Saturday, November 01, 2008

You'll End Up In the Poorhouse

Those were words I heard as a child, usually connected to wanting something unaffordable or frivolous. As a child I put the threat of ending up in the poorhouse or on the poor farm in the same category of parental wisdom as "you'll put your eye out" - some vague scary possibility but not likely because I was "different" or too smart.

Being an amateur genealogist I have found in my searches that the history of poorhouses and fear of ending in a poorhouse was not quite the house of horrors I once believed. Yes there were abuses, just as there is today in public and private institutions. The quality of poorhouse care reflected the values and mores of the surrounding community. I'm quite certain the institutional abuses today outnumber those of the past simply because today there is less oversight and little community involvement, other than a faceless hierarchy of government paid administrators.

However, the main reason for the parental admonishment of ending in the poorhouse was the dread and fear of shame. Fear and shame were motivational, to protect family honor, to care for one's own, etc. that sort of thing - unlike today where we are taught we all so extraordinary we should never feel shame or the threat of shame, and we have the corrupting programs and social experts to prove no one should experience negative feelings such as shame - of course that belief interferes with feeling anything but that's another post.

The last poorhouse/farm in my area was officially closed in the 1950s. County records and census usually offer a good deal of information on the inhabitants and workings of the poorhouse/farm, or alms house. States had "poor laws" that charged each county with providing care to local inhabitants who could not do for themselves and/or had no family legally bound to provide for them. Most states considered legally bound kindred as parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, wife, husband, or child. Imagine that, being obligated to provide food, shelter, and care for family members.

Superintendents were appointed to run the poor house/farm and assign workloads to "inmates," thus the farms were self-sustained. All residents who were capable were expected to work. I suppose if "progressives" approved of such places they would have been described as self-sustainable green communities.

In the above linked piece the writer states that "vast land resources" along with commerce and industry offered "most people a chance to obtain a livelihood" and avoid the poorhouse. That suggests to me the perception is the US no longer offers much chance at obtaining a livelihood. I guess Tito the Builder and Joe the Plumber haven't heard the chances of a livelihood ended a century ago. (Fact is, US workers sat on their fat behinds watching industry leave the country, busted up their own unions, and welcomed cheap labor competition over the border.)

Even if the US still had the "vast land resources," most of today's pioneers would be unable to puff and waddle across the plains and work sunup to sundown to maintain their livelihood. And I guess most American couch potatoes are looking toward China/India waving bye-bye and awaiting high paid job offers from the areas of commerce and industry.

Petty criminals were sometimes poorhouse inmates to work off fines. Some residents were the functioning but mentally handicapped/retarded. Some were widowed or abandoned women with children. Some were families left homeless by fire, some were elderly and ill with no one and no place to live out their final days (today called nursing homes).

Some were long-term residents, others brief. The farms held both black and white inmates, or paupers as most States referred to them. And from what I have uncovered locally there appears to have been less segregation on the county poor farm than anywhere else during this era. Poverty can be an equalizer.

There were fines and penalties on poorhouse superintendents who kept anyone who had been restored to health and able to provide for themselves, unlike today where caseload is job security. County hospitals and physicians were expected to donate a reasonable amount of time and care to poorhouse residents. Local undertakers and churches helped with burial of those who died but the bulk of financial support came from county taxation - a good reason for locals to ensure their communities were as prosperous as possible for all.

Poor houses/county farms are gone, replaced with Federal programs. We no longer have "paupers" but have people who are eligible for a host of State and Federal programs, and today so many are in need of something. There is no longer stigma attached to living on the dole - in fact, it's become a career for many. Needy has become okay, with a check, apply now. Charity has become a big business racket for founders and recipients.

You are no longer a burden your family will labor to love - your needs are now household income from Big Government. You are no longer incompetent, retarded or disabled, or plain lazy - you are underprivileged or somehow challenged, with limitations that your family and community will not and cannot deal with - but Big Government can. You are no longer a family throwaway - but a family member bringing in a check. You are no longer a pauper, alone in the world - you're one of many just waiting for someone to give you that thing called opportunity.

You have been convinced that Big Government will and should take care of Little You. You really no longer need family and neighbors (unless there's a mutually lucrative government grant or program available). You can even manufacture your own monthly check myalgias and BigPharma will manufacture treatment covered by BigInsurance which BigFoundations will research and BigCelebrities will fundraise and BigGovernment will subsidize all of them.

You have been convinced you no longer live in the land of hope and opportunities - but in the land of cruel oppression and social injustice - in need of a government check to cover every ache, pain, disadvantage, disability, or mental fart you suffer - courtesy of the same cruel land that won't give you opportunity.

Clueless people, you have willingly entered the poorhouse - you've just been convinced to sit there and be proud of it. Shame on you. Sometimes some folks really do get what they deserve.

(Note: I know some less than astute readers will email me claiming I'm advocating not caring for the unfortunate among us, blaming the victim, etc. Not true. These emailers will also be the creative freeloaders who are handout careerists, who justify their own petty corruption as okay since so much of the government and so many of the wealthy are corrupt.)

No comments:

Content © 2005-2020 by Kate/A.