Why Poverty Exists?
Poverty is more than absence of income or food; it is the presence of powerlessness, voiceless-ness, and lack of freedom. – Anonymous
Poor people are found in all societies and in all countries. Declaring to be a “developed” country does not mean that there are no poor living there. Likewise being a “developing” country does not mean that the poor have dignified life or are cared for. Being poor is a curse; they are burdened by three things – powerlessness, helplessness, and voiceless-ness. Putting together it implies lack of freedom to make dignified choices.
There is a widespread misconception, particularly in the so called “developed” countries that the poor are poor because they are lazy. This is a wonderful logic that takes one away from the ground realities that create poverty. Some people are certainly lazy and hence poor, but globalizing the argument is illusionary. It only stigmatizes poor and solves no problem. Laziness is just an individual cause among several others such as old age, disability, sudden accidents and deaths, and so on. Now climate change related hardships are also becoming more common and throwing people in the mess of poverty.
Marginalization is the Root cause of Poverty
The real cause of poverty is marginalization. When socio-economic or cultural forces push people on the sidelines they get isolated from the mainstream society and become vulnerable. If it persists there is nothing to keep them away from poverty which has its own vicious cycle of misfortune and the misery multiplies. Marginalization begins with discrimination that has various origins – it can be gender, religious, race, cultural, caste or community based.
If 15 percent people in the US are poor according to the official definition, it is so because they are not integrated fully in the mainstream fabric of economy or society. For various reasons they don’t have access to employment and other resources that can lift them out of poverty. They are basically left to survive on food coupons and substandard education, housing, and healthcare, which can only sustain their poverty. They are also highly vulnerable to other destructive forces like drug abuse, violence, thievery, and crime. There is nothing in the system to empower or support them, give voice to their helplessness, or make their lives respectable or dignified.
The concept of marginalization also works at global level that keeps the world divided between the rich and the poor countries. Although shades of poverty differs in the rich and poor countries and we can’t compare the poor of say,Somalia, with those who are labeled poor in US. The poor in Somalia are nutrition-poor while those in the US are mostly income poor. But they both belong to the lowest strata of the society and are deprived; that is the common denominator. The bottom-line is powerlessness, helplessness, and voiceless-ness. You may like to read:
Poor are Poor because Rich are Rich!
According the World Bank, almost half of the humanity lives on less than $2 a day and one fifth of the world population (1.4 billion people) in extreme poverty – on less than $1.25 a day. You change the income by few cents and you have another set of numbers. It is just a number game that tells us nothing about the suffering and discomforts of those included in the definition.
Sociologists see poverty as a multidimensional thing that goes beyond lack of material wealth – it is the denial of basic choices and opportunities for living a tolerable life. Eradicating poverty requires more than advances in income. Ironically, those who understand poverty are not in the position to solve it and those who can solve it don’t understand poverty.
In today’s world, poverty is not due to lack of money but in fact, too much of it. They are poor because they don’t have access to money. Poor are so poor because rich are so rich due to technological reasons. Poor survive on natural resources; the rich exploit natural resources through their technology to amass still more comforts. The rich also perpetrate global policies and ideas that maintain their superiority and comforts. This is the truth of current world order. Paradoxically, poverty, like global warming, is a problem that can not be solved by money. Just think about who caused global warming; those with too much money – poor are simply too poor to influence the global temperature or climate!
Therefore, the poor are poor because “development” does not reach them; it takes place only where there are non-poor. The solution lies in redefining “development” and widening the net of education, healthcare, and food supply so that just lack of income does not make people poor. The United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) and the newly launched Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) point to the right direction. In fact, one must look at poverty, beyond income.