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        Friday, March 10, 2006
        A tip for anti-poverty campaigners: if the rich won’t see the poor, bring the poor to the rich.
        There is a huge lesson that the US can learn from Argentina in making poverty more visible by letting poor people hang out in affluent areas. Raul Castells, whom BBC online calls a radical activist, has opened a soup kitchen in the richest part of Buenos Aires where the poor can enjoy free meals while checking out the rich across the street. The general idea is summarized on a board above the small building of the soup kitchen: “we are fighting for an Argentina in which the dogs of the rich don't eat better than the children of the poor". How brave is that?

        I know that people in the US generously give to charities several times a year although “charity” includes giving to Boys and Girl Scouts, neighborhood beautification, lover of stray dogs and other non-poverty related causes. However, I feel that the real magnitude of poverty in America is somewhat abstract to most. Even to those who are a pay check away from poverty see poverty in the context of the “Third World”. “This is the USA and this should happen in those countries in the Third World” was a common comment by victims of Hurricane Katrina who six months on still have very little help. I totally understand their frustration, which by the way must have come from the disconnect between the expression “the greatest country in the world” and the reality for the majority of the poor in the affected places like New Orleans. The greatest nation has to learn to take care of the poor.

        That takes me to the next overrated saying that everybody has a choice in the US. True and false. It is true because this is one country where anybody can make it big at least financially and materially if they work hard. It is at the same time false because there are those who don’t have the resources to even explore what choices they have. Therefore, I argue, until my veins pop, that this expression is taken out of context – historical, political, racial, social, economic whatever else… context. The expression is, if anything, inhumane, uncompassionate (whether conservative or liberal) and un-Christian (85% of Americans are Christians so this counts as well) because it is really saying “I won’t help you because you can’t help yourself.” Where is the love? I’m not mindlessly picking on the US, but it’s just because compared to the rest of ‘the most affluent nations’ America has for example the most poor children – one in four, to be precise. And to make things worst, government funding for the poor is being cut left right and center. So where is the compassion?

        It would have been nice to have a Raul Castells in Orlando when a few years ago the City was trying to sweep away all the poor on the streets of down town to one corner because they are an eye-sore and they deter businesses from investing in down town of The City Beautiful. Sweeping such issues under the carpet won’t make the problem go away. Sooner or later somebody would lift the carpet or accidentally trip on the carpet, and we find that whatever we stashed under there has either multiplied or rotted or both, making it more difficult to clean up. Accidental is used here both literally and in the same way that my kids use it: I lifted my hand and I “accidentally put it” on – adult translation, “hit” - my sister.

        Actually, there is also a lesson from Ethiopia here. Ethiopia has not recovered from trying to hide the 1973 famine. Not because we are still faced with famine, but because of the political events that took place after Jonathan Dimbleby exposed the famine to the world. Although he was satisfied that famine was not going to be hush hush in Ethiopia any longer, he still doubted about the effect that had on the country’s political life. He called it “the biggest ‘but’ of my life”. I still wonder where Ethiopia would have been politically and economically had Haile Selassie dealt with the famine differently. I wish we were able to turn the clock back like Harry Potter and Hermani did in the Prison of Azkaban to fix past mess. Now I’m going back to bed and mentally travel through my past to fix my own mess.

        Interesting articles:
        Understanding poverty in the US
        Poverty not top of the list for Americans
        Poor kids in the US
        Just get married, and you shall be rich
        Get real with poverty in the US
        Poverty exposed by Gulf Hurricanes of 2005
        posted by Fikirte @ 5:42 AM   Digg!
        • name<="c114235877136781832" id="c114235877136781832">

          At 12:52 PM, Blogger zinzi said…

          Heaven help the child who never had a home...

          Those were the words of a beautiful song that I remember from years ago when I believed in... does it matter?

          Man's greatest tragedy is the poverty of the spirit. Man has figured a way to get to the moon. He has grown food in the desert, performed heart transplants, kidney transplants and cured cancer (many cases of healing) while making many formerly killer diseases mere historical references.

          Man has sailed the open seas and scaled the world's highest mountains. He has figured out how to hasten the production of food, to control climatic conditions in greenhouses and dam the raging rivers.

          In a nation that has gourmet food for cats and dogs and more animal clinics than children's clinics the fact that we have the cheek to point to the splinter in our brothers' eye is laughable. It would seem that the log in our own does not hurt enough or we have swept it under the rug even though we can still see the bump it makes and trips us even as we pretend it is not there.

          The world of make-believe is not restricted to Florida's theme parks; it lives on in Washington D.C but worst of all, it has permeated our hearts and spirits and taken the best of who we are and cheapened it so much that a life of a child is not worth more than a passing thought that is forgotten long before the news is over.

          Man has done all these and still has not figured out a way to peacefully ensure that every child lives with dignity. He has failed to care enough to ensure that if a child must die, he does so with dignity too.

          It is my humble thesis that for a child to die of hunger is the most regretable abuse of the most basic of human rights.

          God Bless...who?

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