BST: Give a Man a Fish

BST = Bumper Sticker Thoughts. Unquipping quippy quips. Thoughts about actual bumper stickers and thoughts that ought be bumper stickers (or t-shirts, or hats, or whatever).

Give a Man a Fish, and He’ll Eat for a Day. Teach a Man to Fish, and He’ll Eat for a Lifetime.

This one has such a simple ring of truth to it, but like most things in life, it’s more complicated in the real world.

I recently overheard this one as part of a larger conversation. The first person was saying that he’d read somewhere that just a fraction of Elon Musk’s wealth could end world hunger (though he acknowledged that he was probably getting the details of the fact wrong). The lady he was talking to came back at him with the fish mantra.

It was a glimpse into the conservative mind: Nothing should be given for free; everything should have to be earned; and if you can’t earn what you need, then it’s your own fault for being too ignorant or lazy to earn it. Given the choice to end world hunger or make the needy people suffer for their imagined sins, she would rather see them suffer – because they deserve to.

But while you can teach a man to fish all you want, it does him no good if you force him to live in the desert. And that’s the real problem. That’s why poverty is a policy choice. Millions of people are forced to live hand to mouth and paycheck to paycheck – if their even fortunate enough to achieve that – not because they are ignorant, stupid, lazy, sinners, or less-than in any other way.

They live that way because our culture, our society, and the institutions that make it up force them to live in a desert, and then judge them unworthy for not supporting themselves with a fishing pole.

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