Friday, May 1, 2015

Mental Slavery

Rod Dreher, writing about an aspect of the stubborn persistence of poverty, hits on perhaps THE crucial factor behind why the very poor tend to stay very poor: profound despair.
A reader I spent time with on this trip, a white guy, grew up in a welfare family. He said it is impossible to overstate the power of fatalism among the poor — and he told stories of things he grew up with, things he saw. This fatalism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in many cases. It’s a form of self-imposed mental slavery.
That nails it. Hopelessness and despair create the most impenetrable walls imaginable around a person in poverty. It's like the (perhaps apocryphal) story of how to train a predatory fish not to hunt a goldfish in the same fish tank. You put a transparent barrier between the predatory fish and the goldfish. The predatory fish immediately tries to attack the goldfish, and runs into the clear barrier over and over. Eventually, the predatory fish learns that it "can't" reach the goldfish, and it gives up trying to attack it, even once the clear barrier is removed. The predatory fish will swim right by the goldfish without even attempting to attack it, because a barrier has been permanently erected in its mind prevents it from even considering the possibility that it could achieve its goal.

So it is with the chronically poor. The barriers in their mind stop them from seeing any possibilities of escaping their poverty, let alone of achieving their dreams.

His post is excellent. Read the whole thing.

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