Sunday, July 10, 2005

And you shall always have your poor

I didn't go to church today, so if I die before taking communion again, I'm goin' to Hell. Okay maybe not with G-d's grace.

Recently there was the Live 8 concert and soon the One campaign will start to "make poverty history." That's nice. However I am a pessimist, the only way to make poverty history is to wipe out the human race, or at least leave one human. If I wasn't too lazy to go upstairs and grab my bible I would hunt down the exact phrase but Jesus said to Judas, when Judas was being a prick, that we will always have the poor, or the poor shall always be with you.
The context is Jesus telling Judas to shut up about the expensive oil that the women (Mary, Martha, Mary M?) was using, when Judas said they could have used the money better to give to the poor. So are we meant to read into the message or leave it as is because the main message was "Hey Judas shut your pie hole about the oil, 'cause we know you're REALLY not that concerned about the poor, ok?"
But I'm going to read into it. We will always have poor people. That is sad. But it is the way humans are. And no throwing billions of dollars at it will make it go away.
However, I think there is a glimmer of hope. We can try to change the face of poverty so that it does not mean death by starvation or easily cured disease, or lack of housing or clothing. In America literally dying of hunger due to poverty is rare. We have WIC and food stamps, non-profits with soup kitchens, food banks and churches that feed the hungry. In America our poor people can be fat as all out. Our food is loaded with calories so much so that eating the .99 menu at McDonald's can feed you, and kill you with fat and sodium and all sorts, but that's another problem. So we are doing a good job with hunger. Housing, not so good but there are programs, but lots of room for improvement. There is spotty medical care for people who can wait all day at free clinics or emergency rooms. Clothing, the church round the corner was giving away free clothes yesterday. They aren't the only church in the area giving away free clothes. Shoes are a problem, cloths or something to cover the body, no problem. Now compare this poverty to the poverty of some poor person in Africa or South Asia or South America.
Yet even if we could export American poverty to the rest of the world, the people are still poor because in their society there is a group of people with more resources and status then they. It is all comparative and relative. It would help if there was a better definition of poor than the guy who has less than the other guy. Because with that, you will always have the poor as long as there are 2 people in the world.
Poverty is not wiped out by making sure everyone is fed, it is more than that. Healthcare is more tricky because you need health providers (doctors, nurses, medical assist.) and you can't force people to be a doctor for a rural town. There is also a quality problem too. For more straight forward things like immunizations you can do good. If communism has taught us anything you can house and clothe a lot of people, mind you it will all be crappy but housing and clothing can be provided. Do you like the color blue? Yet in a world where everyone has access to blue robes, eating the same calorie rich sludge, in government issue apartments, and immunizations against the major diseases with free annual doctor's visits you will still have poor people. Because they will be the ones who have no options but to take the charity society gives. The non-poor will opt out or add on. There is no universal right to houses that do more than keep out the bitter cold and the damp. There is no universal right to clothing that confers status amongst your peers. There is no universal right, but there should be, to food that is well made and balanced.
The other problem with major actions particularly for rich nations giving to poorer nations is that some of the good can be undone by citizens of the nations they are trying to help. Pride, hate and corruption are the biggest enemies to pulling some nations up. Zimbabwe. That nation's leader is in denial that his country has problems. Aid groups are getting pushed out because of a politics. He who controls the food controls the votes. Corruption is something that can allow leaders to make rules that will keep the poor, poor, and strip citizens of their rights. Corruption can whittle away aid money by everybody from the prime minister to the project site foreman taking their little bit. Then if a nation is divided, like the Sudan, hate can keep any aid away from the people who are hated by those in power.
See so much easier than throwing money at it then addressing the serious sins of the soul that keep poor nations poor.

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