“let them eat cake” all over again

let them eat cake is a saying attributed to austrian duchess marie antoinette, who after marrying louis xvi was queen of france in 1700. the story tells that advisors approached the queen, explaining to her the sufferings of poor people who could not even afford to eat bread – her answer was to let them eat cake.

a brilliant example for how wealth blurs the view on the world, especially on those less fortunate. it seems as if ignorance to the happenings around you makes things that you do not want to see disappear, as if it would simply not exist at all: today we just switch off the tv if we are bothered by seeing people suffer from war, starve or die. we’d rather turn on a movie than the news, for when we see people dying in hollywood scenes, we at least know that there is the “good guy”, who takes care of it that at least in the very end everything will be alright again. if we can not switch channels on tv, but are forced to see poverty right in front of us on the street, we still manage to put on a “too busy to stop”- kind of look and rush by as if there was no big sign reading “used to be a layer, i am broke, please help me” or “haven’t eaten in days, want to work – please.”

gina rinehart, known to be one of the (if not the) richest woman on earth, declared herself a modern antoinette by stating that poor people are supposed to work harder and invest and they will get out of their misery.

(la times – http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-richest-woman-20120830,0,3323996.story)

the outburst of shock is obvious in the article of la times. how could she say something like that? i do understand the uproar, but i also understand why she said it. as usual there is two sides to one story and i think it is time to voice both of them in one article.

on the one side there is people arguing, that by putting a simple “work hard = success” – equation one forgets systemic effects of society that are a hindrance to some more than to others. taking the case into antoinettes’ times, i argue, that in comparison one has a chance of pursuing any goal today. but i agree, that even today there is a system – be it the social-milieu, that people with a poor upbringing have less aspiration, for their surrounding keeps telling them that they can not do it anyways, or financial reasons for they can not afford to attend better schools – that makes social mobility a hard endeavor.

on the other side people support the american dream of those who work hard will succeed and you can do everything. and the very simple answer to no success is that you did not work hard enough. even if there is people on this side, that agree that the system is not entirely fair to everybody, they still hold on to the argument that one has to take life the way it presents itself and that those less fortunate simply need to work even a little bit harder than others. this is the thought presented by gina rinehart, that a simple lying back and hoping for something good to come along will not do the trick.

when arguing between those poles of opinion, one likes to forget, that both sides are on the same medal. it is as well a systemic matter that restricts social mobility, as it is a personal issue of strength and determination. there is people who work hard and they succeed, no matter where they originally come from. but there is also people who work hard all their life and who do not manage to get what they want for (systemic) hindrances they face. and there is people who do not work hard, but still wish to have a life in luxury. especially since there is also people who indeed never had to fight for anything and they grew up in luxury. plus there is a lot of people in between those categories as well. with so many different stories of life, with so many different cases, i am surprised that some people still let themselves be fooled into thinking there could be a one sided policy-answer to solve it all.

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