Today, I’m going to reflect upon a subject about which most of us feel extreme discomfort. It’s a subject that we’d rather put on hold so we can think more upbeat, “positive” thoughts. It’s a subject that involves many disturbing aspects of how humanity creates and maintains today’s version of civilization. It’s a subject that I can only glimpse at briefly in this post. It’s a subject of which I only had short, real-life experiences.
Mohandas K. Gandhi said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” The statement begs analysis.
Overall, poverty has political causes in as much as famine is a human caused problem. Left to our own devices, we people can find a way to not only survive, but to thrive. I posit that people wish to improve their living situations, but we sometimes suffer setbacks due to variables in weather and resource availability. We still maintain the desire to make our lives better. When some ambitious individuals decide to allow greed for more than their share of advantages to rule their lives, the other people begin to suffer.
I gave this hypothesis a great deal of thought back in the 1970s and have pondered it from time to time since then. I must mention that I experienced living hand to mouth for a couple of long stretches in those days. Unlike Mahatma Gandhi, my impoverishment was not voluntary. To use today’s terminology, I had been thrown under the bus. So had many other people been thrown under busses. The causes were probably many, but national economic recession was the trigger event each time.
I began to see that poverty is not only a symptom of economic inequality, but is a tool that is used to maintain economic and political inequality. I understood that people who possess great wealth, also have the luxury of exercising great political power. This is not a new proposition. We only need to look at historical examples. Royalty and elite classes of people in all parts of the globe have had the greatest influence over the destiny of people belonging to other classes.
Once a person possesses power over others, that person is loathe to relinquish even a small share of it. The most obvious result of this hunger to maintain and increase power is the presence of warfare. This might manifest in wars against other groupings of people such as international conflict. And it shows up in the need to control fellow members of the same tribe or nation.
This method of control is quite effective. It’s strength comes from the primal, survival instincts of the human animal. Observers know that when a person is poor, he or she must concentrate on acquiring adequate food and shelter for oneself and family. There is less time for obtaining educational enlightenment nor philosophical thoughts. Mental energies focus on survival. If there are other thoughts, they are of the type that cultivate resentment and anger. Overall, the impoverished person becomes “invisible” to the more prosperous members of a society.
Those people who do not starve to death sometimes formulate reactionary movements and revolutions. As a result, the individuals who enjoy the wealth and power, must suppress and defeat the revolutions. This struggle has been going on for many centuries across the world. It becomes the battle between those who can purchase political influence and military strength against those people who have nothing left to lose.
This has become evident, recently, with the attention being focused upon the 99% movement. The citizenry are angered at the actions of the billionaire class. Political infighting and wedge issues are brought into play as distractions so that energy against poverty can be dissipated. The result is more poverty and more concentration of wealth and power. More impoverished people means less empowered people.
The results are more political strife with poverty as one of the most effective weapons in the arsenal. The concentrated wealth enables a more effective means of armed control over the 99%. The resulting police state is nothing new. It is a symptom of human greed gone ballistic. This is why poverty is an extremely dangerous condition for any society and nation. It is a barbaric practice that ultimately leads to unhappy situations for all political and economic persuasions. When the “War on Poverty” became the “War on the Impoverished”, humanity crossed a dangerous threshold.
It will take a patient and wise group of people to steer us away from the abyss of totalitarian domination in the world. With advancing poverty, the struggle of power versus ethical compassion will be more difficult. In the meantime, we all must work towards the elimination of all forms of violence.
The Blue Jay of Happiness is deeply moved by this quote: “What a weary time those years were–to have the desire and the need to live but not the ability.”–Charles Bukowski