The cultural dynamics of social assistance.

I remember hearing a story once about an indian hitch hiker. He was in the truck for hours, watching the driver pull out snacks to eat now and then, before finally about to pass out from hunger. The driver asked him what was wrong, to which he responded that he was starving.

"So why didn't you ask? I have plenty of food" says the driver.

"you never offered" says the indian.

I don't know if the story is true or not, but it does reflect cultural differences in our attitudes to offering and accepting help.

I was raised by a father who made it clear that one must be independant and that it is shameful to need help. Now this certainly got me going wonce I'd left home. I wasn't going to be picky about the job I was going to accept (heck, since I'd left home in the middle of a recession, I'd even joined the infantry, and I was a pacifist at the time!).

Overall, life was good until I did in fact run into problems. While I could legally claim social assistance, my upbringing prevented me from doing so. I'd started spending my savings to support myself despite my being fully qualified to accept social assistance. On the news I'd heard that job prospects were better in Vancouver, so I gathered what money I had left and went there.

To save money, I'd sleep in a hostel every second night, and outside on alternate nights, hanging my suit and tie on a tree branch! I did get a job at a five star hotel in Vancouver after an interview the day after having slept outside (I'd gone to the hostel to shave, however).

Now as we know, some people would rather sleep outside, go hungry, prostitute themselves or, as I had, join the military rather than collect social assistance. So how to solve this problem?

In the case of the indian in the story above, I doubt a simple "so why didn't you say so" will suffice; after al, he would have been raised not to ask for food since childhood. So the same would appply here. We could tell people to ask for social assistance, but if they are raised all their lives to be ashamed of it, they simply won't. We could have the best social assistance programs, offer plenty of money, etc. etc. etc. but in the end, we need to consider the cultural elemnt behind it.

An example of this could be expressed through another story I'd heard. In an African village, foreign aid workers built a water pump in a local arid comunity. No one would touch that water because it came from the ground where "the spirits of their ancestors" lived. In the end, they needed to build condensation nets to get the water fromt eh air at night, with the pumps being a complete waste of money.

So what would be the steps required to ensure that the poor will in fact get the help the government offers rather than just turning their backs on it and starve?

I don't have any answers for this myself at the moment, but I just got the idea for this post fromt he "How we treat our Prostitutes" thread which seems to have started to veer towards the question fo why some might turn down social assistance. But since they're not 100% related, I decided to create a new thread for this.
I grew up on a farm but my Father was a Fisherman, life was simple but we had what we needed. When the fisheries collapsed in NS in the 70s my family was left destitute. My family (eight in total) were strong members/donars of the Catholic Church, naturally this is where my Mother went for help. When Mother asked for help the Priest response was "I will pray for you but we don't help the poor." Off to the welfare office my Mother went, their response "Your husband has to leave you or we can't and won't help you" Of couse this was not an option, in the end there was only one organisation that came to my family's aide and that was The Salavation Army. To this day I have not forgotton their kindness, and I am an regular donar/sponsor of their programs. This experience has left a lot of scars on me, I would live in a card board box in a ditch before I ever asked for help from any form of government. I worked in one of the worst areas of Halifax and Welfare was the main source of income for the residents of this community. I was left with a very clear impression that Welfare is just another form of Servitude for the Recepients, mindless and complete compliance is expected. I can't imagine living on $700 dollars a month and have children to feed. It stuns me that people can live on so little.
In the USA it is the wealthy who have this sense of entitlement - that is, that they are entitled to all of our money. This is why Bush gave over $ 4 trillion in corporate welfare to them and seeks to promote more wars in order to create more such welfare.

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