Abbott and Hockey: both grotesque and insulting, telling starving people to eat less
To recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less.
Oscar Wilde (1891) – The Soul Of Man Under Socialism
This graphic I made in February last year
has been getting a lot of attention on twitter recently. So I thought I
would put this quote into its proper context. The Wilde quote is from
an essay he wrote The Soul Of Man Under Socialism in 1891.
The virtues of the poor may be readily admitted, and are much to
be regretted. We are often told that the poor are grateful for charity.
Some of them are, no doubt, but the best amongst the poor are never
grateful. They are ungrateful, discontented, disobedient, and
rebellious. They are quite right to be so. Charity they feel to be a
ridiculously inadequate mode of partial restitution, or a sentimental
dole, usually accompanied by some impertinent attempt on the part of the
sentimentalist to tyrannise over their private lives. Why should they
be grateful for the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table? They
should be seated at the board, and are beginning to know it.
As for being discontented, a man who would not be discontented with
such surroundings and such a low mode of life would be a perfect brute.
Disobedience, in the eyes of any one who has read history, is man’s
original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made,
through disobedience and through rebellion.
Sometimes the poor are praised for being thrifty. But to recommend
thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a
man who is starving to eat less. For a town or country labourer to
practise thrift would be absolutely immoral.
Man should not be ready to show that he can live like a badly-fed
animal. He should decline to live like that, and should either steal or
go on the rates, which is considered by many to be a form of stealing.
As for begging, it is safer to beg than to take, but it is finer to
take than to beg. No; a poor man who is ungrateful, unthrifty,
discontented, and rebellious is probably a real personality, and has
much in him. He is at any rate a healthy protest.
As for the virtuous poor, one can pity them, of course, but
one cannot possibly admire them. They have made private terms with the
enemy and sold their birthright for very bad pottage. They must also be
extraordinarily stupid. I can quite understand a man accepting laws that
protect private property, and admit of its accumulation, as long as he
himself is able under these conditions to realise some form of beautiful
and intellectual life. But it is almost incredible to me how a man
whose life is marred and made hideous by such laws can possibly
acquiesce in their continuance.
This is just a short extract from a much larger essay (and can be found here) which puts socialism front and centre of a just society.