Wednesday, October 15, 2008

POVERTY USED AND ABUSED

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It's Blog Action Against Poverty Day, and it's brought to mind so many things. Central to these thoughts would be how poverty seems to be the most used and abused condition.

Behind every campaign, crime and policy, on either side of law and morality, poverty is the ready answer, reason and rationale. And who are its greatest victims? Children. Always the children.

Sad.

***

Can anyone really tell me what poverty truly is? Or where it comes from?

Is poverty solely a lack of material comfort? Or is it a lack of spiritual wealth manifesting as a lack of the material kind?

There are a lot of philosophical and metaphysical discussions all over the internet regarding "How To Increase Your Abundance", "Be Open to More Money" or "Be a Millionaire While Being A Couch Potato". It's pointless to tackle them one by one because whatever they're selling boils down to us (people who want more abundance) buying their program and making them more, well, abundant. You have to admire these people, seizing an opportunity to provide people for a means to reach their dreams of gold. So they make gold!

I get spam mail like that and as always, there's a catch. Fool's gold for the naive, incredibly stupid or incredibly greedy.

There's also that South African/Arabian/Singaporean/Alien Banker/expat/businessman/wife of dead politician who would email you about millions in US Dollars or Pounds that has to be transferred and can they please use your account? Of course you have to provide your personal info and bank account numbers. And YOU shell out fees.

Whatever. Scam central, hello?!

Internet sweepstakes also lure people into buying entries with the promise of sure winnings. But the only thing you'll win in the end is a huge credit card bill. It's true all over the world, in whatever way, the house always wins.

***

There are so many ways people all over the world invest in exploiting our common concepts of poverty. In or out of the net.

For me, I am not afraid of being scammed via internet. I'm not stupid, naive or greedy enough to bite into promises that sound too good to be true. Nothing is taken away from me.

I am afraid of poverty, however, when I step out of my house.

I see beggars everywhere. With children. Some look like they haven't eaten in days, some have a blank stare and some don't look like their beggar parents at all. They're either too beautiful or too different.

All in all, those faces, those eyes haunt me.

I know, because I've heard stories and watch the news. Children disappear everyday and babies are stolen from parents, caretakers and their own homes. They are never seen again, bought and sold like meat into gangs, syndicates or slave rings.

Sometimes, very rarely compared to those who are never heard of, there is the odd survivor who is meant to be found to give a call for action against this particular problem. These survivors are found in other far-flung cities, maimed, starved, beaten and abused, enslaved by criminal syndicates to pose as beggars' children to increase chances of larger alms. By some incredible blessing, they are found and restored, but not without having sustained injury and often permanent physical damage. Some have been found crippled or blinded by their captors. What more can we say about their mental, psychological and emotional health? Who can say that the only injuries they have are what we have seen? What about those who have no words for the horrors they have endured?

I fear poverty whenever I walk out of the house. I fear that its fingers will reach up and curl around my own child's leg and yank her out of my life. I fear that this little ray of sunshine would be taken from me, her mother, to line some dirty bastard's pockets. Bad things happen to good people. I know things happen for a reason, but my heart refuses to stop fearing.

Where do people get off doing this? Is there no conscience left in their souls?

This knowledge also conflicts me.

I want to help these beggars but giving alms only seem to aggravate the mendicancy problem. I want to help them maybe get a good dinner at night, but don't want to perpetuate the grim cycle. Or maybe they're really hard up and they have valid reasons, being victims of circumstance, to be standing at the corner begging for mercy, but how can we really know? How do we tell the really needy from the ones who are just exploiting poverty as we know it?

And I'm a mother. How can I resist another mother asking for help for her child? How can I risk shaming her in front of her little one by denying her? But what if she's in on exploiting the child? Do I want to be party to that?

I am scared of poverty, more so because I am scared of what kind of person it is driving me to be.

I'm not particularly well-off and we do try to make ends meet. But there will always be something to spare for those who need it. After all, RF and I always say that we'll give what we can spare for someone who needs it more than us. But, that doesn't include beggars.

We've come to the agreement that though it may be heart-breaking, it's best to give them food or clothing even. Rather than money, you wouldn't be sure would really be going to see to their own comforts.

Sometimes, I am ashamed to say that I try to ignore them. I am angry at how they make me feel. At how they make me slide my eyes away from where they stand, refusing to meet their eyes. I'm even angrier at the well-dressed people with clean, well-dressed children in tow, who pose as lost travellers who found themselves short of fare to go home. The people who use these children's plight try to take advantage of the guilt and conscience of other honest, tenderhearted, unaware people. Then you see them the next day somewhere else, saying the same lines. How can we be angels of mercy and charity when what we are up against is a great poverty of the soul? I am ashamed of my anger and angry at the shame.

I know the answer would usually be as long as you give out of the goodness of your heart, it doesn't matter where your money is taken or if it is used for the intent it was given. But how can you not care? Knowing your money will not be feeding the sad urchin you gave money to, but lining some fat syndicate's pocket DOES bother me no end.

I am scared of poverty and how it has become a monster to be reckoned with. It seems to me to be a huge, smelly, lazy giant with many dirty, hollow-eyed grim children at its beck and call. And how capable it is of turning me, us, you, into monsters as well.

I don't know what can be done to stop it and stop it good, never to rear its ugly head again. I don't know how we can reach out to each child in the arms of a pretender to give them back to their heart-broken parents. I don't know how to reach those who truly need help and rescue and separate them from the scammers and the thieves.

All I know is, I want this never to touch my child.

***

What really is poverty? Where does it come from? Where will it end?

Is it poverty that drives us to deplete our stores of humanity and decency? Or is it a lack of goodness in many souls that enables poverty to manifest on our material plane in such soulless proportions?


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