A young man went to a grocery store one night to buy food. He left with a loaf of bread and a stack of bologna, because, well, that was all he could afford. He then went home to his apartment which was furnished with aluminum lawn furniture. His bed was a cushion from an outdoor lounge chair as well. He kept it on the floor of his closet where he slept. He worked at night, you see, and couldn’t afford curtains. Needless to say, he was poor.
But this true story is only a snapshot. To examine only this snapshot tells us virtually nothing except for those “present” circumstances. In this case for example, the young man had done poorly in school. But his poor performance had nothing to do with any of the usual culprits that are trotted out. It was because he thought it more important to “hang out” with his friends. By his own later-in-life admission, his meager circumstances were not the result of something so vague as rich white men’s greed, but of his own laziness.
The story also says nothing of his future. In time this person managed to get his act together and buckle down. He went to school, read, and worked hard. In time his fortunes changed. He learned a skill that paid well, got married, had children, and is now living a comfortable middle-class life.
This is why snapshots aren’t worth much beyond fueling emotional “causes”. Life, economies, fortunes, circumstances; they are all dynamic, not static. The vast majority of young people fortunate enough to live in free-market systems begin their lives with very modest means, which actually build character. Left alone, with equal opportunity and the right mindset, they will find their way out of those circumstances if they are willing to make sacrifices, work hard, roll with the punches that are certainly coming their way, and live ethically… and the sooner one starts the better.
The young man in this story, if you haven’t guessed, is me. I suppose I could have blamed my circumstances on social injustice, or the 1%, or some other shadowy boogie man meant to send me cowering into the arms of the socialist. But my real enemy resided in my own skin. It still does.