The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners
or good manners or any other particular sort of manners,
but having the same manner for all human souls:
in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven,
where there are no third-class carriages,
and one soul is as good as another.

— George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion

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The Higgins Treatment

I ask you, what am I?
I’m one of the undeserving poor: that’s what I am.
Think of what that means to a man.
It means that he’s up agen middle class morality all the time.
If there’s anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it’s always the same story:
“You’re undeserving; so you can’t have it.”
But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow’s that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same husband.
I don’t need less than a deserving man: I need more.
I don’t eat less hearty than him: I need more.
I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low.
I want a bit of amusement, cause I am a thinking man.
I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low.
Well, they charge me just the same as they charge the deserving.
What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything.
— George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion

This short speech from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion struck a random thought from me. The term, “undeserving poor”, in particular. This got me thinking…

Undeserving poor are the “middle class” in developing countries. Being a middle class citizen in a third world or developing country today means just barely getting above ground away from poverty, but the gap towards being well-off still feels like aiming for the moon.

One is not really that rich to afford most of the comforts and luxuries of life but also not poor enough to deserve charity and help or even sympathy (at the least) to be deserving of small comforts.

And come to think of it, middle class citizens are the more law-abiding and moral of all the class structure. They pay their taxes on time and go about their own business to succeed whilst trying to maintain peace with their fellow and supporting the nation. They never complain as publicly and as often as the “deserving poor” with all their protests and sometimes over-the-top demands. But just like the deserving poor, the undeserving are also poor — with the same needs and wants as the deserving.

The middle class work too hard to be able to have barely enough of what the deserving poor needs but it would seem too much if they would start to want something more that only the rich can afford. The latter, I think, is what Shaw means by “middle class morality”. And I agree that it can be just an excuse to not give the middle class anything. It’s not their fault they are not poor enough to deserve charity and it’s not their luck to be able to give them either.

An undeserving poor is undeserving. They are. But once in a while, it is reasonable to experience the other side of life — to rest, to breath, to feast, to travel, to experience art and culture, and to enjoy the unreasonably-priced life.

Undeserving Poor