Vancouver-based writer Jean Swanson is most often described as an "anti-poverty activist". She is a former board member and president of the National Anti-Poverty Organization and has spent the past 15 years working for the Coalition to End Legislated Poverty. Having worked to lessen or alleviate poverty wherever and whenever possible for nearly three decades, Swanson has talked with countless people throughout Canada about their personal experiences with poverty, how to change a system that allows poverty to proliferate, and the ways in which poverty in Canada has come to be seen as being something of a "natural" aspect of modern society.
In Poor-Bashing: The Politics of Exclusion, Swanson (2000) presents what she has learned about the ideology behind poor bashing and the language that has developed and that camouflages the real causes of poverty. She also makes it clear that present conditions must change and they must change soon.
By presenting stories about situations in which people find themselves dealing with poverty, she does not stoop to the typical media portrayal of individual suffering or terrible circumstance. Instead, she offers facts that cannot help but lead her readers to the same conclusions she has reached. At points, the book's testimonial style sometimes makes it tedious to read but one has to consider whether thinking of such reading doesn't also serve as a subtle form of poor bashing!
What is "Poor-Bashing"?
In an interview with Joanna Fine (2001) for Between the Lines publishing, Swanson explains that the most basic way of describing "poor bashing" is that it occurs: "... when people who are poor are stereotyped, ignored, blamed, patronized, pitied, falsely accused of being drunk and having large families and not looking for work" (Fine, 2001). She also explains that other processes of poor bashing are based in...