What is Poverty?

What is Poverty?
By: Errol Gibbs (01/28/2014)

What is poverty? Is poverty a natural phenomenon in our modern era, or engineered inadvertently, as a function of wealth creation? From a historic perspective, some poverty has its roots in slavery, and other structured and systemic disadvantages (Eric Williams (1911–1981): Capitalism and Slavery (London: Andre Deutsch Limited © 1944 by Eric Williams).

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This has been the case in North America, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, and parts of Africa. Labor exploitation followed in the agricultural age (1600s – 1900s) with uncompensated, unregulated, and unfair compensation for slavery and post–slavery labor.

These economic inequities extended into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries of the industrial era (1800s 1900s). At the same time, the development of colonialism, apartheid, and global industrial expansion was emerging as a new phenomenon for the creation of wealth in the West, concurrent with great poverty. The aftershocks still resonate in the twenty–first century.

Indigenous peoples throughout the world have also fallen victim to some form of ‘poverty creating oppression’ by the more powerful nations of the earth. This poverty includes social, educational and intellectual poverty, as well as unfair indigenous land resettlement and broken treaties.

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Undeniable, some poverty has its origins in inherent human incapacity; some uninspired individuals who lack a future orientation; lack of motivation; and lack of desire and self–determination that can unleash them from the stranglehold of poverty. Notwithstanding, this article is a brief philosophical discourse of the unmanaged growth in poverty around the world and some of the behaviors than perpetuate it.

The roots and trajectory of some poverty seem to mirror the roots and trajectory of wealth creation. Notwithstanding, intentionally or unintentionally, each of us contribute to, and perpetuate some poverty by the way we live. We cause hardship to our wives, husbands and children when we walk away from the household.

When we deal unfairly in business relationships, we cause hardships to our business partner(s), and jeopardize the economic security of employees of the company. Today, we hear of indiscriminate PONZI schemes that devastate individuals and families —economically, plunging many families into financial ruin.

When parents and teachers fail to inspire children we advertently plant seeds of poverty and hardship. Evidently, there are many conditions (caused or inspired) that lead to poverty. Racial prejudice, overt racism, and other forms of social and economic injustices underpin systems of exclusion, and cause poverty.

The devastating impacts of poverty on people, on world peace, and on world stability at the dawn of the twenty–first century raised the consciousness of the world. Promises to eradicate poverty, hunger, crime, and hopelessness are repeated decade after decade as a testament to each nation’s hope. September 2000: The General Assembly of the United Nations, at its 55th Session, adopted a resolution, A/RES/55/2, the United Nations Millennium Declaration to end poverty by the year 2015. 

Despite the noble goals by the UN over the decades, and noble intentions of G8 and G20 nations, the word, crisis, is now associated with the state of the poor and hungry in the world. More worrisome, too many world watch organizations, is the fact that poverty and hunger are growing among underdeveloped, developing, and developed nations, as well.


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We can delineate this world crisis as due to growth in population, mass immigration, education gap, knowledge gap, and employment gap, imbalance in trade, mass–consumerism, changing climatic conditions, natural and manmade disasters, and wars. From tribal and militia wars to our modern sophisticated wars with the most expensive and sophisticated modern technologies, global finances are diverted from endeavors to eradicate poverty to deficit finance the bourgeoning cost of wars.

Wealthy nations pledge between 0.19% – 0.99% as a percentage of their Gross National Product (GNP) to aid poor nations (Source: OECD, The World Bank, Development Assistance Committee. Date Verified: 3.15.2012). This nobility could be a boon for underdeveloped and developing nation; however, the rise in natural and manmade disasters, war refugees; suffocates real tangible growth of charity dependent nations. Is there a need for charity or justice?

The current overwhelming need for charity, food banks and micro–funding of programs, should tell us that something has gone monumentally wrong in our world of wealth creation and wealth imbalance. This calls into question the need for us to examine our spiritual responsibility to each other which has fallen to religious, cultural, social, and economic self–interest; fueled by wants as opposed to essential human needs.

Many underdeveloped and developing nations have vast reserves of natural resources, yet! Their vast populations face perpetual poverty and impoverishment. Is it not attributable, in part, to the hoarding of strategic resources by stronger nations, the lack of technological empathy, imbalance trade, and the inequitable payments for natural resources, often non–renewable?

Arguably, the world economy leaves behind eighty percent (80%) of its inhabitants, as twenty percent (20%) of its inhabitants reap the greater benefits of God’s creation (Pareto's Principle: The 80–20 Rule By Arthur W. Hafner, Ph.D. March 31, 2001 Vilfredo Pareto (1848–1923)).

The recurring rise and fall of the national and international economy, is an implicit guarantee that as modern households begin to see a glimmer of light through the dark clouds of the modern economy, another much darker cloud overshadows their hope. Paradoxically, the imbalance of wealth between ‘have’ and ‘have not’ individuals and nations grow exponentially with each passing decade each time the economy enters into another cycle. The intelligent observer might be inclined to argue that some form of social and economic engineering are at the heart of it.

—     Poverty is not a naturally occurring phenomenon in our modern era.

Gibbs Picture_001Errol A. Gibbs, Author, International Motivational Speaker. Books: © 2011 Five Foundations of Human Development (FFHD) & Thoughts to Enlighten and Empower the MindTel: 905.875.4956/ Email: egibbs1@sympatico.ca/
Website: www.ffhdwritersinc.com



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