Friday, March 4, 2016

Welfare, laziness, and making it personal

I want to write a Facebook rant, but i think that probably wouldn't be wise. I am "friends" with too many people who might disagree with me, and I'm afraid one or two of them might make a hurtful comment, and I'm really not up for any of those. The blog seems a bit safer, because I'm pretty sure those people won't find my blog. And if someone i don't know has a hurtful comment? Well, it doesn't hurt so bad coming from a stranger.

I want to talk about these "free government handouts" that are supposed to perpetuate "laziness." I really wonder if most of these criticizers are picturing actual humans with individual stories and complicating factors, or if they just picture a faceless blob of annoying people taking money out of their pockets.

I want to put some faces into that blob. Which means mine, because it isn't very nice to sick up other people's faces onto a spot receiving so much stigma.

I remember when i got food stamps. I remember feeling a sense of relief that at least part of society wanted me alive enough to help me pay for food. And this part of society had the grace to help me pay for food in a way that let me maintain more of my dignity. I could use the food stamps debit card to pay for food that i could choose myself. And the debit card wasn't too obvious from afar.

Of course, i also took on fear of people's judgements. I worried that the check-out people were silently judging me for buying donuts. Maybe they went home and complained about how people on food stamps were using them on non-necessities like donuts. How, if i needed money so badly, i shouldn't buy any treats. Even random comments on Facebook about people wasting or misusing charity/aid from the government made me feel guilty.

And this guilt was really helpful, because part of the whole reason i was getting food stamps was because i was working less than full time because of depression. And any extra guilt really help depression. Not.

While I'm on the topic of depression, working less than full time, welfare, and the apparent fear of creating more laziness, I'd like to share a quote from a conversation held at a table i happened to be at, in a church!

This man said if he were a psychiatrist, he would tell people to work full time. I sat there knowing that i was working full time but also wishing i was dead. Mental illness is not so simple as to just require working full time. If that was all there was to it, a bunch of us would be feeling much better, and might not have gotten ill to start with.

I had a friend on disability who would have loved to be able to work. But instead, this person got to fight their mental illness full time. This is another face in that blob. This person ended up committing suicide. My anti-welfare friends, was this person's death a good thing? After all, it got them off welfare!

Some suggest that instead of government assistance, this financial assistance should come voluntarily from churches and such. I'd be happy to see the church assisting more, but quite simply, the church is not sufficiently meeting this need such that the government no longer needs to.

I had a friend ask churches for help with medical bills. This was a person who i head prayed would become a Christian. The churches would help with many bills, but not the medical bills. Someone else explained how there is more help available for medical bills, so their church concentrated their efforts elsewhere. I suppose prioritizing has to be done, but don't send people away from the church to the government for help and then complain about the government helping.

Judgement of government assistance, especially coupled with the forgone "conclusion" that the majority of people on welfare are lazy and that welfare makes them lazier... I'm afraid i take it personally. Very personally. Because there are people out there who wish they were dead who are demonstrating great but unrecognized strength by choosing to keep breathing who are being told that they don't deserve health care, even if that is what helps them hold on day after day. They are being told they are lazy and don't deserve help with food and bills. I have been one of these people. I know more of these people. I know one of these people who ended up dying from complications of depression (suicide).

So please stop and listen to the stories and see the faces in the blob of people getting help from the government. And please, if you don't want the government to help, find another way to respectfully take care of people's needs. If churches and charities were actually meeting these needs, the government wouldn't need to.


  1. I completely agree with you. I know there are some people who exploit the system, but government helps so many more honest people than dishonest people. I think the libertarian's dream of private institutions completely taking over the role might work in the right culture, and might even be more efficient than the current system, but the individualistic and consumption-driven culture we live in is far removed from that ideal.
    You have done nothing wrong. I used to feel unworthy of everything. I even felt uncomfortable sitting in front of others in class, thinking that I was blocking their view, and I couldn't handle taking up any space in the aisles of grocery stores with my cart, worrying that I would inconvenience others. It wasn't until I finally started seeing therapists who had experience treating anxiety, and finding medication that works for me (Venlafaxine and a low dose of clonazepam), that my anxiety was reduced enough for me to feel comfortable being as worthy as any other person.

  2. I like the idea of "putting faces to the blob". I think that humanity as a whole suffers from a chronic lack of empathy, and this is another symptom of that. It is silly, isn't it, how churches and other places send ppl to the government for help and then complain about the government helping? (or not helping, as the case may be)