April 30, 2007


Caption: This man doesn't like his client very much.

Last week, El Cabrero had to give a talk at a social work conference. It’s sort of an annual ritual and one that I have mixed feelings about.

There are a lot of good people and old friends there. It’s a great place to catch up with people I don’t get to see very often.

It’s a huge conference with all kinds of topics covered. Many who attend are not officially social workers but may be employed in various agencies or nonprofits.

The downer is that a small minority of those who attend seem to feel a mixture of hatred, contempt, and/or resentment for the people they serve. Sometimes these feelings, no doubt based on real experiences with some people, are generalized to cover whole populations.

It’s sad because this situation tends to make everyone miserable. For the worker, every day is provides fresh fuel for resentment. People tend to see what they expect to see. For those using the agency’s service, every contact with someone who sees them as scum is another slight. This kind of dynamic doesn’t bring out the best in anybody.

It’s not confined to any single profession. There are certainly some teachers, for example, who feel the same way about their students.

Part of the problem is no doubt that workers in social service agencies are typically overworked and underpaid. And there are those receiving services who game any given system—probably about the same proportion.

The best solution to the abuse of systems, however, is to deal directly with the outliers rather than punish the whole population. Last year, Malcolm Gladwell had an interesting article in the New Yorker about this very thing.

From a larger perspective, this is a small example of a political dynamic that has taken place on a grand scale over the last 25 or so years with disastrous consequences.

But, as Scarlett O’Hara, said, “I’ll think about that tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day…”

WV RANT: GREED IS GOOD. A major multi-state bank is spending its surplus in promoting the...uhhh..."philosophy" of Ayn Rand. Here are my comments from a post in yesterday's WV Blue.

ISN'T IT IRONIC, DON'T YOU THINK that if Gonzales goes down, it won't be over desecrating the constitution with his enabling of torture and if Wolfowitz goes down, it won't be over the tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths he helped to cause in Iraq?


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