The Poor Among Us: Old Problem, New Consequence

Old Problem, New Consequence-Part I
The Worldview Roots of Poverty By Brannon S. Howse
This is the first of two articles in which Brannon Howse explains the root cause <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
of poverty in developed nations and argues for the real solution.
Ruling classes throughout history have found ways to oppress the less fortunate. Americans, though, pride themselves on being above all that now-feudal lords, serfdom, slavery, or even the more sophisticated modern versions like Communist ruling party domination of everyone else. But the "intellectual elite" of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />America have found a far more insidious means than mere brute force to oppress the down and out, to assure the continued misery of millions. A decades-long brainwashing by liberal-leaning social engineers has so altered the worldview of the underclass that they have little choice but to live in the mire of their culturally bankrupt caste.
Psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple, author of the book Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass, has spent years treating the poor in a slum hospital and prison in England. Dr. Dalrymple believes we in developed nations use the term "poor" flippantly to describe people who are really not poor in the historic sense of having literally nothing and living on the verge of starvation. He opens his book by noting:
A specter is haunting the Western world: the underclass. This underclass is not poor, at least by the standards that have prevailed throughout the great majority of human history. It exists, to a varying degree, in all Western societies. Like every other social class, it has benefited enormously from the vast general increase in wealth of the past hundred years. In certain respects, indeed, it enjoys amenities and comforts that would have made a Roman emperor or an absolute monarch gasp.[1]
So just why is the condition of the underclass so oppressive? While Dr. Dalrymple's is not a Christian book per se, he nevertheless arrives at the astounding conclusion that a misshapen worldview accounts for the plight of today's poor in Western countries:
I have, for example, interviewed some ten thousand people who have made an attempt (however feeble) at suicide, each of whom has told me of the lives of four or five other people around him. From this source alone, therefore, I have learned about the lives of some fifty thousand people: lives dominated, almost without exception, by violence, crime, and degradation….Moreover, having previously worked as a doctor in some of the poorest countries in Africa, as well as in very poor countries in the Pacific and Latin America…
Patterns of behavior emerge-in the case of the underclass, almost entirely self-destructive ones. Day after day I hear of the same violence, the same neglect and abuse of children, the same broken relationships, the same victimization by crime, the same nihilism, the same dumb despair. If everyone is a unique individual, how do patterns such as this emerge?
Dalrymple later answers his own question:
Welfare states have existed for substantial periods of time without the development of a modern underclass: an added ingredient is obviously necessary. This ingredient is to be found in the realm of ideas. Human behavior cannot be explained without reference to the meaning and intentions people give their acts and omissions; and everyone has a Weltanschauung, a worldview, whether he knows it or not. It is the ideas my patients have that fascinate-and, to be honest, appall-me: for they are the source of their misery.[2]
While there are a few true victims of poverty-children who suffer from their parents' bad choices (which all too many choose to repeat as adults)-the blame for poverty lies not solely with those who make lifestyle decisions that lead to their status. Dr. Dalrymple asserts that the great facilitators of chronic indigence are liberal humanists and their worldview of "if it feels good do it": "most of the social pathology exhibited by the underclass has its origin in ideas that have filtered down from the intelligentsia."[3]
"Intelligentsia" is a synonym for liberal, humanistic elite-educrats and social engineers. Propagation of the liberal, morally relativistic worldview has raged through the underclass most ruinously in the form of glaring sexual promiscuity. Remember what the humanist manifestos have to say about moral relativism, sex, and the pursuit of pleasure:
• Humanist Manifesto I: "…the quest for the good life is still the central task for mankind."
• Humanist Manifesto II: "We strive for the good life, here and now."
"…neither do we wish to prohibit, by law or social sanction, sexual behavior between consenting adults. The many varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered 'evil.'"
Dalrymple articulates the agonizing consequences reaped by the underclass through embracing, however unwittingly, the worldview of humanists:
Of nothing is this more true than the system of sexual relations that now prevails in the underclass, with the result of 70 percent of the births in my hospital are now illegitimate (a figure that would approach 100 percent if it were not for the presence in the area of a large number of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent).
The intellectuals were about as sincere as Marie Antoinette when she played the shepherdess. While their own sexual mores no doubt became more relaxed and liberal, they nonetheless continued to recognize inescapable obligations with regard to children, for example. Whatever they said, they didn't want a complete breakdown of family relations any more than Marie Antoinette really wanted to earn her living by looking after sheep.
But their ideas were adopted both literally and wholesale in the lowest and most vulnerable social class. If anyone wants to see what sexual relations are like, freed of contractual and social obligations, let him look at the chaos of the personal lives of members of the underclass.
Here the whole gamut of human folly, wickedness, and misery may be perused at leisure-in conditions, be it remembered, of unprecedented prosperity. Here are abortions procured by abdominal kung fu [a boyfriend kicking or punching the mother of his child to induce a miscarriage]: Children who have children, in numbers unknown before the advent of chemical contraception and sex education; women abandoned by the father of their child a month before or a month after delivery; insensate jealously, the reverse of the coin of general promiscuity, that results in the most hideous oppression and violence; serial step fatherhood that leads to sexual and physical abuse of children on a mass scale; and every kind of loosening of the distinction between the sexually permissible and the impermissible.
The connection between this loosening and the misery of my patients is so obvious that it requires considerable intellectual sophistication (and dishonesty) to be able to deny it.
The climate of moral, cultural, and intellectual relativism-a relativism that began as a mere fashionable plaything for intellectuals-has been successfully communicated to those least able to resist its devastating practical effects.[4]
Do ideas have consequences? Does your worldview matter? Liberals can enjoy the distinct satisfaction of seeing just how radically their "forward-thinking" ideas affect the world in which people live day by day. Isn't the compassion of unrestrained sexual expression, of ongoing handouts to the needy a wonderful thing?
Anyone who regards with even a shred of honesty the destruction of unregenerate people in the underclass knows the liberals' time is up. Their social experiment is as bust as the former Soviet Union's Communism. The Christian worldview is the hope that is left-and a genuine hope it is. Christians must reach out to the underclass, seek to change hearts, renew minds, and reframe their deformed worldview by showing them the need for Christ. But that is a discussion worthy of an article in itself-my next one.

[1] Theodore Dalrymple, Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes The Underclass (Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, IL.; 2001). P. vii.

[2] Ibid; p. ix.

[3] Ibid; p. x.

[4] Ibid; p. xi-xii.

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