September 20, 2011

Eradicating Poverty? (Day 60 - September 20, 2011)

Cartoon by David Baldinger
(to see more of his work CLICK HERE)
Years ago I saw a cartoon showing a reporter holding a microphone and asking a very thin African, "What causes hunger?"  The thin African responds quite dryly, "No food."

For some reason, that cartoon was running through my mind in the wee hours of this morning as I lay in bed trying to sleep ( . . . while being overly preoccupied with all my body parts being covered . . . it was -4C).  Although the cartoon was profound in its simplicity, the reasons behind hunger are many and varied.  Similarly, if we look at poverty as a whole one might say it is caused by "lack of resources".  However, in reality, the lack of resources is merely the symptom of varying underlying root causes.

As I see it, every poverty situation can be generally characterized in one of three ways.  First, there is what I would term "Recent/Current Poverty" . . . where the individual(s) in question have suffered some sort of hardship, physical or mental condition, or trauma that has caused them to fall into dire straits.  Second, there are situations that could be described as "Systemic Poverty" . . . where the individual(s) in question find themselves in poverty largely because of their environment.  Third, there are poverty situations I would call "All of the Above Poverty" . . . in other words those who are "kicked" while they are already down, being able to simultaneously fall into both of the first two categories.  And, within these general categories of poverty, there are a whole variety of situations and causes.

I know you don't want to hear this from That Poverty Guy, but we will never completely rid ourselves of Recent/Current Poverty since there will always be situations where something happens that causes a person to fall into poverty.  No matter what we do there will always be natural disasters that cause someone to lose everything, or physical or mental illnesses that afflict someone and drains all of their personal resources, or circumstances change drastically for someone causing a spiralling downward financial domino effect.  In Canada we have people falling into this category of poverty with mental health problems, physical addictions, single mothers fleeing abuse or struggling financially after divorce, people not coping well after tragedy, losing a job as well as many more causes.  Of course, globally we see natural disasters thrusting some into poverty, economic crises wreaking havoc with others, and many of the same things as mentioned that are happening in Canada.  While these circumstances cannot be prevented, we CAN put in place systems and structures that protect a person from ever reaching rock bottom, and that can help people get back on their feet or provide care to them when they are unable to care for themselves.  A social safety net.

Turning to Systemic Poverty, I believe this form of poverty CAN be totally eradicated from the face of the Earth.  This poverty arises because of lack of education, lack of infrastructure, lack of medical services, lack of capital and from failing to properly address situations of Recent/Current Poverty.  In Canada, we see this on First Nation reserves where their culture was cut off at the knees and is now reeling to cope in what is still a relatively foreign environment, and suffering all the social ills that accompany such a situation (addictions, unemployment, etc.).  Further, we also see children of those in poverty not escaping poverty because of lack of opportunities available to them or replication of the same issues that brought their parents into poverty.  Around the world, we see even greater Systemic Poverty in developing countries due to all of the aforementioned "lacks"  (education, infrastructure, medical services, etc.).  As a result, much of the population in these areas are not able to rise above mere survival.  The good news is that our world possesses the resources and technology to completely remedy Systemic Poverty.  The only thing we need to do  in order to make this happen is engage the political will within the powers that be who control the resources and technology.

As for All of the Above Poverty . . . this should never happen again after we have eradicated Systemic Poverty and put in place systems and structures to address Recent/Current Poverty.

I see a new cartoon forming in my mind . . . a reporter holding a microphone talking to the Earth and asking, "Really . . . what causes poverty?"  Then, the Earth looks back and says dryly, "Lack of will to stop it."  Let's change that.

For starters, you could sign . . .

Hey!! I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

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