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Forum Post: If the rags to riches story happens so much in America...

Posted 2 years ago on Jan. 9, 2012, 10:38 a.m. EST by opensociety4us (914) from Norwalk, CT
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

then why is it news?

(JesseHeffran)

24 Comments

24 Comments


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[-] 2 points by ARod1993 (2420) 2 years ago

Because it's not exactly normal and usually when it happens there are other factors at play than just the industriousness of the individual in question. I grew up working poor in the Bronx and am currently at MIT thanks to a crazily determined mother and a strong, supportive working class community. Simply speaking from my experience and from what I've seen, poor choices may be a part of why people are poor, but they're hardly enough of the picture to explain why rags-to-riches stories are so rare and to just be able to point the finger at an entire population and brand them as lazy, stupid, and useless.

I'll be the first to admit that what I did was hardly in a vacuum. Not everybody has a mother who is a licensed teacher who was willing to quit her job to live as a poor housewife so that she could homeschool her children to keep them out of a failing school system. Not everybody has a father who could find and hold onto a union job with good benefits up until his son's sophomore year of high school, weather an eleven-month strike and a plant closure, and manage to get another union job within a few months of being laid off. Not everybody has a landlord willing to hold off a rent increase for a year longer than he had to to cut us a break. Not everyone knows an incredibly kind nun who just dropped off $500 at our doorstep one month when we couldn't fully make rent on time.

It is theoretically possible to bootstrap oneself out of poverty, but damn near nobody who truly got anywhere satisfactory in life came from absolutely nothing. There is always the one that does, and that person is so many different kinds of amazing it's not funny, but usually there are support systems there that you didn't see that your average bootstrapper was able to take advantage of. There are also whole communities in which the resources don't exist for those kinds of support systems to develop organically and therein lies the trap. When you have someone who comes from a broken home, spends his days in a school that doesn't teach him and where large chunks of the student body punish success, in a community where few people care and the ones that do truly have no support to offer, you've essentially spent his whole life teaching him that success is out of his reach and he'd be a fool to reach for it.

The whole point of discarding this ugly attitude about the economically less fortunate is because only then are you going to watch the kind of change that you're hoping for. Give the poor real economic support for things like going to college and/or vocational training so that they can ditch their minimum-wage job for something they can actually live on. Send their kids to strong, high-performing schools where success is expected and rewarded. Truly offer them opportunity and you'd be amazed at how fast they would take it. Now, if you give someone every opportunity in the book and they still blow it, then feel free to dump them on the roadside; I won't stop you. But until that's been done your attitude is simply part of the problem.

[-] 1 points by opensociety4us (914) from Norwalk, CT 2 years ago

what attitude?

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 2 years ago

I've seen a number of posts on here that either insinuate or outright assert that the only reason that people are poor is because they're stupid and lazy, and if they would stop being stupid and lazy then they would be rich. I did not bring that up because of anything you said, but rather because the rags-to-riches stories your original post refers to are often cited by people holding those views as proof that poor people are stupid and lazy.

[-] 1 points by opensociety4us (914) from Norwalk, CT 2 years ago

my post is a rhetorical question dealing with epistemology. I would argue that "rags to riches" stories are rare, which makes them "news". The idea they are rare is a counter to the platitudes "American Dream", "Land of Opportunity", etc., one faces when attempting to highlight economic injustice.

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 2 years ago

I figured as much; we aspire (or at least should aspire) to be a land where upward mobility is commonplace enough that it's not necessarily newsworthy, and as far as I'm concerned pretending that we already have attained that status is in fact counterproductive.

[-] 1 points by opensociety4us (914) from Norwalk, CT 2 years ago

You're such a communist.

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 2 years ago

I'm also a faithful leftist troglodyte drone of Chairman Maobama, depending on who you ask on here.

-facepalm-

[-] 0 points by opensociety4us (914) from Norwalk, CT 2 years ago

but, why is it news?

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 2 years ago

It's news for two reasons that are intertwined. It doesn't happen that much, especially with more and more people losing the upward mobility that goes hand in hand with job security and the continued stagnation of wages for large chunks of the working and middle classes. That rarity makes it a news event, and the story of someone on the rise is more often than not cause for celebration in its own right.

At the same time, the "shoeshine boy to industry magnate" tale is great because people take those stories as a personal source of hope and inspiration; the implicit message is that if someone with that little could bootstrap themselves all the way up the food chain then anyone (including you) can better yourselves as much as you please if you're willing to work hard enough for it.

This message is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it serves as a source of encouragement and inspiration to people who want to go far in life, and on the surface it proves to many that America still is the land of opportunity. That said, this message can also be and often is distorted into "The only reason you're poor is because you're stupid and lazy. See? He was poorer than you, and now he's at the top of the food chain. Now quit bitching and get me my burger." and that needs to stop.

[-] -1 points by FreeDiscussion1 (109) 2 years ago

Why do you care? What is the point of spending every moment of the day thinking about some rich guy? I really dont understand this obsession with being worried about rich people. They have been around since the Kings thousands of years ago. Always have and always will. Move on to something else. I would be happy if a rich guy buys an expensive jet so the guys making jets have a job.

[-] 2 points by opensociety4us (914) from Norwalk, CT 2 years ago

you don't get it. it's a rhetorical question (epistemology)

[-] -1 points by smartcapitalist (143) 2 years ago

Of the 400 richest Americans on the Forbes list, 278 are self made. Here http://www.forbes.com/forbes-400/#p_1_s_arank_All%20industries_All%20states_Self-Made_ Read and sulk and whine. Have a nice day.

[-] 1 points by opensociety4us (914) from Norwalk, CT 2 years ago

why is it news?

you're still here? how many posts now?

[-] -1 points by smartcapitalist (143) 2 years ago

Because, unlike OWS hippies, we in America like to celebrate success.

[-] 1 points by opensociety4us (914) from Norwalk, CT 2 years ago

that doesn't answer the question. why is it news? why do we celebrate that which happens so much?

[-] 1 points by kingscrossection (1203) 2 years ago

Because it is a really good thing. We have continued to celebrate Independence day for a good while but we still celebrate it.

[-] 0 points by opensociety4us (914) from Norwalk, CT 2 years ago

but what is being celebrated (revolution) is not common.

[-] 1 points by kingscrossection (1203) 2 years ago

Why do we celebrate valentines day? Or almost any holiday we have? We do so every year? To actually answer you question there are normally other factors going into this situation.

[-] 0 points by opensociety4us (914) from Norwalk, CT 2 years ago

It's not the frequency of celebrations that's relevant, it's the rarity of the event spurring the celebrations that I'm interested in.

[-] -1 points by smartcapitalist (143) 2 years ago

Yes, the average guy turning into a billionaire is a rare event. Otherwise, everyone would be a billionaire. And yet, there are more billionaires and millionaires in this country than anywhere else in the world (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/12/10-countries-with-the-billionaires_n_847693.html#s262644&title=10_Canada)

Now if you want to whine why you too aren't a billionaire yet. I have a hint: they don't whine.

[-] 1 points by opensociety4us (914) from Norwalk, CT 2 years ago

You still don't get it. Ask that whining liberal, George Soros.

[-] -1 points by smartcapitalist (143) 2 years ago

What is your IQ? 50?

[-] 1 points by opensociety4us (914) from Norwalk, CT 2 years ago

that's all you got?

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