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The Conundrum of Poverty
By Raymond Greiner
*Editor's note: This piece was previously published in Indiana Voice Journal.
Poverty is an emotionally powerful subject. With few exceptions global human quality of life is structured from a base of economic opportunities hailed as modern civilization marching to a cadence seeking prosperity through enterprise, commerce and trade. Contemporary social design is a byproduct of early Mesopotamia referred to as “the cradle of civilization.” Social patterns evolved from this base developing geographically mixed cultures in a mutual quest for fiscal gain. Economics, trade and enterprise are world encompassing with striking disparity and exclusion.
Poverty is described in three distinct categories:
“Absolute poverty” is the most desolate, without adequate food or shelter, barely surviving and often plagued with extreme hunger and death by starvation. Education and medical services are compromised or non-existent.
“Relative poverty” is a condition gauged according to a threshold established by income demography. US poverty is categorized as relative poverty. Relative poverty is less apparent, homelessness being the most visual circumstance. In Los Angeles County on given nights in excess of 80,000 people are homeless.
“Asceticism” is voluntary poverty used as a method of seeking spiritual consciousness and a plane of life in opposition to the omnipresent ambition for affluence through economic status, material gain and accumulation. Practitioners of asceticism vow poverty as a means of teaching, revealing meaningful values beyond infusion of wealth and abundance as sources of enlightenment.
Kenya and sub Saharan Africa display vivid, widespread examples of extreme, absolute poverty. Sordid conditions exist in many third world countries; however, statistically the degree is most pronounced in sub Saharan Africa. The film documentary: The End of Poverty? Think Again is a compelling revelation exposing the level of horror these places have become. Children gleaning trash heaps for anything of the slightest value. The little work available is slave labor type jobs with finite wages, taxed heavily by corrupt governments preying on the world’s poorest of the poor. Many third world regions have abundant natural resources and industrialized countries have exploited these resources in order to produce manufactured consumer goods for global distribution and economic gain. Large loans were pressed upon these impoverished countries under the guise of development projection, which has never manifested as industrialized countries continued to extract resources without implementation of self-sustaining commerce leaving a residue of extreme debt without ability to reduce the debt. Corrupt governments claim the need for high taxation in order to pay the debt, which is not occurring thereby suffering, continues.
Countries achieving economic success and prosperity have melded manufacturing and consumption. This formula relies on an expanding rate of consumption. If consumption dwindles, economies dwindle. In present day America excessive consumption is ubiquitous. There is an urgent drive to expand manufacturing and consumption as a means of strengthening economic conditions. Questions appear regarding this social design. Is this balance or imbalance? The collective mentality is, “I have earned everything I own.” A more honest assessment would be, “I have been given opportunity to succeed.” Opportunity does not exist in the sub Saharan region.
So, where are the answers? Will disparity continue and increase? Charitable food donations given to oppressed countries are pilfered and sold by corrupt, ruling powers. Some would say this is a natural process as the Africans are incapable of competing. Africa was much slower to be influenced by the new civil design remaining a cohesive hunter-gatherer culture far longer than Europeans. When I see old photos of tribal Africa I see an extremely self-reliant race of people, harmonious and thriving for thousands of years in a harsh and challenging place. These are very strong people, likely the strongest in the history of humanity. The tribal villages and housing of ancient Africa were far more inviting and comfortable than the hovels of tin and cardboard that modern civilization has bestowed upon them. No culture has been more exploited than the Africans. The English came first, seized their land, killed their game for sport, and brought an entirely new living design, forcing radical change upon them. Enslaved them, sold them, continuing exploitation today as natural resources are pillaged without reward, and the global glut feeds itself on commandeered wealth leaving a wake of unfathomable despair.
Natural forces are the source of all earthly endeavors; capable of overpowering human created dysfunctions. Healing will likely be presented naturally, uninfluenced by the Dow Jones Average or the Gross National Product. Humanity has moved away from its organic roots seeking idolatry ritual within material wealth. Early tribal cultures embraced communal uniformity, housing was equal, and the act of sharing was important to security and longevity. Hunter-gatherers were directly connected to the earth; life was sustained by earth’s gifts creating harmony, which has been lost in the current living design. Globally we have fallen into ethical contraction, expanding intolerance and the ever-presence of war, questioning direction and purpose. If we as a species are unable to alter inequities, solutions will self-generate. It would behoove the onslaught, self-feeding frenzy of acquisition to seek greater balance and sensitivity gearing energy toward apportionment and equality. As a species we have proven an ability to invent and install highly complex, technical devices it would seem equally possible to install basic comforts to those in dire need. Compassion is not complex.
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