By: JD Author, Reporter-Journalist
Judging a person doesn’t define who they are, it defines who you are and when you put yourself on a virtual pedestal by acting as if you’re better than someone else, remember, they perhaps too were better than you, at one time in their life.
Vision and our eyesight are important to our daily function. For those who cannot see due to genetic birth defects, disease and injury learn to adapt to their surroundings. Those of us who can see, with or without glasses, as well as those visually impaired are inflicted with a different kind of vision loss referred to as a mental vision deficiency.
When we look at others in society, we tend to consciously or unconsciously judge them according to what we see, or perceive to know about their circumstances. When we see a total stranger on the street, dressed poorly, and without means, we assume they are a worthless individual. We may wrinkle our noses in distaste or we may feel poorly for their situation and understand. It all depends on our mental vision as to how we react.
I started observing the comments and reactions of my close friends, family and acquaintances over the past year, and learned well how many of my close friends and family were more visually impaired than the majority of my acquaintances. The conclusions I drew were discomforting. I suppose it is because, if it were not for them knowing the individual I am, with all my personal weaknesses, just how they would be perceiving me, had they lacked knowledge of my circumstances. It’s unsettling to even process.
I think society becomes more judgmental as their circumstances change. Perhaps some do not even realize that their impairment is noticeable to everyone but them. Of course how do we recognize a mental vision deficiency in the people we know? It’s quite simple if you actually use your real eyes and ears, to notice the comments, responses and reactions they have to other individual’s situations, appearance, financial status or environment. They are the people who manage to spew out something negative about everything and anything every chance they can, without even noticing they do it. The people who tend to let a negative comment slip about someone not as financially well off, or have all the solutions and answers as to why the person inferior to them on the economic ladder is inadequate.
I call the people who have this vision deficiency the underprivileged, because they have never had the experience of appreciating the value of the littlest of something, because they have never had the experience having or owning almost nothing. They become so wrapped up in the false sense of security that “this could never happen to me”, “my job is secure, so I can spend away and rub my ‘status’ in the face of less fortunate” or snub their noses up at the less successful. Little do they realize, that based on statistics, the majority of the working poor, homeless and impoverished at one time held successful jobs, had money, vacations, working cars, and credit cards to do all the things they do now. And like them, they too felt “superior”, and immune from any circumstance that led them to where they are.
Now that you have realized that you may suffer from this visual deficiency, take a walk back in time and see just how important the people you see as “beneath you”; have made themselves a part of history, and you have done exactly what to make your mark in time?
At one time there was a folklore story about the term piss-poor, and stating that people were so poor that they had to collect their urine to sell to tanneries, and the term was derived from there. They also say that some people were so poor they couldn’t even afford a pot to piss in, hence the folklore phrase can’t afford a pot to piss in, allegedly came from. Needless to say, after quite a bit of research I discovered, the story may seem to fit the phrases and part of that may be true. Yes, urine was used in the stages of removing hair from animal pets in the tanning process by the Romans centuries ago, but urine was not purchased for this purpose, it was readily donated. It isn’t like back then they had flushing toilets to dispose of the liquid toxin that permeates air with ammonia like aroma rapidly, from uric acids. The Romans were however known for their taxation of said urine they collected. The most famous pee-taxer was the first century emperor named Vespasian and had nothing to do with that notion of piss-poor either.
The word PISS associated with urine, a bodily function considered of no value outside of excreting waste, did not truly make its debut in public print until around mid WWII, when penned by Ezra pound in her writings in 1940, when she invented the phrase piss-rotten to refer to minute and worthless, in a publication. I suppose over the years that is how we became familiar to the term piss-poor, and it was later coined into a folklore tale about being too broke to be of value and the too poor to afford even a pot to piss in came about. Gotta love legends, tales and folklore! They do have a sense of opening our eyes to other people’s plight in a not-so-colorful manner.
So next time you see someone with 90% less than what you have, don’t see them as piss-poor, for they are far better than worthless. Although their wealth is not visible to your limited sight, and to someone, somewhere, they ARE priceless. They have value, and YOU never know when there may come a day when circumstances you think you’re exempt from, will take hold, and you won’t even have a pot to piss in.
Well now that you’re seeing a bit clearer, let’s look at another way we label the less fortunate. Oh yes, I am on a roll here! We’re going to take a language history journey today. We’re going to look at many of the words you roll around in your head when you see other people through visually impaired eyes. Ever wonder why people are sometimes looked on as dirt-poor?
At first I thought it meant, when people of lesser stature could not afford running water, and shelters were not available to seek out cleansing the body by bathing often and having to share bath water. It is said that in poor households, a bath-time consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies! By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. I was wrong. That phrase came from something else, however, we now know where the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the Bath water’, came from. The true origin of the phrase dirt-poor came from the reference to people who were too poor to afford anything but a dirt floor in their cabins and homes over a century ago. Now picture your world, and how you appreciate a floor that is either; carpeted, tiled, wood, or laminate. I bet you appreciate that. But does it make you any more important than the people who had the dirt floors that were in the first homes of Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, who held such vast wealth of knowledge and skill between the two of them, that they broke the ground on creating all the luxuries you take advantage of now as a sense of entitlement? Swallow that one, next time you gulp down that pride to make room for humility.
The term dirt-poor was actually derived from the poor working class that actually did have dirt floors. Of course they were not just by choice, and not always the only conditions that would make us cringe if we had to live that way now. Much like some of the homeless living on the street who cannot afford the luxury of a real roof over their head, and wish they would, our ancestors lived with dirt floors and many other accommodations that did sculpt more of our language than you realize. The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. That is where the saying dirt-poor, came from. The wealthier on the other hand, played a role in creating another term were familiar with. They had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: a thresh hold.
Just think of being that poor when you go to sleep at night. Perhaps the next time you see that homeless person who will be sleeping under the stars at night and offer them a ride to a shelter, or if your too “good” to put them in your vehicle, at least offer directions and a bus pass.
As you see the food drives on television and in locations all over, you get the tendency to sometimes drop a notion or two of edibles into the bins, and yet when you walk past a person holding a sign “will work for food”, you wrinkle your nose and walk away, and then later make some snide remarks in joking to someone about the pathetic loser you saw begging as you fork down that steak like a rabid dog devouring its prey, taking no second thought to the thousands who see steak rarely, or skip meals because there is nothing to eat.
While seeing some of the people I know do this very thing, I also noticed they are the people who also have some of the most revolting eating habits and manners around! I have not really ever laid eyes on a poor individual eating scraps that shoved it in until their cheeks puffed out like a gerbil then chew three or four times then swallow, as if the food were going to escape their eating utensils, like those who afford better nourishment, and have the pouch above their belt-line to validate their over indulgences. After taking the time to focus and clear your field of vision picture what it means to not have that perk.
Envision the poor people in past generations who cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fireplace or on a cook-stove. Every day they faithfully gathered wood and lit the fire and then proceeded to add things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables they grew and dried. Sometimes if hunting was scarce, they did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for their only meal, which was dinner, when the family was most likely to all be done from the day’s work and chores. They would then leave the leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day.
Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old. Luckily the pot was not always just peas! Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, it was customary to hang up their bacon to show off and not appear as destitute to others as a matter of pride. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, “bring home the bacon.” They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat. So think about that next time Aunt Bertha gifts you that fruitcake (eww), donate it to a food pantry instead of tossing it or punishing someone else more fortunate by re-gifting.
Many quotes from the past are reflected in our conversations and thoughts today. Surprising since the majority of us, not only implement the quotes I mentioned, but we also use them as means to degrade others when our vision is distorted. Whether we do it consciously or unconsciously out of habit, we do it.
I think it is time we all do a vision check. Look deep into our hearts, reflect back on our comments and actions over the years and start to rethink of how we should see those around us. We need to do a reality check on our sight. We need to write a prescription for “glasses” of awareness. The people we judge by their circumstance, by what we see, ultimately deprive us of the true ability to see clearly. We are missing the ability to see a person for their soul, their heart, their inner beauty. We see only what we think will never be us or anyone we know. But that is our impairment. That is our vision deficiency. That ugliness we see with our poor vision could be a glimpse of what other people will see, when they look at us one day.
I had the opportunity to reflect back on my life and how I too once had a vision deficiency of epic proportion, when reality smacked my eyesight into focus. I too was one of those people who cringed at the sight of people in torn clothing, dirty and begging, and being a bit judgmental of their circumstances, and then went from the 6 figure income and fancy home, car, steak dinners weekly to the state of 4 figure income, homeless, and wearing clothes that looked like they were rags. I like many of you thought I was exempt, until it happened. Luckily McDonalds has bathrooms for free otherwise I wouldn’t have had a pot to piss in! Circumstances changed and I rose from that situation and time in my life, thanks to people who had better vision that I had at one time. But I learned a valuable lesson. I also learned a new found respect for those without, and how to be courteous in my words and actions.
I try to NOT comment negatively on things and focus ONLY on the positive. When we make a negative comment about something others find excitement in, we make them look at us as negatively as the comment we just spewed from our lips. Changing our vision isn’t an easy task, were brought up in a society where we feel that it is the fault of the poor person that they are in that situation, were tempted to stay blinded, stay judgmental, because we do not want to ever think of ourselves as vulnerable. We often forget, we are all human, no one is any better than another individual based on what we have or have not. Nothing in life is a promise, no one is exempt. So always look clearly, work to correct your sight and understand…..
The way you see others does not define them,
It defines you, and your character,
Or your lack of.
Research references for this article are available upon written request to firstname.lastname@example.org
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