Poverty: A coin with two heads

October 9, 2018 India , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Thriveni C Mysore



Human civilization is a complex whole. It includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, ethics, custom, law, culture and all other capabilities and habits acquired by man in his society. Understanding humanity is thus to understand all subjects under two perspectives: science and art. If physical mechanism of matter is science, the resulting reflection of mind and soul is art. Under such a soul searching light, poverty emerges as a coin with two heads; poverty emerges as not a word or sociological property but as a summum bonum of human life; poverty emerges as a subject. Look either way, poverty is the feared stinking skeleton in the closet buried deep down by all that which represents richness; be it a rich person, state, country or nation.


The hidden truth is that poverty is the magical oar anointed with spells, words and utterances by the rich for their smooth sail. Stop the oars; the rich meet their watery grave. The ugliest truth is that the oars cannot, shall not and will not be stopped. One of the reasons is poverty is a manmade entity.


To explain poverty, it is better to explain the beginning, tracing it back to its origin in the needs of savages, or even in the struggles of unlicked cub stages of human civilization – poverty was unknown! Only when a necessity for man to live in a group for advantages arose, there came into existence the concept of leader. Through the progression of civilization the leader progressed to nobility, royalty, and power and became the ruler elite with its strange twin poverty. The human society then became the world of the ruler elite and the ruled. It has now come down to the world of the haves and the have nots.


The one who takes up the position of a leader be it from a small community to a Nation, should necessarily have better judgment. Syllogism fails here. Instead of a person acquiring positive foresight with great difficulty, it is far easier to keep the dependent group in dim light. It is not misleading of thought if an impartial spectator says that a strata of advantageous people stays on top of the pyramid by making the base as horizontally strong as possible- that horizontal layer is poverty! Poverty thus provides as a foundation to richness.


So, what is poverty?


Poverty is an economic condition of lacking of both money and basic necessities to live such as food, water, education, health care and shelter, says a definition.


In the geographical lamina, poverty is an index number. As there is no upper limit for richness, there is no upper limit (& lower limit) for poverty. The elite society looks to that the gap between the two classes remains constant. If richness is an indeterminate number, poverty is a recurring number. The standards vary from region to region. By thumb rule, to more than one billion people across the globe $1 is the daily budget for food, medicine and shelter. The World Bank defines this as extreme poverty rate. Poorest countries in the world by population are listed as India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya. These constitute 80% of world’s extreme poor class.


Talk on poverty, we talk of data, statistics, law of one price, GDP’s, purchasing power parity, trade barriers, inflation, recession, Big Mac Index (where it compares the prices of a Big Mac burger in Mc Donald’s restaurants in different countries!), non-perishable commodities, non-tradable goods, the different poverty levels, poverty gap, Gini coefficients, Gini graphs so on and so forth. It is all, but music to sophisticated ears. It just comes down to this: a quarter of deaths in the world each day are due to poverty related causes; three fourths of crime committed is poverty related.


But, no one talks of the reality that 80% of national revenue is spent for military purposes in each and every country of this civilized progressed world.


The richest 85 people in the world control as much wealth as the poorest half of the world and have enough money to end extreme world poverty four times over. Some Indian names are on this list of richest people, we call it democracy.


Today close to one third of the world’s extreme poor are concentrated in India, yet this statistic comes under dim light. Four of seven people in India are lacking in basic necessities of civilized life. There is evidence of poverty in every region and social sector within India, yet the focus is in showcasing India as emerging power, investor’s dream, global marketer and so such feverish gibber. It is deception. Decades have been washed away in the gutter of corruption and politics. With money as the motive force people have forgotten the way to live, forgotten the ethical way of living today. The stress created by the elite is of tectonic proportions unfelt by the people. India is hungry, in tattered clothes, sun and wind burnt, ailing with chronic diseases called inequality and dishonesty, yet she is paraded with rouge and false eyelashes. Stop. Do stop making India ape others.


Where are all the social philosophers and societal watchdogs? Gone hiding? Nobody is born rich or born poor; it is just that one is born to rich families or born to poor families. It is about inheritance. Stop inheritance by rule and see the magical results! Set up a limit to a person’s earning. Make the system fool proof.


Dear India, 48% of a person’s earning is spent on housing, provide shelter. There is hunger, provide healthy food through nutrition assistance programs, trample on the increasing prices of food items, provide drinking water through effective water management instead of searching for traces of water in mars, take up health care, provide sanitation and free medicines, strengthen education sector by providing the education that earns a livelihood, instead of pushing the children to avoid drop outs and giving shining degrees, certificates and glittering shields. The education system has become a factory of half-baked, unemployed, wasted cookies. Reform that to increase true literacy evoking good character and judgmental capacity that is enough so as not to be puppets of dexterous political tender hands. India has sufficient ancient wisdom, philosophy and ethics to serve nine planets and beyond, consider culture and respect the way of life. Don’t suppress poverty, suppress ugly richness.


We don’t need towering concretes that chokes our lungs but we need green canopy that safeguards our health, protects other living things and prospers the environment. Let us be worthy of precious life. Fulfil these basic needs; we can later have all the peacockery.


Poverty does come with a silver lining. Adversity is the touchstone of character, like precious herbs that need grinding, some natures need to be tried by suffering to evoke the excellence that is in them, to unmask virtues and bring out hidden graces. Before shedding the autumn leaves of poverty, let it act as an influential force. Let it be a disciplinarian of character, teach patience, resignation, resolution and promote the deepest thoughts and imagination. Let it build brotherhood. Let equality be the Indian fundamental.


Save the country! Stop pretending!





Thriveni C Mysore

Thriveni C Mysore is a science teacher from Karnataka, India. She is locally acknowledged for her writings on Philosophy and Education in regional language. She loves naturewriting and ecopoetry.

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