m not saying that drugs are good and that the money should be spent on drugs, but when someone is giving money to a beggar; he or she can’t dictate how it should be spent. We can’t force another person to engage in our version of “socially responsible behavior.”
Imagine a wealthy non-drug-addicted man panhandling for money. What will he spend his money on? Maybe gas for his Ferrari? Is that considered to be spending money in a responsible manner? That oil and gas pollutes the environment, costs thousands of human lives and has displaced millions of people and animals from their homes. That same oil is what we have stolen from Iraq and many African nations that live below the poverty line, just so that we can feed our own addiction problems. But according to us, the beggar who spends his money on drugs is engaging in an irresponsible manner, while polluting and destroying the entire world to fulfill our own addictive needs is acceptable behavior. This double-standard is rarely recognized in our society. Moreover, a drug addicted person affects one current life, whereas our oil addiction affects many current lives and many generations yet to come. Sounds like hypocrisy to me.
The value of money itself is a tricky subject on its own. Not only do things of value change over time, but there is something more important that comes into play when it comes to money. It is not only the money itself that has value, but also the transaction process that takes place between two people. Allow me to elaborate on this point.
Imagine the following thought experiment; in the first scenario, you throw a Lonnie at a beggar’s head and call him a “stupid bum.” In the second scenario, imagine that you place the Lonnie into the palm of your hand and gently stretch it out by saying “here you go sir. Have a great day.” In both of these scenarios, the value of money exchanged was a single dollar. But there is something else that is attached to this money and that something else is what we have to focus on. When we donate money, compassion, recognition and respect of another human being all have the most value invisibly ingrained in it. Money is not the issue, but the human transaction is.
We should smile, say hi, sit down and eat with the impoverished community struggling to survive given the circumstances they are currently facing. I’d like to emphasize that it really doesn’t matter how one got to where they are now, the fact is that this is where they are right now. So what should we do? Surely if one was to track a man’s past footprints of life, one would eventually get to where the man is located right now. But we do not live in the past. We only live in the present. Therefore, we need to act now and not later.