It’s Our Responsibility to End Psychological Warfare on the Poor

workingpoorIf human equality is to be forever averted—if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently—then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.

1984, George Orwell

Let’s be frank: The Elite classes (The 1%) use any number of tools to remain the 1%. There are probably as many and diverse tools to remain in power, to oppress and marginalize, as there are people to oppress and marginalize — and as many ways to employ them. But one of the most powerful and horribly effective tools of economic and political oppression and suppression is the widespread use of socio-psychological warfare — particularly the idea that the oppressed and marginalized deserve to be trivialized and oppressed. This is applied in any intersection, in any place where we see an oppressed people group — through sex, gender, race, ethnicity. For today, we will focus on class and economics — Psychological Class Warfare.

PCW is a cultural phenomenon conducted through cultural means: through language (particularly, but not solely, language adopted by libertarian and conservative movements and mouthpieces), through common practices of inclusion and exclusion, through movies and television shows, through advertisements, through music that lifts up lavish lifestyles while mocking those without means.

Let’s look at a small section of just the language aspect. The following are quotes ripped from a thread of a Christian group asking to raise the minimum wage. Like most of reactionary conservativism, notice there are no ideas, no plans but to stop progress and equality. These are just the quotes about how the poor are not worthy of getting higher wages. Other quotes about how minimum wage needs to be abolished or misunderstandings about the life of the very poor (many of which are fueled by or fuel the notions of the worth of poor people and families) will be discussed later. (Emphases mine):

  • The majority of minimum wage earners are teenagers, dropouts, retirees and people supplementing their income.
  • NO business is going to employ somebody who can’t EARN their keep.
  • Who’s to say what an unskilled, low information person is worth.
  • This is becoming another form of entitlement. Go to college and get a better job. Go to a trade school. But don’t expect me to pay higher taxes to pay you more money as the strength of my salary diminishes just so you can make more money without effort on your part.
  • If you are @ minimum wage, do NOT start a family…too many people today start having a family as soon as they marry, or in many cases do NOT marry. Having the ability to support a family, before starting one, is YOUR responsibility.. Not your employers…
  • As evangelicals, instead of promoting government force you could be promoting marriage and graduation.
  • Any one that thinks the minimum wage is for living on is a total idiot. You are suppose to move up the ladder not set back and do nothing but complain about your wages.
  • There is no point in raising the minimum wage when I already have to pay for the waste of America in my taxes anyway. And I am not saying that everyone who needs government assistance is waste but those who abuse the system can take a leap off a cliff and do a swan dive into a canyon. It would be cheaper on me and I would have more money to provide for my family.
  • The people with minimum wage right now get a lot of other benefits,with section 8 they end up making more money than the average person! With the earned income at the end of the year, Some get about 7500 8000 back on their taxes and they only put $1000 into the system.
  • Minimum work= minimum wage.

We have myths about how low-wage workers are lazy, how they steal from “tax paying” Americans, how they are baby-factories, deliberately unmarried sluts, their work is crappy… Low-wage earners are labeled wastes, drop-outs, incompetent, irresponsible, moochers, greedy, idiots, takers. According to PCW adherents and advocates, poor people are always looking for hand-outs and doing work deserving of the piss-poor wages they receive. They live off the government.

There are of course racial dynamics, associating the very poor with people of color and therefore dismissing them with the same racist maliciousness that White Supremacy gives to all people of color. This builds an outright hostility towards people in poverty as well as policies used to protect the poor. But it also demonstrates, again, the deep racial animus that thrives beneath the surface of much of White America.

And so we can reduce necessary food and cash aid by billions of dollars without batting an eye. We can subject minimum wage employees and welfare recipients to the humiliating act of peeing in a cup to prove that they’re not taking drugs — something no one would ever expect an executive to do despite the fact that they receive more benefits from the government in a month than the impoverished will even see — let alone receive through the government — through their entire lives. We can deny poor people basic amenities such as health care and housing. We can fire a bus driver for asking why a kid has to go hungry at school. We can demand that workers who dare go on strike should be shot. We can demand so much for so little. And not bat an eye, because our society has accepted the fallacy that the poor are less.

But the epochal, monumental achievement of the ruling classes, of the 1%, of Boss Culture, is not just in spreading such underhanded thoughts about poor people among the middle class or bourgeoisie, but to have the poor internalize this notion themselves. The oppressive classes do best when they can get not just other groups to believe these lies about them, but when the targeted group itself begins to believe such rhetoric and ideas themselves — about themselves.

And so not only do we see such hostility or disregard towards the plight of the poor, but towards and even from poor people. We poor people know that these are lies, that they are not true statements about us. But we may believe such slights are about other poor people. But not only that, these beliefs can be so far ingrained that one can believe them about herself or himself, often in a subconscious form.

And so we fight against universal healthcare because we believe we’re not good enough to have any guarantees — and if we get sick, that’s just further proof of our unworth. We fight against raised minimum wage because we believe down inside that our work isn’t “valuable.” We don’t challenge slum lords or epidemic homelessness even though we know we may be next because we think only wealthy people deserve good things.

Nothing, however, can be further from the truth. The poor work hard at just surviving. They should be applauded for sacrificing their labor for menial jobs where they are constantly treated like refuse, despite the fact that McDonald’s and Walmart could not rake in billions in profits except off of the productivity and reduced, slave-like wages of their employees.

In fact, the poor should receive standing ovations when they question the employers who blatantly commit this Psychological Class Warfare on them and go on strike. We should be throwing parades for them. We should be honoring the poor for going above and beyond the call of duty while allowing lavish lifestyles for the 1%.


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


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