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The poverty trap for real

Poverty is of course about a lack of money, but it is also about a lack of resources both in the cultural and social sense. I live in a small village of 1800 citizens.  Outside of myself, the retired doctor and the soon to be retired notary (both of which can’t hope to sell their houses) there are simply two kinds of the working class:  those with secure jobs and those that traverse the revolving doors between work, UI and welfare.  You can literally determine who is who by their smile.

To break this cycle we would need real institutional robustness.  You can give all the training opportunities you want to the poor but if they show up at a job interview missing their two front teeth; well let us just say it is not the winning smile.  At this level of concrete observation the labour market functions more like a market in chattel slaves. But even if we gave all these people a smile the labour market in which they are stuck would just change the vectors of discrimination.  The truth is there is a permanent oversupply of this quality of labour and  outside a real intervention by the state there will always be an oversupply: capitalist labour markets just can’t afford to hire all these bodies whatever the cost per hour may be.

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5 thoughts on “The poverty trap for real

  1. Nice post. I was raised in a small town in northern Ontario, and that smile with the missing front teeth was an all too familiar smile at the end of the month at the grocery store. It is in the big cities as well but potentially a bit more camouflaged.

  2. It is interesting I lived in Toronto for tens years and at times in some rough neighbourhoods (does four murders in two years on the corner I lived on count?). I saw some funky smiles (gold front tooth, a diamond, and even titanium) but rarely if ever a toothless smile.

  3. As Bob Marley said ” …Emancipate yourself from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds…”

    Poverty, if one lives within its grasp – illusionary or not, can truly be a perspective; a state of mind devoid of vision in technicolour mired in the socioeconomic and cultural environments for generations.

    For many, as Paul Tulloch put it so nicely, there are too many places in rural Canada where whole communities have large portions of family members with missing dentition. So where does that leave the children brought up on a cycle of this kind of exposure; of seeing so many significant members of their community without teeth? It becomes a normalcy of what to expect . For the children this future is hard to imagine with a different outcome. Thus, erecting barriers for socioeconomic amelioration, long before their grade and highschool dreams are ever realized.
    Then there is the culture that binds for better or worse…. For example, in Newfoundland and parts of rural Quebec it was standard not in the too distant past, to pull out perfectly viable teeth to prevent the fear, agony, pain and sometimes death from a potentially diseased or infected tooth; especially when dentists were scarce in a particular geographic region. Consequently, in Quebec the trend was dentures-so many in some communities had their natural teeth replaced by dentures.

    Scary that in 2011 there still isn’t adequate dental care in the vast rural hinterland which is just short of being almost non-existent versus majjor urban areas. In a 3 block stretch in Toronto, bewteen Bathurst and St.Clair and West along St. Clair towards Winona (approx) a
    1 km stretch, one can find close to maybe 20 dental practices! Comparatively, we still only have a couple times a year, when a few dentists still fly in from Toronto on Pontooned air-craft to do stints in Sioux Lookout with patients walking sometimes a day to get to that community to see the seasonal dentists. It’s Canada’s Third World that people and politicans don’t give a damn about!

    Case in point in 2007, Jason Jones was featured in the Toronto Star. He was a young man originally from Northern Ontario who suffered because his Mom was single, poor and they could not afford his treatment when he was young. By age 25, with only 4 teeth in his mouth he looked like a 60 old until a dentist in Toronto – Dr. Singh did his work for him Pro Bono to the tune of over 10K… along with donations from Dental Companies, labs and caring citizens. There must be thousands people in Ontario’s back country in similar dire striats – not including the Reserves.
    Even with Public Health Programs for children, there is still not enough being done. It is a crime to see teenagers getting their teeth pulled because they do not have the cash and/or they have fallen between the cogs of the system. Sentenced to a downward spiral.. which begets low self-esteem and embrassment and no where to turn with more dental problems developing. Would love to see a Tommy Douglas approach to Dentistry as so many peoples lives would have and can take a different turn! How much more enriched our country would be!

    It’s hard to entice some dentists into the hinterland and we need a more Comprehensive Provincial or other insurance system. Ontario has many Dentists with the heart and generosity like Dr. Singh, but dentistry it is a very expensive industry. Beauracracy in the Public Health system makes it difficult to treat a majority sector of society who are going through the poverty revolving doors. And yes, there are many in the downtown core who are missing too many teeth or are in dentures prematurely.
    Now to your Grills and Gold front teeth. Here is another twist to culture. For others, while some in your old neighbourhood would have been classified as “poor” this small group would not be caught dead with missing teeth and will make it a priority and pay cash to ensure that their teeth are diamond filled, gold crowned or grilled as a cultural and status symbol.

    So while we need, institutional robustness, like most of the political flavours of the times tout for temporary votes, no one incorporates the voice of the people. I dare say, too many policy makers in this country with their grandiose theses and or platforms have never walked, lived or really understood that MILE too many working poor or marginalized live. Who, if only they were asked and incorporated in Think Tank Institutions for solutions, they could be the creators of their own robust futures with a little government support, rather than been postered as the “leech-like” pariah.
    Creative partnerships between Dental Colleges, Universities with Dentistry Programs and governments initiativies would serve many small communities well; revialize them and in the long run reduce the millions of dollars being spent on a boomerang culture of keeping the unknown great Canadians, sickly and poorer! ( I have vowed to be part of the solution.)

  4. As Bob Marley said “ …Emancipate yourself from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds…”
    Poverty, if one lives within its grasp – illusionary or not, can truly be a perspective; a state of mind devoid of vision in technicolour mired in socioeconomic and cultural environments for generations; if one chooses to think and believe there are no alternatives.
    For many, as Paul Tulloch put it so nicely, there are too many places in rural Canada where whole communities have large portions of family members with missing dentition. So where does that leave the children brought up on a cycle of this kind of exposure; of seeing so many significant members of their community without teeth? It becomes a normalcy of what to expect. For the children, this future is hard to imagine with a different outcome; thus erecting barriers and assassinating any potential of socioeconomic amelioration, long before their grade and high school dreams are ever realized.
    Case in point in 2007, Jason Jones was featured in the Toronto Star. He was a young man originally from Northern Ontario who suffered because his Mom was single, poor and they could not afford his treatment when he was young. By age 25, with only 4 teeth in his mouth he looked like a septuagenarian, until a dentist in Toronto – Dr. Singh did his work for him Pro Bono to the tune of over 10K… along with donations from Dental Companies, labs and caring citizens. There must be thousands of people in Ontario’s back country alone in similar dire straits – not including those living on First Nation Reserves.
    Even with Public Health Programs for children, there is still not enough being done. It is a crime to see teenagers getting their teeth pulled because they do not have the cash and/or they have fallen between the cogs of the system- sentenced to a downward spiral. (For these Youth, this begets low self-esteem and embarrassment and they have nowhere to turn to.) Would love to see a Tommy Douglas approach to Dentistry as so many people’s lives would have and can take a different turn! How much more enriched our country would be!
    Scary that in 2011 there still isn’t adequate dental care in the vast rural hinterland which is just short of being almost non-existent versus major urban areas. In a 1 km stretch in Toronto, between Bathurst and Winona along St. Clair West, one can find close to maybe 20 dental practices! Comparatively, only a couple times a year, a few dentists fly from Toronto on Pontoon air-craft to do stints in Sioux Lookout with patients walking sometimes a day to get to that community to see the seasonal dentists. It’s Canada’s Third World that people and politicians don’t give a damn about!
    It’s hard to entice dentists and other dental professionals into the hinterland on a more permanent or semi-permanent basis and we need a more Comprehensive Provincial Insurance System for Dentistry. Ontario has many Dentists with the heart and generosity like Dr. Singh, but dentistry is a very expensive industry. Additionally, bureaucracy in the Public Health system makes it difficult to treat a majority sector of society who is going through the poverty revolving doors. And yes, there are many in the downtown core that are missing too many teeth or are in dentures prematurely.

    Then there is the culture that binds for better or worse…. For example, in Newfoundland and parts of rural Quebec it was standard not in the too distant past, to pull out perfectly viable teeth to prevent the fear, agony, pain and sometimes death from a potentially diseased or infected tooth; especially when dentists were scarce in a particular geographic region. Consequently, in Quebec there is an entire generation of the population who has been wearing dentures prematurely.
    In response to your diamonds and gold front teeth, there is another twist to culture. While some citizens in your old neighbourhood would have been classified as “poor” poverty of means married with personal priorities is a key relationship to choice and outcomes. This small group would not be caught dead with missing teeth. They will make it a priority and pay cash to ensure that their teeth are diamond accessorized, gold crowned or “grilled” as a cultural and status symbol. Yet does their choice of expression make them competitively marketable in the general workforce?
    So while we need, institutional robustness, like most of the political flavours of the times pimp for temporary votes, (with token short-sighted, quick-fix initiatives) no one incorporates the voice or creative energies of the people. I dare say, too many policy makers in this country with their grandiose theses and or platforms have never walked, lived or really understand that MILE too many working poor or marginalized live. Who, if only they were asked and incorporated in Think Tank Institutions for creative ideas and were made part of the solution, could be the co-creators of their own robust futures with a little government support, rather than been touted as the “leech-like” pariah.

    I suggest there be creative partnerships between Dental Colleges, Universities with Dentistry Programs, industrial and private sectors funded by both private and government initiatives that would serve many small communities well. Revitalizing these communities in the long run would reduce the millions of dollars being spent on a boomerang tradition of keeping a growing population of Canadians mentally, physically, culturally and economically poor.

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