Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A book I probably won't read

I heard this story the other day on the news about this recent college grad who now has a book deal about how he gave up his comfortable life to see if he could make it as a poor person. (You can read the story here.) He gave himself some rules - no mention of his education, only $25 bucks, no credit cards - and some goals - be in an apartment, get a car, save some money. He more than accomplished his goals (by the end of his "expirment" he had bought a truck and saved $5,000), but I find all this very disengenious. His message is "I can do this, so can you." If his message was aimed at the middle class who struggle to save money, I wouldn't have a problem with it. But since it so clearly comes across as a way people, if they just weren't lazy, could get out of poverty (he says he did it as a reaction to the book Nickle and Dimed), it's insulting. It's insulting to poor people that they are poor just because they are lazy. He seems to be saying, hey, if you're poor and you work hard enough, you won't be poor anymore. Forget the fact that he has several things that a lot of poor people don't, like a college education (even if he didn't "use" it, he had it), he' white (sure there are poor white people, but let's not kid ourselves that this isn't an advantage for him), he had the attitude of "if it gets really bad, I can just quit" (which he did after 10 months when he found out about a family illness).

Maybe he'll use his attitude, education and resources to help those who are poor not because they chose to be, but because of circumstances beyond their control.

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