Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How To End Poverty 3

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Okay, let’s get serious about this. How DO we deal with poverty?

First of all, we need to understand what poverty is. There are two main categories of poverty, which greatly overlap. There is the poverty that is being physically destitute. This is the common kind of poverty we think of: people who are hungry, who have no where to live, who have no warmth, who have no safe drinking water, who are wracked by disease. Those who are destroyed because of their lack of physical needs.

The second is like the first: social poverty. This is a state of separation, of rejection, of outcastness. These are the poor who the mainstream culture of one’s society rejects, for one reason or another. Usually, however, they are rejected because they do not accept some major, unwritten law of the mainstream culture. They are too loud or too quiet. They don’t participate fully in the mainstream’s economic system. They don’t look like or dress like the mainstream. They have different cultural presuppositions.

This second class of the poor soon become the first class. They become destitute due to their social standing. And the mainstream feels good about these poor because, “They deserved it. If only they would…” (fill in cultural prejudice here) “… then they could live better.” So the mainstream convinces themselves that the poor are worthy to be poor and they deserve their benefits and judgments.

Another result of this cycle is fear. When one culture separates from another, then they tend to fear each other. The mainstream begins to see the outcast as the root of many of the evils of their society and the outcast sees in the face of every mainstream person the last mainstream person who abused them. This fear becomes prejudice and that prejudice becomes a cycle of mutual destruction.

How do we end this cycle?

First of all, the mainstream culture needs to associate with the outcast culture. If this happens, then the mainstream culture will realize, over time, that the outcast culture aren’t so bad after all. Perhaps they act differently, and hold some different opinions, but that doesn’t make them bad people. That even if they may not be as “good” as those of their own culture, then at least they shouldn’t be feared. Once we get past the fear, then we can perhaps get to the point where representatives of the two cultures could actually assist each other and support each other.

The difficulty is, how to get the two sides to overcome their fear? They need two things: 1. A neutral ground where they both feel safe to meet. And 2. A mediator that understands the cultural presuppositions of both sides and is willing to teach both sides about the social needs of the other without putting down either side.

If we end cultural superiority, then we will end most poverty. If the mainstream and the ruling elite understand the life and worldview of the poor outcast, then we are ready to welcome each person as they are.

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