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One Quibble: The Culture of Poverty, does not represent "the other half" As it is not that large of a group. The Best only short definition of the theory I have found is this:

The theory that certain groups and individuals tend to persist in a state of poverty because they have distinct beliefs, values and ways of behaving that are incompatible with economic success. The thesis is controversial and is opposed by situational theory, which locates the genesis of poverty in economic and social structures of society rather than in the value orientations of individuals or groups.

The more I think about this thesis, the more obviously true it is.

The question for me now is: Aren't "distinct beliefs, values and ways of behaving" really "social structures of society" or atleast created by such?

Yay! I feel honored.

That'd be my question too Matt. I think that a significant number of ones beliefs come out of the economic and social situation one finds oneself. Further many of these beliefs constitute a social situation. Obvious example is slavery.

Clark, I couldn't agree more. If you're environment is a school for teaching people, as opposed to, say, a brothel, think about how the difference the attitudes and lessons of the people around you are going to affect your values, beliefs etc. The issue though, is once you have learned behaviour in this environnemnt and are moved to another environment, that doesn't mean your behaviour will change.

Of course, a basic tenant of Mormonism is that people can and do change[for the better]. That's what the atonement is all about, after all.

Jeff Lindsay just posted something beautiful along these lines.

Matt, it's true that the gospel is predicated upon people's ability for change. But a constant theme in the scriptures is that they rarely do. In a sense, as sad as it is to say, the greatest change in behavior has come about due to the social space enabled by technology and secondarily government and not the gospel. (Which sometimes make me wonder how significant our changes are in the grand scheme of things - makes me glad I'm not God judging)

Clark:
I think people choose the good all the time, and thus change all the time. sustaining that change is a different thing all together....

Matt, people change all the time and people choose both good and evil all the time. The question is whether people make significant changes in their lives in terms of habits. It happens, but appears fairly rare. Note I never said it was impossible. I do think though that when it happens it is predicated upon a lot of necessary environment and makeup... So I sometimes question how much responsibility we have in it all.

Clark, that is totally reasonable. Of course, the challenge comes in the subjective nature of significance, and the subjective nature of the terms good and evil. After all I feel I have made several significant changes in my life for the good. (learning to walk, learning to speak, learning to read, write, etc. joining the church, learnig to want to have children, learning to love my family, etc.)

While I am not a proponent of "buck up, just have a more positve attitude and everything will be ok." I do think there is strong evidence, from my personal perspective, that we are the "captains of our souls." but then again, we all know O. Whitney's response to that...

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