Ungrateful Poor

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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.”

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 anyone 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.

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.”

The Soul of Man Under Socialism by Oscar Wilde (Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wild)

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