Wednesday 13 June 2012

The 'Biblical Poor' do not exist in the West


There are no poor (in the Biblical sense) in the West.

(Only isolated individuals with specific causes - there are no poor as a class).


The Biblical Poor worked all waking hours until they dropped, suffered chronic malnutrition and usually died of starvation: almost none of their children would survive to adulthood.


The Modern "poor" do not work at all, are obese, have more children than anyone else, and almost all their children survive to mature adulthood.


Chalk and cheese.

Everyone, all classes, are nowadays wallowing in 'luxury', by ancient standards.

And this is objective, biological fact: not a matter of opinion.


Therefore, when modern people talk about 'the poor' as a class they are actually talking about The Rich Man: the one who had such difficulty getting to heaven - only managing it via the eye of a needle...



The Crow said...

You are right. There are no poor people in the West.
This being so, those labeling themselves 'poor' do not need 'help', but rather reminding that they are nothing like poor, and are expected to start looking after themselves.
Any truly poor people I have met, including the me I once was, but mostly in rural Morocco and Mexico, haven't been remarkable for thinking of themselves as disadvantaged, at all. They are largely remarkable for their contentedness and dignity.

dearieme said...

I saw a suggestion recently that the eye of a needle business had a mistranslation in it: that it wasn't a camel, it was a rope.

The point is the same, I assume, but the rhetorical effect is better.

Mind you, I heard a different mistranslation explanation when I was a teenager. No doubt there are more than two around.

B322 said...

Thank you for reprinting. This is so important to keep in mind. Picturing the contemporary American underclass while reading the New Testament was quite a plank in the eye, for me. It's not like I ever thought that 77.8% of Canaanites or Israelites owned more than one television, but my imagination led me astray in spite of actual knowledge.

Looking at your description of the Biblical poor, I realize I've probably met anyone with that combination of overwork, abjection, and privation. I've met ultra-poor homeless people, but they are hardly overworked, and they considered "hip" (i.e. a legitimate victims' group) at least as often as they are abjected. In terms of overwork, I have known a few who work some pretty ridiculous hours. Always waitresses. I had one waitress for breakfast at 8:00 AM; that evening I saw her reporting for duty at another restaurant. Makeup hides the stress. And of course she was the type who managed a smile for everyone who came in.

So if I imagine Jesus inviting her to a feast, it starts to make sense on the level of imagery and emotion.

(More rumors: I heard once that "eye of the needle" referred to the sort of entrance through a city wall that only pedestrians could use. Thus if a camel were to use one it would have to get on its knees and crawl--a very humble and God-fearing posture, the sort of posture a rich man would be very unused to adopting. Can anyone confirm/deny?)

Bruce Charlton said...

@sykes - my interpretation is that mainstream churches are primarily Leftist, with Leftism continually evolving, and they fit Christianity around that as best they can.

The idea that Leftism is about alleviating poverty has been wrong from the start - perhaps it was an honest mistake at first, but since the mid 1960s it has been a dishonest mistake.

Leftism got going in the 1800s just at the point when, for the first time in human history, the poorest began out-reproducing the riches: this process is objectively measurable, and has recently been done by Greg Clark of UC Davis.

The industrial revolution benefited the poor differentially far more than the rich; yet Leftism wanted to disrupt or reverse this process on the basis that 'capitalism' was oppressing the poor.

I am not saying that the industrial revolution was 'a good thing' - but if your main goal is to abolish poverty, it certainly was a good thing.

The Left supported China when it was exterminating its population by the ten million - but when China began to eliminate poverty the Left began hating it.

Leftism is evil - root and branch - but of course that does not apply to individual people who are Leftists. In fact, only a tiny (albeit growing) proportion of Leftists are purposively evil; sadly some of these are among the most powerful of people.