Snow by Orham Pamuk, 2004, Excerpts
Mankind’s greatest error, the biggest deception of the past thousand years is this: to confuse poverty with stupidity. Throughout history, prophets and other honorable men of conscience have always warned against this shaming confusion. They remind us that the poor have hearts, minds, humanity, and wisdom just like everyone else. During elections, it is out of a desire for self-punishment that they vote for the most wretched parties and the most loathsome candidates.
You see hundreds of these jobless, luckless, hopeless, motionless poor creatures in every town; in the country as a whole there must be hundreds of thousands of them, if not millions. They’ve forgotten how to keep themselves tidy, they’ve lost the will to button up their stained jackets, they have so little energy they can hardly move their arms and legs, their powers of concentration are so weak they can’t follow a story to its conclusion, and they’ve even forgotten how to laugh at a joke. Most of them are too unhappy to sleep; they take pleasure in knowing that the cigarettes they smoke are killing them; they begin sentences, only to let their voices trail of as they remember how pointless it is to carry on; they watch TV not because they like or enjoy the programs but because they can’t bear to hear about their fellows’ depression, and television helps to shut them out; what they really want is to die, but they don’t think themselves worthy of suicide.