I was reading ‘The Three Little Pigs’ to my son, and I realised how young we begin indoctrinating our children to associate poverty with foolishness. If you don’t remember the story, the basic crux is that the pigs using cheaper resources are considered ‘lazy’ and pay the price of their simplicity when the big bad wolf enters the story. The wolf destroys his home, and the impoverished pig enters into homelessness, and is forced to rely on the wiser and of course wealthier pig who had the capacity to make his home of bricks. Isn’t it interesting that we assume that those with wealth, and hence greater capacity to build security and independence are indeed wiser, whereas those with fewer resources are seen as foolish and lazy. Even more interesting is connection between dependence and laziness. It isn’t strange that we develop austere and residual welfare practices if our assumption is that poverty emerges from laziness. The antidote for laziness is of course hard work, and tough love from those with the capacity to live well.
In the end of the story, the wiser (though let’s say wealthier) pig has the opportunity to save the poorer pigs by opening his home and offering protection, no strings attached. Now this is an amazing social justice outcome, and one that I would encourage all with power to adopt. However too often the temptation is to punish those fleeing for their life. We detain them, force them to acknowledge and abide by a ‘wiser’ way of living upon receiving help, or enforce some kind of mutual obligation in return for their charity.
We must always remember that the three little pigs, no matter how different their paths looked in the end, were in fact brothers, and should therefore receive the same love and respect, regardless of their situation.
We must remember that wealth and opportunity has little to do with intellect or work ethic.
We must remember that to have the capacity to help others does not mean you have the power or right to laud it over those in need.
Let’s embrace those in need like the ‘wise little pigs’ we are.