Why poverty?

A little music to accompany your reading:


There is a flaw in our basic premises when the equation [not enough money = starvation] occurs as valid.

For the less mathematically inclined… :) … if someone’s actual survival- life or death survival- is dependent upon having a certain minimum amount of money, then we are not doing the best we can.

We know that there is enough food for everyone:

Does the world produce enough food to feed everyone?

The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day (FAO 2002, p.9).  The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food.

via 2011 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics by World Hunger Education Service.

Why poverty?

Most of us would take care of a starving family member whether or not they had any money or land. Some of us take care of homeless and otherwise needy people in our community. And some even have the global consciousness that allows them to contribute time or money to world-wide hunger campaigns. (like Oxfam).

And there are those rare souls with the hugest hearts that actually go and work for the people that need the most help. Maybe these few are the ones with the biggest vision. The ones who are willing to step outside the box, outside their own territory, and take “ownership” of the world as a whole.

It is not enough to make sure that those people in reach are taken care of- although this is certainly a good thing. If one person is starving, anywhere, we are failing.

As humans.

I don’t mean “failure” as a condemnation, but as an indicator of how to proceed. We are human primates doing most of our lives the way chimpanzees do, with a little bit of humanity flaring up now and again. So we can forgive ourselves for being all that.

To call something a failure implies an intention, or at least having something in sight. I think that most people would, if they thought they could, make sure everyone was fed and happy. We see the starving kids on the news, and we say, “tsk tsk”. Our collective eyes, if not exactly on the ball,  have at least begun to notice the ball. We almost have an intention.

We would feed everyone, just so it didn’t involve:

  • Communism, Socialism
  • taxing the rich, regulating the biggest corporations
  • Eating less meat
  • Giving up some personal luxuries
  • Considering that we are all equally deserving
  • Focusing agribusiness toward distribution, nutrition and affordability and away from profits and growth.
    • Note- I have nothing against profit and growth, just so it’s in the service of the customer and the product, not the other way around.
  • (Many other things…)

Basically, we all have ideals, and it’s all cool, just so those ideals are not confronted.

Why poverty?

I think, in the general sense, we’re all responsible. Our ideals shall not be confronted. This way of thinking puts an immediate end to truly creative and committed approaches to any problem.

I think, in the more specific sense, there is a particularly regressive set of ideals that are most in the way of any progress. I mentioned some above. The sanctity of the unfettered free enterprise system as a whole seems to be partially at the source of it.

Deeper. The Wall Street model, where companies operate with money borrowed against bets placed on their ability to make a profit (shares). The speculation model, where money is bet on the potential value of a commodity (money makes money). The insurance model, where a company takes protection money from you, charges interest on that money, and then attempts to minimize its obligations when called upon. Among other things…

(Gambling and protection rackets?)

Oh where oh where does the money go?

All of these are black holes. They are industries that contribute nothing to society, suck INCREDIBLE amounts of money, resources, brainpower and real estate. They all could be replaced by simple public functions. (Oops. That’s Socialism.)

And deeper. The sanctity of the “work ethic”, where you don’t deserve anything unless you are productive. Productivity is of course defined by the current zeitgeist, and different forms of productivity are arbitrarily worth vastly different amounts of money. Why, if there really is enough to go around, do we need to manage things based on “merit”

Another way of asking: Is a “job” the highest expression of the human spirit?

But that’s a really radical question.

Because, if not, then what?

Deeper yet. The idea of the nation-state. I remember someone describing borders as the place where two opposing armies got exhausted and agreed to call it quits and go home. Why is there a dividing line between Switzerland and Austria? Between Israel and Egypt? The United States and Mexico?

I know this is crazy talk.

By the way, cultures are, for the most part, contiguous. Culture doesn’t care about borders. Minnesotans sound kinda like people from Winnipeg. Foods, dress styles, music, dance, they all flow nicely from one area to the next with no defined borders.

Are we big enough souls to embrace the world, in all it’s diversity and texture, as one planet and people?


At times, we are no different than chimpanzees on the warpath. And at times, we see the light and begin to experience our humanity.

I think that now is the time for we humans to embrace and nurture our humanity and our future. To actually make a conscious and intentional effort to grow up as a species. Make a project of it, as it were.

It’s our opportunity to transcend the entirety of the old primate dominance and survival ways. This very generation. We can do it.

In my stand for this- the maturing of humanity- lies my comment about our failure. In our quest to become fully human, we begin to experience ourselves as the Human Family. In this experience, we see that one starving person on the other side of the planet is as much of a tragedy and a failure as it were our own child, mother or father.

Who knows what the “solutions” are. Maybe it hardly matters. Maybe merely getting together and talking about it is the solution.

We can take this on- THIS LIFETIME. We don’t need the answers before we start thinking, before we start talking. Maybe we aren’t the victims of our evolution, but instead, the beneficiaries of it, with the wherewithal, the brains and the souls to make the most of it.

It’s even better than this, however. With our open eyes, we will begin to wonder… what comes after that? After everyone has enough food, shelter, education, information access… Then what? What’s really possible with our entire planet, so full of diversity, creativity and brilliance, when we all have what we need and learn how to work together?

Peace ∞

About Bernie Sirelson

• Piano Teacher • Futurist • Out of the Box
This entry was posted in A World That Works For Everyone, Food, Future, hunger, Jobs, Politics, Poverty, Society, The World and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Why poverty?

  1. Debbie says:

    What breaks my heart is to see a starving mother holding a starving baby in her arms, and the man sitting upon a golden chair in Rome asking for donations, and not doing nothing about it the starving mother and baby, and can look you straight in the eyes, and think he has done a good deed, collecting $$$…

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