CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Thursday, 9 June 2005

Poverty is the worst form of violence

It was Gandhi who, long ago, said that "Poverty is the worst form of violence" and, he saw the situation himself then, both in Africa and in India. It is incredible that the world still doesn't seem to "get it", but maybe it is impossible unless you've lived its awfulness, personally.

There can't be much worse than the constant battering a human body & spirit gets from not having enough nutrition, poor health, disrespect and no hopes of a way out of the situation - other than via an early death.

In this article from TIME by Mandela on Gandhi, the former South African leader says, "A great measure of world poverty today and African poverty in particular is due to the continuing dependence on foreign markets for manufactured goods, which undermines domestic production and dams up domestic skills, apart from piling up unmanageable foreign debts. Gandhi's insistence on self-sufficiency is a basic economic principle that, if followed today, could contribute significantly to alleviating Third World poverty and stimulating development."

This is something that has been becoming more apparent here in the last few years. When I first came to the Canaries, in 1992, I used to get visitors to bring me long lists of everyday items I couldn't buy here.

Go into any local supermarket now and you'll find racks full of familiar products, particularly those from the US, the UK and Germany. It's even becoming a struggle for my mum to find anything "typically Canarian" or that she can't get in England to take back as small gifts for her friends.

All these imported goods are wreaking havoc, not just on the balance of the local economy, but on the health of the local people, whose former healthy, natural diet is being replaced by all this imported, processed junk. That puts up healthcare costs and so the downward spiral begins.

Someone who sees the harsh effects of the debt problem, first hand, is "Claypot" (a pen name for a blogger in rural Zambia), who says "Debt repayments are making it impossible to respond to the health, educational and economic challenges facing Zambian people."

What gets me most isn't the debt itself (which is bad enough), but the restrictions that the IMF enforce to go with the loans.

Now, tell me if there is some fault in my logic here, but one of the best ways to combat poverty (or even pay back loans) would be to EDUCATE people so that they can work and become self-sufficient. But, as Claypot says, "... IMF restrictions means that the Zambian government cannot appoint more teachers, despite the fact that thousands of trained teachers are currently unemployed in the country."

Obviously, I don't know the full story behind this, but I can see that the result HAS to be that it almost ensures that poverty - and along with it ignorance, poor health, etc. - carries on to future generations.

Just tell me where there's a solution in this?

Claypot is right about the the rest of the world being oblivious, because "... they really just don't care, as long as it's not in their back yard."

However, as one commenter says, "We have to hold fast to the idea that there are good people who will ultimately pull us out of this."

And, again, I think she is right.

I just don't think it will be the people that most people expect it will be.

It won't be some world leader who suddenly becomes "enlightened" to the problem, that's for sure. Heck, how many times does history have to rinse and repeat to prove to us that we are NEVER going to take a blind bit of notice of assorted saviours, prophets and other "lunatics"?

Now, I'm not going to pretend that poverty in so-called Western "civilisation" is anything like that in Africa, but as numbers of unemployed and unemployable rise in most of those countries, so healthcare and education standards, etc., are plummeting.

Many are already finding that self-sufficiency is their only answer, with things like homeschooling and working from home. When that situation affects the vast majority and, the problem does effectively encroach every "ordinary person's" backyard, maybe they'll finally empathize and force a solution? (Provided we hang on to our rights to free speech and don't give in to the propaganda and fear mongering over security.)

Of course the other problem is that "leaders" will complicate matters by being hell-bent on "fighting against" these issues. For instance:

Claypot outlines the basis for a really simple solution, that, by harnessing people's nature instead of going against it, pushes them further in the direction they were already going. If you know anything about basic psychology or martial arts, you know this is easier and more effective.

So, you have folks in the US spending US$350 Billion on gambling every year. The usual "reaction" to this is make gambling illegal. That doesn't stop people gambling! In fact, all it really does is encourage crime and underhandedness so they can carry on getting their *fix*.

The simple solution would be to make all gambling institutions into government non-profits. The model is already in use in the US. A tribe of Native Americans operate a casino on a non-profit basis, with all the earnings going back into the community for educational and healthcare programs. (Source: Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure.)

It doesn't take a maths genius to see that you'd soon have your US$300 Billion to cancel the debts of the world's poorest countries.

That might sound hair-brained to you, but the fact is you'll always keep getting the same results from the same methods, so it is already clear that methods need to be changed. Drastically. That they aren't, I don't think is as a result of any real lack of creative thinking. There are just too many "playing it safe" to maintain their own positions of power.
Pamela is a former accountant, recovering journalist and international cat herder, disabled and chronically sick with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Fibromyalgia and Cervical spondylosis, fluent in three languages; English, Spanish and Rubbish. Mostly writes in the latter. She likes Genealogy, Model Railways and Cats.

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