Rethinking Social Darwinism in America

Maybe we’re not going to demonize the poor or the guy who lost his house as much as we might have 15 years ago.


I’m actually fairly despairing about the times we live in on many levels.  I think there’s more shame in being poor than there ever was.  I think we also have a cultural dynamic of blaming the victim: if you’re poor and you’re struggling, you’ve fallen out of the race, then there’s something wrong with you. There’s a real social Darwinism going on now.  

What is Social Darwinism?  It says that those who are on top deserve to be there, and those who are on the bottom deserve to be there.  It is the philosophy of the rich.  I think there’s a hopeful side, though.  So many people are struggling because of this swindle that’s been perpetrated against the American people by a handful of casino operators on Wall Street. I think that this may be a good thing, at least on a social awareness level, that maybe we’re not going to demonize the poor or the guy who lost his house as much as we might have 15 years ago. That can only be a good thing.  

I do know that if you’re raised in the country poor you never really feel like you’re invited to the party.  And I think there’s a part of you that never quite let’s go of that shame.  It’s interesting, I’ve met a lot of wealthy people in the last few years.  The ones who seem to wear it best are not the ones who made it, but the ones who were born with it.  I think that says something.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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