POVERTY IS the worst and biggest curse of humanity today. Widespread. Systemic. Unsolved. Malignant. It is more evil than war.
More than half of the people on this planet live in a cruel and degrading type of poverty, whose face nauseates civilized society: disfigured, malnourished, dirty and stinking. In the slums of big cities in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America, the picture of poor people is grotesque and revolting.
Poverty was not a social issue in the beginning of human existence. The Neanderthal man was not poor, since his needs were satisfied as soon as he killed a bison for his food and drank water from the stream.
Nobody took pity on the Neanderthal because animal skin was his only covering. Possessions and domain were unknown. Comfort and convenience, as we know it today, is not a need for the Neanderthal. Sheer survival is it.
Man’s first landmark progress was his discovery of agriculture. He learned to plant grains and cultivate the soil, followed by domesticating animals either for meat or as beasts of burden. Managing the production of food, instead of the nomadic hunt-and-forage existence, created domicile, an easier way of life. Consequently, the agricultural village emerged, giving birth to a farm community and agro-based lifestyle.
With agriculture came land custodianship, which introduced the idea of private domain, which created personal wealth. Meritocracy or the competitive spirit created classes. The Darwinian theory took effect. Those who have none became poor and those who have more became privileged. Progress has always been a double-edged sword.
But just like the middle-age feudalism in today’s free-market enterprise system and its consumerist society, the educated class leaves behind the illiterates, and poverty runs like a wild horse that refuses to stop.
Mahatma Gandhi, the ascetic Indian patriot whose nonviolent and self-sacrificial protest against British rule in his country unified all of India in its struggle for independence, believed that self-sufficiency is possible on the rural level. The village man can build his own house, grow his own food and medicine.
Gandhi had a spinning wheel (charkha) to make his own clothing materials to symbolize self-sufficiency, which became known as the “small is beautiful” school of economics.
In America, the Amish community in Pennsylvania is a good example of this Gandhian thinking. The Amish way of life may be anachronistic, but it’s their lifestyle.
Some tribes with instant and established ethnicity in the Philippines still maintain their authentic, rural-based lifestyle. Their rituals and ceremonies, fabric art and costumes indicate a genuine lifestyle. Colorful tribes such as the Ifugaos of Luzon and the Manobos of Mindanao have not succumbed to the lure of urban modernization and lowland migration, even if exposed to media and information technology staples.
More than ¼ of the Philippine population (26.5 percent), is mired in poverty. So gut-wrenching is the ugly face of poverty, so pitiful are the hungry stomachs in urban thoroughfares and blighted villages that the Aquino government is compelled to play Samaritan through a yearly dole-out scheme called CCT (Conditional Cash Transfer) to the tune of 44.3 billion.
CCT aims to partially alleviate the suffering of some 38 million households stricken with hunger and disease. That’s inclusive of funds for children’s education.
GMA 7 news documentaries present daily to a growing audience the real-life scenes of poverty, enough to make you cry. These award-winning productions are hosted by brilliant professionals such as Howie Severino, Kara David, Jay Taruc and Sandra Aguinaldo.
They bring to our awareness poverty that’s so visceral, a viewer becomes conscience-stricken.
Hunger and disease in far-flung villages. Urban poverty, living like rats in a sinkhole. Out-of-school children working like slaves in quarries, bunker yards, scavenging and diving for small fish at night.
They live in shanties and holes unfit for humans. How can this abomination exist in a country that’s photographed as paradise?
Seeing the poor on TV can make you mad, instead of you feeling pity.
The world’s bloodiest revolutions—the French Revolution, the American Civil War and the Communist revolution in Russia and China—were all caused by the outrage and oppression against the poor and the slaves. All failed to abolish poverty, inequality and injustice.
Democracy and its main economic engine, using multiple resource productivity and modern technology that can even produce surplus goods, fail to eliminate poverty because of the system’s predatory character.
Perhaps, the Holy Scripture better understood poverty. The Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus Christ taught the Nine Beatitudes, has the most helpful and soothing view on poverty.