Sunday, December 9, 2012

The hard question.

The gap between rich and poor continues to widen, and the poor ... well, there will always be some among us that are poor, right?
There are some interesting things we know objectively and in general about our world's poor.  One, they work harder than one might expect.  Two, they know more about survival than is common across the population.  Three, they're bright, creative, innovative, and willing to try new ideas. The availability of resources, of education, employment sites, agricultural venues, even fresh water, all of it varies from place to place, from region to region.  Not everyone will have the same opportunity, particularly if the rich bend things in their own favor as is common.

An interesting issued was raised in the 70's by Eric Fromm, 'to have or to be'.  His thesis is that two modes of existence struggle for the spirit of humankind: the having mode, which concentrates on material possessions, power, and aggression, (and is the basis of greed); and the being mode, which is based on relationship, the pleasure of community and productive activity.  The having mode has given us our current circumstance.

How might our family or any family qualify to live in poverty?  If we're lazy?  If we won't work or refuse to learn?  Those are the causal elements often suggested.

But ... they didn't choose poverty for their family, for their children.  Day after day, it is done to them by government, by the rich, by the developed world, by the world economic community.  It is done to them by those who somehow think there is enough for everyone if they'll just work really hard for their share.  Foolishness.

A deadly by-product, the variations in the market place.  Congress wrangles over the debt ceiling or Wall Street triggers a another hiccup, and we see price fluctuations.  We're annoyed, perhaps, but in the developing world, the fluctuation causes a family who spends 50% of their income just on food to fall short of enough.  Now they have to choose who goes to school or who gets enough to eat.  We do that to them.  All the time. It's globalization; it's been with us for almost a century.

Our cultural choice to 'have' causes a competition between the rich and poor for resources.  As an example, biofuels now compete for grain with the world's poorest who depend on maize meal (corn meal) for survival.  The gap widens, the rich get richer, and the poor pay for it.  At the lower end of the world's economic scale, the poor ... well, survival choices become more difficult.  

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