January 23, 2013

Dignity and the Poor

I read a recent blog post that only up-to-date clothes in good condition should be given to the poor in order to be respectful of the dignity of the poor.

This is a very interesting to me because it touches on so many things. “Dignity”, in this case, is related to clothing relative to other folks’ clothing – i.e not seen in just a purely functional light. Assuming I have clothing that is out-of-date or otherwise not in great condition, it is to be thrown away -- but I wonder if that is good? Is it possible there is someone who might be willing to wear clothing out-of-date but because we have this standard of dignity then he/she won’t get it?

Similarly with low wage jobs. Are they beneath the dignity of people, or is it better they have something rather than nothing? Is the perfect the enemy of the good in these cases?

And the larger question is, for me, this: Is income inequality inherently evil? I tend to think that what matters is not income inequality (or, clothing inequality) but the measure of how well off the poor are. I would rather have a “prosperous poor” than a situation where the poor are more impoverished but incomes are more equal.

But there’s certainly a good number of holy and worthy people who would rather see incomes more equal even should it result in making the poor poorer because then the poor would not be able to SEE and FEEL the income inequality so prevalent in capitalistic societies. Which is to say, I suppose, that self-image is more important than materialistic concerns.

5 comments:

Bob the Ape said...

Pardon a naive question: has anyone asked the poor what they think?

Jim Curley said...

I can see both sides. On one hand we should share with the poor the best we have, not just the leftovers. However to throw leftovers away when people are hungry or (more) naked than the leftovers would provide would seem to be wrong also.

On another topic, one of my sons has developed a fondness for J. Denver's music. He was upset to learn of his drug use and other things. I remember you writing about this yourself and found the quote from JD's letter to you and passed it on. Thinking about it myself, I mused that we are all fallen so can't place too much hope or honor on the living, but that doesn't mean a sinner's work can't also inspire us to higher things. Cheers.

TS said...

True Bob, though they probably (like anyone else) don't speak with one voice.

And that makes sense Jim. "Both/and" type of thing is very Catholic. And wild to hear that your son had the same issue I did at his age.

Good to hear from you both.

Kevin Hammer said...

If people do not donate out-of-date clothing, where will we get vintage / retro clothes?

TS said...

Eggs-actly!