Address problems, do not point fingers
The author of Tuesday’s column, “Liberals perpetuate poverty,” demonstrates a mind-bogglingly limited capacity for perspective and seeks, one can only assume, to spew inflammatory invective in hopes of gaining notoriety. The other option is that he truly believes liberals deliberately seek to propagate poverty, which I submit would reflect more poorly on his character. I will therefore proceed under the assumption of the former.
His trivial ad hominem arguments aside, what the author falls victim to is the perpetuation of pointless and destructive partisan bickering. Baseless charges of racism are a straw man at best and divisive and destructive at worst. In either case, they are applicable to both sides. The true problems are myriad, nuanced and subject to influence from countless factors both seen and unseen. As a general rule, anybody who tries to give you a simple solution to a complex problem is either stupid or lying. Liberals have balked at Republican candidates like Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin not because these liberals are racist or sexist — though in some cases that cannot be discounted — but because the candidates have proven themselves to be unqualified for the post they seek or have sought.
More to the point, the aforementioned candidates are simply a distillate of capitalism. We live in a society that is interconnected to a degree inconceivable a generation ago. As a result, there are more media outlets fighting for advertising revenue gained from page-views and television ratings from a populace with a decreasing attention span. To gain attention, they must be outrageous and hyper-partisan. This is as true for Ann Coulter and Andrew Breitbart as it is for Rachel Maddow and Bill Maher. The result is what you see before you — a presidential primary that more closely resembles a reality show than it does a forum for constructive political discourse (“So You Think You Can Be President?”). It’s just like “American Idol.” You can even vote for the winner.
What we lack is reasoned discourse and empathy. In order to understand another person’s point of view, you must truly be able to put yourself in their position and that takes more than reading up on the opponent’s talking points. You must consider each individual as the sum of their life experiences, which takes more than five minutes of listening to them. Name-calling and finger-pointing from either side accomplishes nothing, for both Democrats and Republicans have maneuvered us into our current situation.
That tree-hugging hippie liberal you hate? Maybe she was raised in a cabin in the middle of the woods and thus has a deeper appreciation of our ecosystem and the fact that a seemingly innocuous perturbation can have profound and unforeseeable impacts. That smug fat-cat businessman conservative you’re protesting against? Maybe he’s a true John Galt — or Dagny Taggart, if the ladies prefer — a man who built his fortune from the ground up in the novel “Atlas Shrugged,” who genuinely understands the powerful engine that capitalism can be and rightly wants to keep the fruits of his labor.
The fact of the matter is, our societal tools are imperfect, but they are the best ones we’ve been able to find so far. The problems we face as a nation are ones inherent to a capitalist democratic society. High unemployment, despite record corporate profits, is a result mainly of lack of demand. I’m sure corporations do want to sell more product and thus hire more employees to handle that, but there is no market for it right now. People need to pay off their debt and get by with their old jalopy before they can think about buying a new car. Rampant poverty is an extremely complex problem, and only one of the factors is a bloated and self-destructive welfare system.
Let’s start fixing these problems rather than apportioning blame. There’s plenty of that to go around.
Daniel Duffield is a graduate student in the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering.