Saturday, October 08, 2005

Reading Major Barbara

We're reading Major Barbara in my Vic Lit class (which I know is slightly out of period, but I'm doing it anyway, since it's one of my favorite texts, and it almost qualifies, and really, you know, it ought to be a Victorian text, and okay, I don't have a legitimate reason, I just wanted to) and the students did not blink an eye at Shaw's suggestion that poverty was a crime, or his advice that we execute the poor -- those seemed, to my students, interesting ideas, interesting, ah, solutions to the problem of poverty.

No, what upset them was Shaw's other bit of advice, the one where he suggested giving everyone a stipend -- guarenteeing them this income for life. Even though I pointed out that he also said folk would have to then work for this stipend, they were upset by this. Why? Because it was communism, that's why.

And this is after Shaw's lengthy argument in which he points out all the effects of poverty, how poverty does not, in fact, simply harm the poor -- how it destroys all of society, how it corrupts the world, and how it can be prevented, if we want to prevent it, by (yes, in fact) simply giving poor people money.

Same way George Bush's daddy, for instance, gave him money. (Shaw doesn't use that example, obviously, but he uses examples like that one.)

But no. That's evil.

Shoot the poor? That's fine.

Pay the poor enough to live on, even if we make them work for it? That's evil.

Better to leave, what is it, a fifth of American children in poverty, and what percentage is it of us now without health insurance or adequate medical care, and how many of us without a decent education and what was our literacy rate again, and somebody remind me, what's our alcoholism and drug abuse rate, and that homicide rate, wasn't it fairly high, compared to other first world nations, and Jesus, don't get me started on how many of us are in prison, and where are we now in the standing of university degrees, and infant mortality rates and divorce rates and child abuse rates? Yes, yes, this is working so well. Let's not change this system.

Ah, America.

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