Monday, August 22, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Caste systems in human society create generational poverty

Caste systems in human society create generational poverty
August 19, 2011

Samantha Torrence – Why can't the poor just be responsible? Why can't
the poor just work? Why do they sit on their behinds and do nothing?
Do they not have a work ethic? Do they care? Do they think they are
entitled? Questions like these come out of the confusion from a
mindset of different castes in American society. These questions are
also made from a mindset that favors punitive action for a perceived
injustice. The questions posed, however, if looked at without the bias
of the successful, may bring real answers to the "war on poverty."

The war on poverty, as it is being fought, has yielded fruitless
results. Programs initiated by the government have either held people
back from success or have created an almost institutionalized mindset
within underprivileged communities. In many cases generational poverty
is created from this institutionalized mindset that has become a
culture in many communities where children are raised to see the
welfare office as the main source of income.  Understanding the causes
of poverty would mean giving serious study to the mindset of the poor
without comparing personal values or values from another class in a
negative manner.

In Ohio a worker at Belmont Pines, an inpatient hospital for
behavioral health in children, said the children she works with from
low income families have expressed to her their intention of living
off of welfare and also indicated they did not know where the money
for welfare comes from.  For many people this revelation triggers
resentment and they treat these children and their parents in such a
manner that it causes grief and stress. The way a society treats its
poor determines whether or not the "condition" becomes contagious.

Researchers have studied the effects of different socioeconomic
classes on how much stress any given individual exhibits.  These
researchers have found interesting correlations between poverty and
obesity,  but they also stumbled onto a piece of the poverty puzzle,
stress.  Dr. Robert Sapolsky, a neurobiologist at Stanford University,
studies the hierarchical societies of primates and has highlighted the
effects of stress on different socioeconomic levels within a primate
community. His work has shed great light on how ones status in the
home or workforce can contribute to success or failure.

A National Geographic documentary starring Dr. Sapolsky titled
'Stress: Portrait of a Killer' shows how people on the lowest rung of
society or the corporate ladder are exposed to deadly amounts of
stress. Stress causes a variety of reactions that impair the physical
and mental health of an individual. In the documentary the lowest
ranking primates became obese, had higher blood pressure, higher
cholesterol, and died sooner.  Stress has also been found to cause
mental impairments by reducing the ability to learn and reducing
memory capability. If one poses the often referenced problems of the
poor next to the effects of stress it is easy to see the solution to
poverty.  The amount of unnecessary stress put on the poor from
punitive elements on society can be pointed to as the catalyst for the
many ailments of those in poverty; obesity, drug use, lack of
education, and depression.  All of these catalysts then contribute to
the condition of poverty and the endless cycle of the generational

The demographics of obesity typically fall heaviest on those in lower
economic situations. There are various reasons as to why the poor tend
to put on extra weight. One reason is the lack of readily available
healthy foods in many areas that host impoverished communities. The
other and what some feel the irresponsible reason is the penchant for
the poor to choose to eat fast food such as McDonalds.  So why do the
poor typically choose a McDonald's cheeseburger over a can of fruit?
They both cost the same, but in reality that greasy concoction of
processed meat and cheese grilled in fat tends to satisfy the belly
just a little longer than the canned fruit in light corn syrup.
George Orwell explains this mindset well in a passage from 'The Road
to Wigan Pier.'

Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things
like oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of
the letter to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots
raw? Yes, it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is
ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner
starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil
is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to
spend it on wholesome food. A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off
orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn't. Here the
tendency of which I spoke at the end of the last chapter comes into
play. When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed,
harassed, bored, and miserable, you don't want to eat dull wholesome
food. You want something a little bit 'tasty'. There is always some
cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you. Let's have three pennorth of
chips! Run out and buy us a two penny ice-cream! Put the kettle on and
we'll all have a nice cup of tea! That is how your mind works when you
are at the P.A.C. level. White bread-and-marg and sugared tea don't
nourish you to any extent, but they are nicer (at least most people
think so) than brown bread-and-dripping and cold water. Unemployment
is an endless misery that has got to be constantly palliated, and
especially with tea, the English-man's opium. A cup of tea or even an
aspirin is much better as a temporary stimulant than a crust of brown

The bad choice of McDonalds over a healthier alternative is compounded
by another reason for weight gain, stress. When stress gets a hold of
a person's metabolism there is an increase in cortisol which in turn
increases weight gain from visceral fat. Visceral fat in layman's
terms is belly fat, the fat often associated with stress.  Visceral
fat is an unhealthy fat that also attaches to organs and causes
various reactions like heart failure, high blood pressure, high
cholesterol, and even cancer.

Clearly stress coupled with the bad decision of eating unhealthy foods
creates numerous problems that put poor people on government health
insurance.  In reaction many people have demanded the government put
strict restrictions on the types of foods that can be purchased by the
poor. Typically the restriction is influenced by disgust for the lack
of control exhibited by the poor for their own health. People often
question why can't the poor just exhibit a bit of self-control and do
the right thing?

This question is also reflected by the populace when confronted with
drug abuse by the poor. Again, why are the poor being irresponsible
and using drugs when they do not have the money for proper nutrition?
The emotional context of the answer can be found in the above quote by
Orwell and is reflected in a study by the Wake Forest University
School of Medicine. They found that stress imposed on a primate in a
lower social status influences it to choose cocaine over food.  Simply
put, when a person is downtrodden and stressed they want a pick me up.
So what makes them choose the immediate gratification of drugs or
unhealthy food over financial stability and health?

A series of experiments from psychologists over the past two decades
explores the concept of "depletable" self-control.  James Holmes
writes in his article at the New Republic,

Over the intervening 13 years, these results have been corroborated in
more than 100 experiments. Researchers have found that exerting
self-control on an initial task impaired self-control on subsequent
tasks: Consumers became more susceptible to tempting products; chronic
dieters overate; people were more likely to lie for monetary gain; and
so on. As Baumeister told Teaching of Psychology in 2008, "After you
exert self-control in any sphere at all, like resisting dessert, you
have less self-control at the next task."

Basically the very existence of the poor is based on an endless series
of financial and personal decisions through the entire day. Eventually
when they get to the breaking point of stress they no longer have the
willpower to resist desires.  After making a negative purchase they
feel more stress, and a lack of self-control coupled with punitive
actions of outside observers causes a cyclical reaction that keeps a
person in poverty. This cyclical reaction is evidence of a defense
mechanism that kicks in when a person is faced with stress and
corresponding depression.

Depression may be thought of as a buzz word, but it exists and it is
heavily influential on the lives of the destitute. Stress and
depression are linked arm and arm and have similar physiological and
psychological effects.  A study out of France titled Why Don't You Try
Harder? An Investigation into Effort Production in Major Depression,
shows how the depressed develop a helpless feeling that inhibits them
from changing their situation even if they are given opportunities.
Perhaps this is why many people become frustrated with the poor;
because they feel they have missed ample opportunities?

That is another problem, how do the poor recognize an opportunity?
Much of their lives they have been trained that all 'opportunities'
come with strings attached, strings they may not understand fully. As
they experience more stress they are victims to yet another side
effect of stress, a decrease in brain function.  The same study that
showed that stressed primates of a low rank in the hierarchy will
choose cocaine rather than food also established that low ranking
primates also have a decreased brain function even when they are not
in an immediate moment of stress. That brain function decreases
dramatically when they are presented with direct stress. How does this
translate to human behavior? It has been established that a person who
is stressed out or deeply depressed has decreased cognitive ability
that affects reasoning and memory.  This is why children in
impoverished areas do not do as well in school, and perhaps this is
why adults also do not make the best decisions. This is evidence of
yet another cycle that contributes to generational poverty. A lack of
solid education due to stress leads to a stressful adulthood which in
turn exposes the next generation to that same stress and a lack of
education to change the situation.

So what is the answer? The answer is so simple that it may be hard for
some people to accept. The answer is love and education. To change the
situation of the poor people may have to as a society put aside their
notions and realize that the culture of the lowest societal caste may
be difficult to understand.  The higher castes of society need to quit
displacing their stress on the poor and instead attempt to understand
the situation without judgment.  Society may have to provide this
generation with all the basic needs of Maslow's Hierarchy and simply
focus on the education of the children.

In summation I shall leave the reader with this quote from the great
humanist Sir Thomas Moore.

For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to
be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes
to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be
concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish


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