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An essay by Israel Zangwill

The Privileges Of Poverty

Title:     The Privileges Of Poverty
Author: Israel Zangwill [More Titles by Zangwill]

The only people who seem to escape the malady of the century are the poor. The _Weltschmerz_ touches them not; however great their suffering, it is always individual. The privileges of poverty are, I fear, insufficiently appreciated in these grasping times. It is not only income-tax that the poor man is exempt from. There is a much more painful tax on income than the pecuniary--it is the thought of those who are worsted in the struggle for bare existence. _Vae victis!_ Yet those who achieve the bare existence, who starve not, neither shiver, have surely enviable compensations. Not theirs the distressful, wearying problems of sociology. Far from feeling any responsibility for their fellow-beings, they do not even fulfil their own personal duty to society,--witness the breeding of babies in back streets. They have no sympathy with the troubles of any other class--they eat their hard crust and they drink their bitter beer without a thought of the dyspepsia of the diner-out, and their appetite is not dulled by any suspicion of heart-sickness in good society. Starvation other than physical they do not understand, and spiritual struggles are caviare. The state of the rich does not give them sleepless nights--they have no yearnings to reform them or amend their condition. The terrible overcrowding of the upper classes on Belgravian staircases wakes not a pang; they are untouched by the sufferings of insufficiently-clad ladies in draughty stalls and royal antechambers; and the grievances of old army men move them not. Not theirs to ponder sorrowfully over the lost souls of politicians or the degeneration of public manners. They live their own lives--and, whatsoever the burden, they do not bear any one's but their own.

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Israel Zangwill's essay: Privileges Of Poverty