Thursday, September 2, 2010

The War on Poverty: It’s Worth Fighting

In an earlier post, I wrote about consensus building among leading intellectuals, world leaders and creative people that The War on Drugs has been a failure. Granted, there has been another forgotten war, The War on Poverty, that in the Gilded Age of Today garners little public attention. One explanation is that our society is moving toward a neofeudalism, but I will elaborate further on this point in another post.

Nevertheless, discussions of the poor and poverty makes most of us uncomfortable, and in some cases, angry. The latter might be a good thing, in that it shows some emotion on a question of another person's dignity. These negative emotions are particularly developed in societies that equate wealth with success, which in many ways defines us in the developed nations (read: consumer-driven economies).

After all, poor people have less resources and less ability to buy more consumer items, particularly, electronics, gizmos and big-ticket items.

Granted, that might be one explanation. Yet, for reasons that are beyond my full understanding, poverty has become equated with lack of success, slothfulness, and an inability of an individual or family to take charge of their future. In short, the poor are to blame for their condition. In a society that uses words like personal responsibility, accountability and pride, the poor have an uphill battle in the PR dept.

Poverty: It’s not a viral disease, yet it is all around us. 
Photo Credit: Sheldon Levy, 2010
Undoubtedly so. But as someone once said, all beginnings are hard. And there’s nowhere to start than the beginning. Here is a possible slogan that I quickly came up with (Feel free to improve it):
Poverty is not a disease. Poverty is not an illness. Poverty is lacking money. It's as simple as that.
The media, when acting in a social responsible manner, understand that simple statement above. The media can do a lot, and in many cases they do write good stories on poverty. Even so, all of us can do something. For one, we can stop treating poverty and the poor as having some disease, as having some illness, as being lazy. We can start treating the poor with dignity, just as we treat the rich.

Former Vietnam Vet: Looking for Peace & Dignity. 
Photo Credit: Sheldon Levy, 2010

After all, having money or, even, truckloads of money does not make you a more moral, ethical or compassionate person. Does it?

Note: I would like to hear your stories and views on the economic crisis. Many of us, including me and my family, are going through very difficult economic and trying times. We have, despite all our hard work, diligence, education and efforts, slipped into relative poverty. We are among The Poor, the Working Poor, the Struggling Family—all of whom  should not be stigmatized yet are in very concrete ways. We are often patronized; we are viewed with suspicion; we are often ignored. You can help make a change and a difference in society. Everyone should be able to live life with dignity and hope. I would love to hear your stories.