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Exactly. Calvinism runs deep in the US, and even if it’s not religiously motivated, it gets translated as the Just World Hypothesis, i.e. if someone’s facing serious problems in their life, they must have done something to deserve it, which also reinforces the fallacious worldview that everyone has the power to just up and change their situation in life.

In reality, people become trapped in bad situations due to many reasons, not least of which are an interlocking series of “gotchas:” Systemic poverty, racism, unequal access to education and healthcare, different treatment by police / sentencing for white people vs black/brown, etc, larger economic shifts which eliminate their jobs, Walmart-ization which flattens local economies, etc.

If we’re not meeting the majority of people’s basic needs (on that Maslovian hierarchy) then how can they self-actualize their potential?

Charity, as promoted by many conservatives, doesn’t solve these systemic issues, although it’s an important bridge and lifesaver for people in precarious circumstances. Charity has to be paired with the realization that the system doesn’t work equally well for all citizens; and that social support systems, when underfunded or deliberately undermined, make these problems worse.

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