Thursday, September 27, 2012
I have seen a lot discussions/rants lately on Facebook regarding the poor, welfare, ect. People on both sides of the spectrum are fervently expressing their feelings about these issues, so I thought I would write a short response addressing the majority of these posts.
I know I've said this before but in my opinion most people suffer from the use of black and white thinking when it comes to the welfare issue. The far right believes it's a lack of work ethic and bad decisions which cause people to be on welfare. The far left believes it's a matter of circumstance and not the fault of the individual. We mentally lump people into convenient categories and then utilize over generalized ideologies and principles to come up with our solutions.
In truth, it is really difficult if not impossible to know how responsible "the poor" are for their economic situation. Why? Because this group is composed of millions of individuals, each with a past, present and future. Unless we have a close relationship with a particular person, it is impossible to know the circumstances they are immersed in, how they have lived their lives, the decisions they have made, their present mindset, or how they are planning for their future. Without this knowledge, it seems wholly unfair to lump all poor people together and judge them on the simple assumptions of either ideological viewpoint. It is this information limitation which should cause people on both sides of the extreme to re-examine their way of thinking about the issue.
This is not to suggest that such things cannot be discussed or that categorizing people is not useful. I am only saying that we should try to move beyond the typical way we discuss difficult issues. We need to move beyond the us vs them mentality which has been fostered by too much exposure to Fox News or MSNBC. Seeking real solutions means genuinely looking at all sides of an issue by actively trying to limit our confirmation bias. The point here is that we first have to recognize our own cognitive limitations before we can ever attempt to tackle difficult social/economic issues.