BRAVE NEW WORLD

21 02 2008

In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley prophesied that people would be divided into work/social classes by prenatal nutrition.  “Epsilons,” the lowest class, were intentionally dumbed down by prenatal alcohol exposure and used for menial tasks. Paul Krugman reveals  that American culture has spawned something similar…..

   “Poverty in early childhood poisons the brain.” That was the opening of an article in Saturday’s Financial Times, summarizing research presented last week at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.     As the article explained, neuroscientists have found that “many children growing up in very poor families with low social status experience unhealthy levels of stress hormones, which impair their neural development.” The effect is to impair language development and memory – and hence the ability to escape poverty – for the rest of the child’s life. So now we have another, even more compelling reason to be ashamed about America’s record of failing to fight poverty.

    L. B. J. declared his “War on Poverty” 44 years ago. Contrary to cynical legend, there actually was a large reduction in poverty over the next few years, especially among children, who saw their poverty rate fall from 23 percent in 1963 to 14 percent in 1969.

    But progress stalled thereafter: American politics shifted to the right, attention shifted from the suffering of the poor to the alleged abuses of welfare queens driving Cadillacs, and the fight against poverty was largely abandoned.

    In 2006, 17.4 percent of children in America lived below the poverty line, substantially more than in 1969. And even this measure probably understates the true depth of many children’s misery.

    Living in or near poverty has always been a form of exile, of being cut off from the larger society. But the distance between the poor and the rest of us is much greater than it was 40 years ago, because most American incomes have risen in real terms while the official poverty line has not. To be poor in America today, even more than in the past, is to be an outcast in your own country. And that, the neuroscientists tell us, is what poisons a child’s brain.

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4 responses

21 02 2008
Chris

but wait a minute, I am a White Guy, supposedly a member of a priviledged class, and I never heard of a conspiracy to keep children in poverty….
Are there NO jobs for these children? :)
Do you think there is a link between the children’s poverty and the
possession of any job skills by the parents? AND their motivation, or lack of
it?
Here in Jacksonville Florida, voices in the minority community blame the
lack of jobs for their plight, but do they expect these jobs to walk up and
tap them on the shoulder?
Martin, I am 56 years old, and have been working/earning since my first paper route and lawn mowing/snow shoveling empire, and although our economic system is FAR from perfect, vast numbers of people somehow make it work for them, and even prosper under it.
I point the finger of blame mostly at the parents of these children, and THEIR parents also, this is a multi-generational problem, but NOT all are suffering from it, some are TOO busy working.
Yes, this IS a shameless plug for the OLD WORK ETHIC, made by
a Carpenter, who Became a carpenter because I invested the time and effort to become one, no little fairy princess tapped me on the head with a magic wand and made me one, but I Have been knocked in the head by
a few boards, which might, in part, account for my current state

21 02 2008
Chris

Further thoughts:
Children in poverty……..ok, but the last time I heard, arent parents
responsible for the welfare of their children? That’s why they are called
“dependents”
Martin, in one of our discussions, you cited fear, greed and anger as the
cause of many of today’s woes. Might we add ignorance to the list?

21 02 2008
brothermartin

where to start…yes, ignorance is definitely another leg of the throne….and ignorance is trickly…there’s willful ignorance, which means you’ve been told the facts and chosen to ignore them, and there’s dumb ignorance, in which you’ve never been informed of the facts and may not even be aware that they exist and may be too conditioned for it to occur to you that reality could be other than a big mac, fries, and reality tv.

so yes, parents are responsible for their childrens’ welfare, but ignorant parents were once ignorant children…and they’re not likely to give their kids something they haven’t got themselves….of course there are some who rise out of this, but, as the article points out, those people are the exception, not the rule…

the point of the article was that there are measurable brain differences between underclass and middle class kids–and probably further differences detectable in the upper classes….to the extent that biology is destiny, this is creating the same structure Huxley described in Brave New World…

as to it being a conspiracy, i think that damaged kids are collateral damage in the upper class’s grab to make sure its ass is well covered

as for there being jobs for these kids, i think a lot could be healed by giving them a hoe and a piece of ground and some motivation to feed themselves, which would ultimately be a lot more meaningful than flipping burgers or washing cars or making change at the 7-11

as for jobs and minority communities, nashville’s resident minority community used to have a strong presence in the construction trades, until they were underbid by refugees from south of the border….i think that the concept of “job” is becoming obsolete….people are smart enough to lose interest in staying on the wage-slavery treadmill, where it takes all the running you can do to stay in place…..

i spent about half of my working life in a communal situation in which i was not working for wages but instead for the common good, and i found that a lot more inspirational than anything i’ve done by the hour since….for all its drawbacks and shortcomings, i miss it….

don’t know if this answers your concerns fully or not, but it’s’ about bedtime for this bonzo’s brain…
thanks for asking
m

22 02 2008
brothermartin

about parents “being responsible” for their kids…if you’re an Arab parent in Gaza or a Jewish parent in in pre WWII Germany or a Native American parent in the 19th century, you are facing things that are bigger than what you can be held responsible for…in a much subtler way, i think a lot of parents and children are under the spell of the American dream….(as somebody commented, “they call it the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”)

i think those of us who suspect we might be awake have an obligation to help others wake up…

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