‘Something for Nothing’

“Sankofa” teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward…

“se wo were fi na wosan kofa a yenki.

The birth of human/social services, from the parents of missionaries, charitable organizations and community associations was once a huge staple for urban communities, providing an array of red, black, green and gold services amongst many ethnicities.  However these often moving and struggling coalitions were swiftly overwrought by the demands of social and economic ills that shook our society for some fifty years past to present.  World Wars I & II, The Great Depression, the Vietnam War and shifting agricultural/industrial changing times exhausted people, programs, businesses and the quality of life for millions. 

 As such, Roosevelt rode in with a ‘New Deal’ in the 30’s with all intent to heal, rebuild and preserve our society from economic demise in the name of program supports or Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1933.  So, while ‘change was coming’, some things remained the same; heavy and aggressive under the continuous burdens of racism, sexism, elitism, poverty and consumption to boot!  So the poverty limit would remain the same for the next 55 to 60 years as did the nuances of the human/social services systems.  We inherited a history of continuous test-models for the poor but never a plan as to how to relieve and/or address poverty. 

 These factors, and many more, contribute to an extensive cycle of giving and recieving ‘something for nothing’ in the name Public Assistance.  These program ‘supports’ were tests that afforded recipients the opportunity to receive assistance monthly, yearly and multi-generationally for 40-50 years without any requirements to establish, maintain, increase or contribute to their own self-sufficiency.  After years of this reckless pattern, our human/social services policy writers believed that the best way to address such unproductive and costly behaviors was to thrust the recipients into the cold with unrealistic expectations and deadlines against unbelievable challenges. 

 They renamed her through the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWOA) of 1996 or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).  Our human/social services systems’ continued devastation is revealed in the continuous and rising stats of homelessness, poverty rates, truancy and drop-out rates, unemployment, crime rates and the list grows. Unfortunately, generations of families received government subsidies without any requirements to sustain and/or progress via education trade or establishment of work experience or a semblance of the ability to obtain long-term self-sufficiency and sustainability. 

 Not blaming the victim, but why weren’t recipients required to make societal contributions for 35-40 years; furthermore why did the recipients feel that this was safe and right?  The message now seems very late and has unfortunately perpetuated the negative cycle of ‘getting something for nothing’.  It is not the act of obtaining subsidies, but obtaining subsidies without progression or growth in ones own ability to provide self-care; when able to provide ‘something’ for the benefit of self and community that is unfair and outlandish.  This undoubtedly causes a terrible strain on our working-class, tax-payers, families, communities, governments and public and private organizations. 


These learned and taught systemic behaviors stagnate the human/social service systems, families, children, workforce  and world progress.  These patterns and behaviors ultimately decrease opportunities for millions to grow, advance and transfer their wealth into the world.  Obtaining and transferring Wealth in terms of knowledge and skill is a much greater payment than small stipends that barely sustains basic family needs, provides no education and/or skill, and increases your level of dependence.  When a system’s requirements for services are destitution and poverty, it’s not assistance.  If not provided and/or received appropriately, it’s a trap.  It’s definitely not my idea of a leg up.  It’s not interdependence; it’s a crippling dependence of the mind, body, spirit and soul.  So with little time, a primal society enters the workforce, with no understanding of the demands, challenges and/or consequences that far exceeds the capabilities of any social service system of which I’m aware. 

 But these are just my thoughts… what are yours?