Page 13


them, if we are Northerners, or we vote for Democrats. Unlike the South Carolina slaveholders, we do not truly see our dependence on these people or how we live at their expense. Stringfellow, who has lived among these people, testifies that they are “wasted and disregarded,” people “who are born, who endure for a while, and who die .. . as prisoners.” He, like Shattuck, fixes the responsibility for the sufferingfor the exploitationof the poor on our society, on all the individuals living in this society. Shattuck suggested that how we treat those who fall by the way determines the soul of our society, that the existence of poverty is “not a marginal or peripheral problem,” but perfectly , central to our values. Stringfellow, who spoke exclusively from a Christian point of view, asserted that the true moral decadence of our society lies in our treatment of the poor, “not in the indolence of the poor but in the apathy of the prosperous.” OUR GROWING AWARENESS of poverty and the inception of the “war on poverty” have not, however, been the result of the ethical concerns of such men as Shattuck or the Christian concerns of such men as Stringfellowor the influence of Michael Harrington’s The Other America or Dwight Macdonald’s widely read review of that book in The New Yorker two years ago. Rather, I think, the civil rights movement, which has displayed the abject economic conditions of many Negroes, and the 1960 Kennedy-Humphrey presidential primary campaign in West Virginia, which portrayed the empty future faced by the people of Appalachia, revealed poverty to the nationnot a poverty interpreted as inherent in the nature of the national economy, but as a marginal problem requiring special programs for the various “pockets of poverty.” The rationale of this view, as Shattuck explained, is that the system is good, but poverty is wasteful to the system and harmful to the general prosperity and hence should be eliminated. Singletary reflected this official view when he began his speech by saying, “The problem of poverty continues to plague us.” It is certain that the President and his administration are concerned with the quality of life faced by the poor, but the logic of his program has been that the condition of the poor restrains the capabilities of us all, plagues “us,” rather than that the condition of the prosperous and the economy restrains the capabilities of the poor. Stringfellow remarked that the moral issue of the apathy of the prosperous “has not even been mentioned in the war on poverty and all the press releases.” Shattuck mentioned several possible approaches to eliminating poverty. One was “more capitalism, more freedom,” a position later endorsed by Sen. Tower. Another was an extensive program of public works. Sen. Gore, in his speech, advocated this approach. Welfare, said Shattuck, was a blend of solutions applied to a problem all at once. This was clearly the method favored by Singletary, and it is a good description of the war on poverty. 6. The Texas Observer All three speakers presently in the government, Singletary and Senators Gore and Tower, saw poverty as a marginal problem, not a problem calling into question the values of our society. \(Senator Tower said aid to the poor should be given by state and local government, and perhaps if absosolutely necessary by the federal government to a limited extent. He is vigorously Most students, reflecting the view of poverty as a marginal problem, favored some form of government aid to the poor, although many questioned the ultimate effectiveness of government ‘ programs, rightly I think, by emphasizing the difficulty of assisting the poor to overcome the attitudes nurtured by the “culture of poverty.” Shattuck, speaking of a plan to technically abolish poverty by providing government grants to supply all American families with $3000 dollars a year, \(a “guarana program would help the recipients accept being victims of the economic system. And such a question is central to all current proposals and programs to abolish poverty. How do they affect the attitudes of the poor? And of the prosperous? Does a certain program recognize the individual dignity of a poor man, giving him reasons to attempt to rise out of the culture of poverty, or is it a lubricant for the economic system and a balm to the conscience of the prosperous? Stringfellow, while welcoming the effort which has been made through the war on poverty to help some of the poor, considers it a minimal program to ease the consciences of the affluent; he pointed out that for every person so far accepted by the Job Corps, 200 applicants have been turned away. FOR AMERICAN SOCIETY to rise above poverty, it must rise above wealth. The sad history of such government programs as urban renewal, public housing, and agricultural price supports reveals the dangers in the implementation of public programs by men with selfish motives. The poverty programs offer an unequalled opportunity for people living in the “affluent society” and those suffering in the culture of poverty to establish Austin, Houston Senator Ralph Yarborough says that Houston Chronicle editor William Steven last fall “threatened” him he would not get the Chronicle’s endorsement for re-election if he did not change his stand against higher college tuition for Texas students. “I authorize you to write of my conversation with him. This is on the record,” Yarborough said. “He tried to demand that I come out for this higher tuition and recant or he wouldn’t support me,” the senator said. “I told him no soap, I’d rather-lose the election than support higher tuition for col communication and a community of interest. But to affect society at large, a program of much larger dimensions, such as one proposed by Shattuck in the December 11, 1964, issue of the Observer, would be required. A year of “national service” for everyone, or a similar program of selfless sharing of common experience by the rich and poor, appears to me to be the only means of traversing the distance of understanding between the affluent and the impoverished and alleviating the “crying need for personnel, that is, for people” to fill presently vacant positions in programs necessary to aid the underprivileged. The aim of the current war on poverty is to make the poor more like the prosperous. But Stringfellow said that American society is like a burning house; if so, what’s going to happen to the poor when they come up out of the cellar? A program against poverty should not try to make the poor like the rest of us, nor, I think, should it aim for the rich to become more like the poor, or for everybody to become like everybody else. But if Stringfellow is right, and I think he is, that everyone’s life is inextricably entwined with every other’s, it may be possible, in some measure, for all Americans to fashion a society based on what Shattuck calls mutual aid, allowing individual decisions circumscribed by the decisions of all the others, and not just by corporate managers, government bureacrats, or the marketplace, or, for that matter, by computer programming. Now all this may well be utopian. The aims of the Great Society, elucidated by President Johnson, crystallize around the word uttered by Samuel Gompers when he was asked the objective of the American labor movement: “More.” This is, as they say, the national consensus, and it is inconsistent with the values of Shattuck and Stringfellow; but the possibility offered by “bearing witness” to such values is worth a rapid escalation of the war on poverty, along lines proposed long ago: Then saith He unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray -ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into His harvest. Matthew 9:37-38 lege students. So he went ahead and endorsed [George] Bush. That’s why he recanted from his support of me in the primary and switched to Bush.” Yarborough said he had telephoned Steven upon the urging of people in Houston. “He was furious,” the,’ senator said. “I’ve never talked to a newspaperman who was so furious. He tried to blackmail me with this threat of not endorsing me. I didn’t budge an inchwantin’ me to be for raising the cost of education for students! I told him he could take his support.” Speaking again of “this threat that if I didn’t recant I’d lose their support,” in The Senator vs. the Editor